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Taking the lead

CBS Coordinator of Student Engagement Meaghan Stein talks about her new role as a knowledge community leader and why it's important for CBS students to develop their leadership chops.

Meaghan Stein knows something about what works and what doesn't when it comes to student leadership programs. The longtime head of the Dean's Scholars program will put that experience to good use in her new role as Minnesota Knowledge Community representative for the NASPA IV-E Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community Leadership Team. NASPA is a national organization for student affairs administrators in higher education. Stein will work with leadership program coordinators across the state to share information about student leadership programs and activities.

Q. You were recently selected to be part of a knowledge community focused on student leadership programs. What do you hope to take away from the experience?

A. I hope to contribute more to the experience than I take away from it! I will be connecting with other leadership educators in Minnesota and sharing resources that would be useful for leadership educators. Another aspect of this role is to promote the work of leadership educators in Minnesota to others within our region. By being better connected with those around the state doing work similar to what I do here at CBS, I expect to learn more about what's happening in leadership education around the state and the region, and incorporate these as much as possible in my work here.

Q. As head of the CBS Dean's Scholars Program, why do you think cultivating leadership in students studying the sciences is important?

A. CBS students, no matter what they do after graduation, are going to have the ability to impact the world. So many issues in the world are directly related to the sciences, and so I think it's important for students to intentionally reflect on the types of issues they see in our world, discover what they're passionate about, and think about the ways they are going to exhibit leadership in their chosen careers and communities around these issues. In the Dean's Scholars program, we don't subscribe to the idea that leadership is positional, we believe that all students have the ability to demonstrate leadership even without a formal title or role. Sometimes CBS students come into the program thinking that they aren't leaders or can't become leaders because their personality characteristics, their strengths, etc. don't fit with the traditional hierarchical and positional model of leadership. We ask students in the first course in the Dean's Scholars program to reflect on and write down their leadership philosophy and encourage students to think about ways they can be a leader and exhibit leadership in the world, even without a title or position. Leadership is a way of being and acting instead of a position.

Q. The Dean's Scholars Program is now in it's eighth year. How has it evolved over that time?

A. When the program was created, it was always designed to be a four-year program that students would participate in throughout their time in CBS. The structure and content of that four-year program has changed over time in order to respond to the needs of the students and the overall goals for the program. After the first cohort of Dean's Scholars students completed the program, we realized that it was difficult for CBS students to fit five additional courses into their four-year schedule and we wanted the Dean's Scholars coursework to be manageable. So, we modified the course structure and combined the content of the fourth and fifth courses in the program into one capstone course (Biol 3302 - Leadership for Change). We also constantly evolve the content of the courses in order to keep the material fresh and relevant to current issues with leadership, service, and social change.

Q. What do you like most about working with CBS students?

A. When I first started a position at the U of M where I was working with CBS students (as a Career Counselor in the Career Center for Science and Engineering), one of my former colleagues told me that, in her experience, CBS students were amazing to work with because they wanted to change the world. Now that I work directly with CBS students every day, I can confirm that they are some of the most dedicated, passionate students I have ever worked with. I am also fortunate to work with students in the Dean's Scholars program because I get to know many of them very well over their four years in the program. I truly value developing these relationships and connecting with students on a deeper level. Because of my role with the Dean's Scholars program, I also get to challenge students to think differently about how they see the world and themselves as leaders and it's rewarding to see students develop and grow as leaders, citizens, and people over their time in CBS.

– Stephanie Xenos