The Challenge of Being a Student Leader


The seminars will take place at the Biological Sciences building in room 1109.

Dustin Stewart, SGA President

John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Fewer situations have I found this phrase to be truer than in the context of being a student leader. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second; it’s tough and some days it just sucks. Since my senior year of high school, when I held my first official leadership position in an honor society, I have found that the same challenges come up with any group you work with, and at various levels of coordination and leading.

For those of you in these student leadership positions, I think we can relate on a few points where we struggle in our organizations: communication lapses, ambiguities in expectations, disconnect with our fellow leaders and those whom we lead, among numerous other aspects that make us want to bang our head on the wall and scream to the high heavens with the hope of finding some relief in it. Often, challenges and obstructions to our end goals often come up without warning. When there is some warning, though, seldom is there constructive recourse. The struggle continues and we find ourselves at the fork in the road with the options of “I’m just going quit and let someone else deal with it” and “I would hate myself if I took the easy way out.”

I’ve had the privilege of serving in multiple leadership roles here at Armstrong, including: SAE Treasurer, SAE Philanthropy Chairman, Student Government Senator, CUB Member, SGA Attorney General, 2 or 3 others, and now, the role I cherish and respect the most, your Student Government President. We campaigned under the name DARE, in which we challenged ourselves and you to work with us to take bold steps and initiate bold projects that would have a far-reaching and lasting impact on campus. I am pleased to say so far, so good, but it has not been without its challenges. If ever there were a learning curve, it is with these positions.

Now, I’m not writing to blast anyone for poor or ineffective leadership, because that is not the case. We are fortunate to work with campus administrators who are respectful of and open to hearing the issues and ideas we take to them from SGA and the student body, and who work with us to address and resolve these issues and ideas. The challenge comes, however, when we are met with the pieces of projects or sides of an argument that don’t fit our message. And I’ll be completely honest and say there have been times when I’ve outright disagreed with other leaders on campus, for one reason or another.

The silver lining is this: “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader,” and in essence, you have succeeded as a leader (John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States). It is hard, but it is rewarding, especially when there seem to be no tangible results to point to. So I say this to you, my fellow student leaders – take heart in knowing that even when things don’t go your way or when seemingly insurmountable challenges arise, your efforts don’t go unnoticed and your time and energy is not wasted. We have a responsibility to those we represent to continue fighting the good fight, but in a manner consistent with what is needed to ensure total efficacy of our ventures. I hope that you are continuing to grow and learn, as I am on an almost daily basis.