LEWISBURG, Pa. — Lewisburg's coffee shops buzzed back to life last week as students returned for Bucknell University's spring semester. One set of students, though, was already hunkered down in the classrooms of Coleman Hall, having given up those last few precious days of winter break to return to campus for the Doc Lenker Fraternity and Sorority Leadership Summit.
Held Jan. 11-14, the conference-style summit included workshops and discussions designed to build leadership skills among the incoming officers of Bucknell's fraternities and sororities. It is named in honor of Dr. William Forrest Lenker '56, a past president of the Alpha Phi Chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity and a dedicated alumnus until his passing in 2011.
Kevin Pons, assistant director of residential education for sorority affairs, organized the events in collaboration with his colleges in the Dean of Students office. "We wanted to equip the officers with the tools they'll need to be effective in their leadership positions," he said.
On Friday, the members of the executive boards of the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils -— the governing bodies of Bucknell's nine sororities and 11 fraternities — gathered to identify areas for improvement and plan for the year ahead. On Saturday evening, students had dinner with Dean of Students Susan Lantz, attended the talk "Identity, Values and Organizational Planning" by Director of LGBT Awareness Bill McCoy, and made pillowcases for ConKerr Cancer, an organization dedicated to brightening up the hospital rooms of children facing cancer.
On Sunday, Associate Dean of Students Amy Badal started the day by offering eight pieces of leadership advice including "Make your life matter," "Take a stand," "Learn to fail," and "Show up for life." Later, Speak Up Bucknell peer educators, seniors Angel Hernandez and Cameron Berry, and junior Will Evans, introduced the students to bystander intervention techniques for addressing situations where others may be at risk.
Monday's agenda included conference-style small-group sessions on improving communication, resolving conflict and planning events. For many participants, the highlight was "Building and Leading a Successful Team," with Senior Development Officer Pat Flannery, Class of '80, and Associate Professor of Management Doug Allen, Class of '88. Flannery drew on his experience as the former Bison men's basketball coach to show students how to set team goals and follow a plan for successful group interaction. Allen shared his perspectives as a Bucknell alumnus, member of a Greek-lettered organization and now faculty member.
"Coach Flannery and Professor Allen did a great job tag-teaming the session," said incoming Interfraternity Council president Jon Como, Class of '14. "They helped us think critically about our role on campus and within our organizations."
Associate Dean of Students Dan Remley worked with students to develop ideas for expanding faculty relationships, including inviting professors to lead informal conversations about current events and academic topics.
"Hearing Dean Remley's ideas about how our individual chapters can spend time with faculty made me realize that the staff here are very willing to engage in the Greek community and help us. Hopefully, there will be lots of collaboration to come this semester," said Jen Lassen, Class of '15, vice president of programming for Delta Gamma women's fraternity.
The summit concluded with a presentation by Associate Provost for Diversity, Bridget Newell. Newell discussed effective strategies for establishing and maintaining strong, inclusive communities.
"I love watching as new officers learn their roles on the team and come together to lead," said Suz Lindsley Stiles, Class of '85 and vice president, Collegians, Delta Gamma. "I hope the students took away that communication is key."
Senior Ryan Kelly, peer adviser for Chi Phi fraternity, said the session reinforced for him the idea that the most effective organizations are those that are diverse. "Diversity can take many different forms, whether it be personality, race, ethnicity, or interest," he said. "By becoming more diverse we can bring new insight and ideas to our organizations to make them better."
"I am very impressed by the professionalism of the summit and the wide variety of speakers," said Dean Lantz. "It is one of the best student leadership conferences I have seen."
Pons is now planning a Greek "Emerging Leaders" series this spring, and in the fall he hopes to launch a new member institute.
"Our goal with each of these programs," said Pons, "is to give students the skills to lead and to enact change, whether that's within their organizations, on campus or in their careers."
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