Elmira, NY (09/22/2022) — Syeda Neha Wajahat '25, an Elmira College Finance and Accounting double major from Pakistan, came to the United States looking for experiences that would go beyond her textbooks. She wants to grow and develop as a leader. So, when Wajahat was invited to the Soaring Higher Student Leadership Program, she was thrilled.

"This is what I came to the United States for," she said.

Wajahat is one of fourteen students attending the new program, which will run for 10 weeks. It is facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Lambert, Vice President of Campus Life and Dean of Students, Larry Parker, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Ytzel Flores Cristiansen, Assistant Director of Campus Engagement. They based the content for the program on the book, "Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership" by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. Many of the program sessions include guest speakers. For example, Elmira College President, Dr. Charles Lindsay, spoke during the second session about his path to becoming a leader in higher education.

"It has been my goal to create an exceptional student leadership program at Elmira College for years," said Lambert. "It was critical to select a group of students who would be dedicated to learning how to become an exemplary leader and who would stay the course for 10 consecutive weeks. I could not have imagined a better inaugural cohort of student leaders."

Wajahat's plan is to return to Pakistan and eventually take over her father's accounting consultancy firm. After the first session, she was making quick connections between what she uncovered in an activity about her values and the type of leader she wants to be. She realized she values standing up for one's beliefs, like the leader she admires most, Malala Yousafzai. Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, survived a gunshot attack and continues to advocate for the right to education for young girls.

"I could see how the person I admire linked to my values," she said.

Another program attendee, Hailey Clancy '24, a Nursing major, is eager to apply her leadership training to her future career.

"As a registered nurse, you tend to oversee staff members, and often when the doctor is out you'll be the person in charge," she said. "I want to be able to communicate better with others."

For now, Clancy will share what she learns with her fellow Rotaract Club of Elmira College leaders in hopes of expanding the reach and efficacy of the service organization.

Marc Artuz '24, a Psychology major, has ideas on how to use his leadership training to make Elmira College feel like home for everyone on campus. His goal is to model being "himself" so that others will feel comfortable being themselves - no matter how quirky.

"It's about showing things like passion and courage and to be willing to be yourself," he said. "If I can do that, I'll leave Elmira College knowing I can be a leader anywhere. Because being a leader is inspiring others to do better."

Artuz said he didn't feel like Elmira College was home when he first arrived but over time things have changed and now he is humbled to be seen as a leader and invited into the program.

"I want to say thank you," said Artuz. "I am where I am right now because of the people who saw my potential."

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