As an undergraduate, I held various positions on campus. Upon entering graduate school at the University of South Carolina, I told myself that I was going to sit back and just be a spectator. I became a member of the Black Graduate Student Association and at the first meeting that I attended, there were 4 people total. I remember thinking, how is this even possible? Without even getting my feet wet, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to get more involved with a focus on increasing our membership. Next thing I knew, I was elected president, found myself representing the university at the National Black Graduate Student Association Conference, and the organization grew! I am now a proud alumna of the university and am even more proud with how the Black Graduate Student Association is thriving now more than ever!
A leader is not always the person with the loudest voice, but someone who can be heard by their positive impact. It’s about sacrifice and service; the good that you do lives long after you. I believe that being a leader means stepping out of your comfort zone to bring out the best in others. Leadership is about trust and not just people trusting you to get things done, but you trusting in the capabilities of others. Being a leader means tapping into the talents of everyone on the team for success. Always be willing to learn! One think I quickly learned is the importance of believing in your vision because if you don’t, then no one else will either.
For anyone looking to gain leadership experience during their graduate degree program, the best advice I can give is to never be afraid to try something new! This doesn’t necessarily mean becoming president of an organization. I found it helpful to enhance my leadership skills in ways such as being the point person on a group project, taking active roles at conferences, and volunteering outside of school (I am imagining a lot of side eyes right now since graduate students usually don’t have much down time to lol). Discuss with your advisor, professors, or supervisor at your graduate assistantship opportunities that will allow you to take on more responsibility and grow. Be confident, be daring, be innovative and you will go a long way!
Andrea Gibson graduated with a MPH in May 2016 from the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. She is the intervention coordinator for a healthy eating and active living program with churches and continues to demonstrate and enhance her leadership skills.
Questions? Comments? Ideas? Contact Dr. Heather Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org.