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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Some first-years embrace leadership, others aren’t quite ready

‘I’m taking my time this first semester to recognize myself’ says first-year student
Malini+Gaddamanugu%2C+third-year+mathematics+student+and+co-student+director+of+student+orientation%2C+talks+about+what+makes+a+good+orientation+leader+on-campus+in+Kamm+Hall.+
Kathryn Raubolt
Malini Gaddamanugu, third-year mathematics student and co-student director of student orientation, talks about what makes a good orientation leader on-campus in Kamm Hall.

Coming into the spring 2024 semester, first-year students are divided between those who already jumped into leadership positions and those who wish to understand their place on campus before they become heavily involved.  

Rylee Gorrell, a first-year media production student, is one of those students who decided early on to become a leader. Gorrell stepped onto campus in August as director of social media for Girl’s Club, a newly formed student organization focusing on “creating a space for women in sports, women who want to work in athletics and women who are interested in sports,” Gorrell said.   

After applying over the summer, Gorrell landed the position before her first day of classes at Baldwin Wallace University, starting her fall semester as a leader on campus.  

“I was completely blown away that our president chose to have me on the board, especially with how young I am compared to everyone else, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Gorrell said.   

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In addition to being on the executive board, Gorrell is also involved as a student-athlete on the track and field team, a videographer for the football team and a member of WBWC-FM for her media production major.   

Gorrell said that while she loves being involved, finding a way to “keep my head on my shoulders and take time out of my day for each part of my life equally” has been her greatest challenge since starting at BW.   

 Also stepping into a social media board position, Elisa Gauntner, first-year arts management and entrepreneurship and theatre: dance and movement double major, became marketing co-coordinator of the Yellow Jacket Activity Board in mid-October during her first semester at BW.   

YJAB is a student organization that aims to plan social programs for undergraduate students. Gauntner aids in creating promotional content for events planned by the organization.    

Gauntner said she was hesitant to apply for the position because she worried that she had not been on campus long enough to be in a leadership role “so early on.” After talking with her friends and orientation leader, she said she decided to apply because “there isn’t a hierarchy like high school” and she knew that people would help her with the position.  

However, while some first-year students decide to take on leadership roles within their first year, not all follow the same path.   

Leah Kania, sophomore vocal performance student, waited until the summer before her second year before formally stepping into any of her current roles on campus to “build important connections and build a support system.”  

In the fall 2023 semester, Kania was involved in many things across campus, including being sophomore class president, an orientation leader, a First-Year Experience peer leader, chair of the academic affairs committee in the student senate and secretary of Bella Voce.   

“I’m definitely glad that I took the first year to get ready and prepare for these leadership positions,” Kania said. “It was also very valuable to learn from the upperclassmen in these leadership positions before stepping into them myself.”  

Jonathan McPherson, a first-year BFA acting student, also said that he plans to wait until at least next semester to find a role that suits him and to strengthen his time management skills before becoming more involved and applying for formal leadership positions.     

“I want to make the most out of my college experience here, but I also don’t want to take away from people who’ve spent the time working to be in leadership roles,” McPherson said. “That’s why I’m taking my time this first semester to recognize myself and what I can handle before I overstep my bounds.”  

Claudine Grunenwald Kirschner, director of first-year and second-year experience, hosted a leadership lunch in early November to encourage conversations about leadership. She said starting the conversation early in a student’s first or second year is important because “there are many steps to leadership.”  

“There’s a million different ways to experience that leadership,” Grunenwald Kirschner said. “And while there’s very specific roles that sort of tap you as a quote-unquote leader, there’s other roles that are far more nuanced in terms of leadership and are just as important as well.”  

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