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Leading the Way

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"What skills gained from your time as a student leader have proven most valuable in your professional and personal life?" Assistant Dean of Student Life Linda Kennedy polled 400 alumni and compiled the following list, which she uses to shape leadership opportunities for current students.

  • Accountability
  • Communication
  • Cultural competence
  • Decision-making
  • Delegating
  • Developing connections
  • Flexibility
  • Planning and organizing
  • Problem solving
  • Resource management
  • Time management
Before starting that first post-college job, many Dartmouth students have a head start on the leadership skills that will serve them beyond Hanover. They manage complex budgets and agendas, drive new initiatives, and recruit and supervise others.

Visibly and behind-the-scenes, in roles large and small, Dartmouth's student-driven out-of-classroom experience offers leadership opportunities of all sorts.

Here, Dartmouth Life speaks with four student leaders on how their work has shaped their own experiences and contributed to campus life.

Going global: For Annie Rittgers '09, spring break started before sunrise on March 18, as she set off to lead a small group of Dartmouth students bound for Honduras. Their destination: El Rosario, a tiny farming village where Rittgers, co-chair Frances Vernon '10, and their team spent a week directing "La Fuerza para el Futuro" ("Force for the Future") as part of the new Dartmouth Global Leadership Program (DGLP).

Click here to view a photo gallery of Annie’s La Fuerza program.

rittgersAnnie Rittgers '09, Dartmouth Global Leadership co-director (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
For Rittgers and DGLP, "global leadership" is a collaborative process. "The Dartmouth students and the youth we are working with learn from each other," she says.

Each student has responsibilities for La Fuerza, notes Rittgers, that build skills transferable to professional work. At the same time, the Honduran youth learn how to be activists on behalf of their communities.

One of the first tasks Rittgers faced as a project leader was selecting a team of five group members from 50 applicants. In part, she and Vernon relied on a list of leadership skills developed by DGLP advisor Linda Kennedy, assistant dean of student life (see "DartPoints" above). Applicants had to explain what skills they would bring and which they wanted to develop.

The group assembled every detail of La Fuerza's program from the ground up. "If we didn't plan this, nothing was going to happen," Rittgers says. Her own skill to build? "Delegation," she answers, laughing.

Rittgers, a Latin American studies major and math minor from Lebanon, Ohio, is doing an independent study on development and education reform in El Rosario. She has been president of the Class of 2009 since her first year at Dartmouth, and she studied microfinance as a Paganucci Fellow at the Tuck School of Business last summer.

"Annie has combined her academic, leave term, and student organization experiences into something very powerful," says Kennedy.

"I think I'm headed toward a career in microfinance or international development," says Rittgers. She has several alternatives for the immediate future, including an offer for a post-graduation position as an investment banking analyst at Barclays in New York City.

Financial planning: Neil Kandler '09, from Brighton, Mich., arrived at Dartmouth determined to be involved in the life of his college. He now leads the Undergraduate Finance Committee (UFC), which is responsible for thoughtfully-and confidentially-distributing the Student Activities Fund. The fund, which in 2008 totaled over $900,000, is divided among eight councils and boards that in turn allocate funding to individual student-led groups.

kandlerNeil Kandler '09, director of the Undergraduate Finance Committee (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
Kandler, an economics, government, and psychology triple major, was also selected by his peers to chair the Programming Board (PB). His leadership of the PB, which organizes open social events and co-sponsors events with other student groups, caps four years of involvement with the group.

As chair, Kandler says, "I often coach the leaders of student groups, helping them create and refine budgets that make the best use of available resources."

"Neil is one of the most focused, driven students I've met," says Eric Ramsey, director of the Collis Center and Student Activities. "His commitment to Dartmouth and the experience it provides-in and out of the classroom-is unparalleled."

Brian Dye, assistant director of Collis Center and Student Activities and the PB's advisor, says that Kandler is able to put new student colleagues at ease by "encouraging them to seek out opportunities to contribute to the Dartmouth student experience themselves." And Kandler himself looks back with gratitude at "students who have helped me develop as a leader," particularly his predecessors and teammates on the Programming Board.

The skills Kandler has gained helped him land a post-graduation position in Nationwide Insurance's Financial Leadership training program. But the most gratifying part? "Being at an event, seeing people having a great time, hearing 'thank you,' " he says.

Sharing faiths: Getting students to talk about faith "isn't always easy," says Dierre Upshaw '09, student director of the Tucker Foundation's Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. "But our beliefs are the most important part of our lives. Discussion can lead to greater understanding."

upshawDierre Upshaw '09, student director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
Upshaw is responsible for bringing together about 20 members of the Multi-Faith Council-which includes Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and agnostic students-to talk about religion every week. Meetings are open to all.

"It's a great privilege to hear people articulate the thoughts that they hold so closely in their minds," says Upshaw, a practicing Protestant raised in Alliance, Ohio. "While I've learned much about other faiths, I've also learned that we are all experts only of our own personal experience."

Under the direction of Kurt Nelson, staff advisor to the Multi-Faith Program, Upshaw helps bring the religious discussion to a broader campus audience by initiating programming, advertising events, and identifying speakers.

During winter term, he had the idea to spark discussion through television shows. Students filled Tindle Lounge to watch an episode of the comedy South Park that included outrageous religious stereotypes, as well as the Canadian sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie.

"It was a great idea," says Alim Shaikh '09, a Muslim student. "Humor can soften the edges of controversial topics."

A dedicated piano player, Upshaw plays the organ at services about twice a week. Though he's majoring in religion and has been advised to pursue a career in the church, he says he's more interested in politics. His thesis examines the three-tiered relationship between political groups, churches, and fundraising.

Richard Crocker, dean of the Tucker Foundation, says that Upshaw "is a visible advocate for student religious and spiritual concerns, and he has a great deal of integrity."

Number cruncher: Emily Eberle '09, vice president of Alpha Theta Coed Fraternity (AO), admits with a bit of reluctance that her fellow Alpha Thetas nicknamed her ".xls"-the file extension of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. "I'm a bureaucratic person," she says. "Spreadsheets and data-that's the real information of a place, and I like being informed."

eberleEmily Eberle '09, treasurer of the Greek Leadership Council (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
As treasurer of the Greek Leadership Council (GLC), the umbrella organization that governs Dartmouth's 29 Greek letter organizations, Eberle manages an annual budget of over $47,000. She tracks allocations and expenses, approves reimbursements, and prepares financial reports. (The GLC budget pays for events that are non-alcoholic and open to the entire campus.)

Deborah Carney, assistant dean of residential life, says that Eberle is exceptional in her attention to detail. "She's conscientious, dependable, and everyone trusts her," she says.

Eberle was recently asked to serve for a second year on the Undergraduate Finance Committee, which allocates student activity fees among all student organizations. The greatest challenge of that work, she says, is "being a non-biased representative while at the same time making sure the interests of the GLC are heard."

Full of energy-she was captain of her high school cheerleading squad-Eberle plays violin and viola for the Dartmouth Chamber Orchestra and is a former chair of community service for Alpha Theta.

Raised in Naples, Idaho, she has spent a remarkable four terms in Beijing, China-two on Foreign Study Programs, one volunteering for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and one on an internship for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, where she helped edit industry briefs, presentations, and reports.

An Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major, Eberle says that she would like to move to New York and work for a public relations company with business interests in China. "My dream is to live in a place that I love, doing work that I love," she says.


Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 6/4/09