Leadership for ONU students, by ONU students
Examples of leadership are plentiful on Ohio Northern’s campus — from Student Senate and Leaders’ Council to Open Doors and Student Planning Committee. Organizations large and small give students a chance to flex their leadership muscle and make positive contributions to campus.
This feature series celebrates the contributions of outstanding individual leaders and organizations.
Jenny Pelton is proof that one voice can make a difference. The sophomore language arts education major from Hicksville, Ohio, has spent the past year lobbying on behalf of Ohio's independent universities.
When the state proposed cutting the Student Choice Grant last spring, a move that would impact more than 58,000 students, Pelton fought back. "The point I always argue is that the Ohio Student Choice Grant gives students a choice. It gives them the option to attend a private university," she explains, discussing the difference every dollar makes in higher education.
Pelton read about the proposed changes and knew she had to do something. She started a Facebook group, and things escalated from there. After talking to Student Senate, she circulated a petition, collecting more than 1,000 signatures from ONU students.
Last April, Pelton's actions caught the attention of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (AICUO), a network of 52 private universities and colleges across the state. She was invited to attend Student Lobby Day, an event for students from AICUO-member schools to discuss issues and meet with Ohio's elected representatives.
Excited for the opportunity to voice their opinions, Pelton and a few other students journeyed to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus for the all-day event. The delegates met with their home and school district representatives, discussing happenings at ONU, upcoming education policies, and recent developments with the Student Choice Grant.
For her efforts, Pelton was asked to testify in front of the Ohio Senate Finance and Financial Institutions committee during the summer.
"I was a little nervous to testify, but I felt strongly about Student Choice Grant and the need for it in Ohio," says Pelton, whose actions helped influence legislators to reconsider a total cut of the $900 grant in favor of a slight reduction to $660 per year.
Pelton has remained active throughout the year, participating in Student Lobby Day again in the fall and most recently on April 23. Josh Gargac, a junior mechanical engineering major from Northwood, Ohio, has accompanied Pelton all three times. This spring, Adam Schwiebert, a freshman political science major from Hamler, Ohio, also was able to join.
After three visits to the Ohio Statehouse, Pelton is becoming a familiar face. "Representatives remember me and what we care about as ONU students, which is great because it means we're getting our message across. Lobbying isn't about picketing; it's about listening and working together to bring about change."
With her first-hand experience of the democratic process, Pelton says it's exciting to look at an election ballot and realize she's met several people on it. Her work with Student Choice Grant has reinforced her interest in education policy, an area she intends to stay involved with throughout her career.
"I've learned that it doesn't take thousands of people to spark change," says Pelton. "Believe it or not, most legislation originates from letters people write when they recognize a problem. All it takes is someone to speak out and inspire others to do the same."
When campus leaders need to hone their skills, they turn to Leaders’ Council.
“We’re really a resource for campus leadership,” says Chris Senesi, a sophomore civil engineering major from Hinckley, Ohio. “The purpose of Leaders’ Council is to bring the best campus leaders together to expand leadership as a whole.”
Leaders’ Council developed from a student initiative in the early 2000s. In addition to the members, advisors Jennifer Lambdin, assistant director for Greek, Student Activities and Leadership, and Jessica Douglas, graduate assistant in Student Affairs, keep the organization running smoothly.
Each year, members are selected through an application and interview process. Nick Senior, a third-year pharmacy major from Normal, Ill., serves as the current council chair, while individual members lend their talents to various committees responsible for planning events or co-sponsoring speakers.
Student Organization Workshop 2008
Hosted by Leaders’ Council
Sunday, April 13
Special topics include:
- Event Planning
This free event is open to all campus organizations. Refreshments will be provided, and prizes will be raffled, as well.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register
Take your leadership to the next level.
The 15-person council’s latest venture, a Student Organization Workshop scheduled for Sunday, April 13, from 2-4:30 p.m. in McIntosh Center, is sure to complement any campus organization’s leadership needs.
“We considered bringing in outside speakers, but we wanted this event to be ONU specific,” remarks Senesi, chair of the workshop committee.
The workshop will focus on goal setting and organizational planning, and culminate in seven breakout sessions led by council members.
“The sessions are tailored to help organizations boost their skills in a variety of areas, from conducting efficient meetings to maintaining a healthy budget, planning events, working with technology and increasing member retention,” he says.
The Student Organization Workshop is a two-fold project, as it will benefit those attending and give Leaders’ Council an idea of what students find helpful. Ultimately, Leaders’ Council hopes to use the findings to update the Student Organization Resource Handbook.
“Right now, we’re working on expanding our outreach,” Senesi explains. “The Student Organization Workshop is a start, and we hope to host another event, perhaps centering on individual leadership.”
Senesi has high hopes for the workshop and the future of Leaders’ Council. “We’re looking forward to interacting with student leaders and giving them the tools to take their organizations to the next level.”
Written by Autumn Steiner
Junior, professional writing