Leadership is one of those words that gets tossed around rather easily and frequently, and often confusingly and haphazardly. The Carolina Union, the so-called Living Room of the University, may not at first seem to be one of the centers of leadership on our campus, but when the term is seen with fresh eyes and new perspectives, the Union emerges as a logical and obvious locus of leadership.
Let’s start with the obvious: student government conducts much of its business in the Union, and Union staff members provide advising, consultation, and mentorship to the students who serve the University in that important and historic capacity. Carolina Leadership Development, an administrative unit of the Union, offers structured programs, academic courses, workshop series, organizational and personal consultations for students, all of which fall under the large umbrella of ‘leadership.’ Like student government, much of the leadership that goes into providing these opportunities is provided by students.
While student government and Carolina Leadership Development benefit from their obvious connections to the term, leadership occurs, develops, and is striven for in virtually every corner of the Union. The Carolina Union Activities Board (CUAB), for example, serves other equally vital programmatic interests on behalf of students. Many of the performers, art exhibits, speakers, and community-building events on this campus occur as a result of CUAB, and much of CUAB’s success is due to the leadership provided by students.
A more subtle but equally important location for leadership is in the Union’s provision of student employment. The Union employs approximately 120 students each year, and while performing the functions in the respective departments, student employees are given real-world opportunities to grow and develop in their positions, which can translate to valuable resume entries when seeking professional opportunities beyond their time at Carolina. Student employment in the Union provides a reminder of how essential students are to the functioning of the University.
Finally, the staff of the Carolina Union is committed to ensuring that every student who steps through one of the many doors to the building benefits from its various services, all of which are designed with the individual student’s best interests in mind. All of the good stuff that happens in the Union, on our campus, in our world, can be defined as good leadership. Whether a student enters the building for the purpose of enjoying a meal with friends, participating in a student-organization meeting, attending a workshop, or reporting for work, we assume that all who enter the building do so to direct energy at improving our campus in one way or another. Carolina Leadership Development refers to this process as “the pursuit of betterness,” and the Union operates on the assumption that all Carolina students are similarly committed. The pieces come together inside the building, and when given opportunities to explore and maximize their potential, students create nothing short of a community.