I spent last night walking in our campus Relay for Life at Bryant University. The experience both emotional and exhilarating. As I watched the student leaders who organized the event, I beamed with pride. They are truly extraordinary young people. What did they learn from this experience? Perhaps, they learned more than they ever could from a textbook or lecture. Undoubtedly, they developed their organizational skills as they put together this event. They learned how to lead and motivate people, as well as how to work together as a team. As I watched them during the night, I observed tremendous public speaking skills, as these young people addressed the large crowd numerous times. Perhaps most importantly, I believe events like this prove seminal events in the character development of our students.
As an educator, I have always believed that much learning occurs outside the classroom. At too many universities, though, such extracurricular activities remain divorced from what goes on inside the classroom. To truly offer transformational educational experiences, we need universities that effectively marry the classroom experience with such events and experiences so that they are truly co-curricular. That means instructors have to be involved in the activities and events organized by students and the student affairs staff at colleges and universities. That means instructors have to use these types of events as an opportunity to facilitate dialogues about leadership with their students, and to help students reflect on what they have learned during these experiences. These experiences can be powerful leadership development experiences, but to be optimal, students and instructors should come together to help students reflect, learn, and develop for the future.