Alumni David Curley, Brian Coleman and Aaron Wilkerson learned firsthand how to balance excelling in academics while making an impact on campus through student leadership. All three maintained leadership roles in numerous student organizations at Grand Valley when they were students.
"The Student Leader Guidebook: How to Establish, Strengthen and Maintain a Student Organization" (2009, ESANi Press) is not only helpful to students who wish to start a successful organization, but to currently active organizations that can improve efficiency and develop into a higher-performing group. The authors say the format of “Establish, Strengthen and Maintain” highlighted in the guidebook is crucial to any organization.
"Student leaders are about having a passion for something and leading others in that passion," Curley said. "Student organizations were an outlet that allowed us to prepare for our professional lives and pursue our passions beyond the boundaries of the classroom."
For all three, being active in student life while attending Grand Valley has transferred into the real-world professional setting, because of employers' seeking well-rounded students that excel both inside and outside the classroom.
"In job interviews, I've spent more time discussing my student life activities than my GPA," Coleman added.
Issues and talents regarding deadlines, timelines, teamwork, budgeting and accountability are all factors experienced in student organizations that have easily carried over into their experience with the business world.
"Ultimately, leadership is leadership, a character trait that is transferable no matter what setting," Wilkerson said.
Curley, a 2006 graduate, served as a resident assistant and was the vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers. The leadership skills he gained, as well as his Academic Excellence, helped him obtain an internship with Nissan North America. Today, he assesses market opportunities to increase dealership profitability.
A 2007 alumnus, Coleman was the chapter president of the National Society of Black Engineers, an onsite recruiter for an internship organization and a member of the Student Senate. Through his leadership abilities, Brian was able to obtain a position at General Motors as a lead engineer for full size truck steering systems and is also attending the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business for an MBA, focusing on corporate strategy and innovation.
Also a 2007 alumnus, Wilkerson served as the public relations chair and treasurer of the National Society of Black Engineers. He also served as president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Because of these leadership positions as well as intern and co-op experiences at General Motors, he was able to obtain a position with Accenture, a global consulting firm. His current project is at Dow Chemical Company supporting its global financial reporting infrastructure. Along with his regular work responsibilities, he is also serving as the office lead for green meetings for Accenture's Detroit Eco Team.
They have also been back to campus twice to present leadership workshops to current students, and they were inducted as alumni members into Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society in November 2009. The ODK National organization featured the book on its Web site as "recommended reading."