Groups require leadership, innovation

As a Peer Leader for Housing, I deal with freshmen on a daily basis. Living with my younger colleagues as an upperclassman, I find it interesting to ask provoking questions and hear the responses people have to offer. This is forcibly done once a semester in the form of “Resident Checkups,” but living with people 24/7 tends to foster more prevailing relationships. Naturally, one of the most popular questions to ponder pertains to the plans a freshman may have for their remaining years at Tech. Interestingly, the response is almost unanimously to “get involved.”

Maybe you’re a little older. You’re staring down graduation and realizing your resume contains nothing more than an “Education” category, in size 36 font. Whatever the specific provocation, people of every age think about “getting more involved.” However, as students pan out their goals, they are confronted with a stark contrast of different types of organizations. I don’t claim to have the answers on which ones to join, but those looking at student-based organizations face some difficult decisions.

Naturally, the first thought to pass through a student’s mind is to make something completely new. Honestly, who isn’t enamored by creating “the next big thing?” And, as people discover who they are, it becomes increasingly possible for these types of thoughts and actions to occur. Basheer Tome, third-year ID, recently founded the Tech chapter of IxDA (the Interaction Design Association). After asking him why he started IxDA, he gave some great reasons.

“I absolutely love interaction design. Over the summer I saw how active the San Francisco professional chapter of IxDA was, and I knew I wanted to have a piece of that here at Tech. There are some things missing from the learning process here, and I wanted to fill those gaps. I was frustrated by some of the other clubs who have fallen into a sort of ‘asleep-at-the-wheel’ leadership. What I envision is a relationship between IxDA and ID, HCI, DM and CS as strongly fashioned as that of the ME Invention Studio for ME students, and hopefully, with active leadership, IxDA will ultimately take the right steps to reach that goal.”

There are several things to glean from this. In particular, “asleep-at-the-wheel” leadership is something that I fear far too many organizations have succumbed to here at Tech. Along the same lines, there are many organizations that have very profound leaders who graduate, leaving a legacy in shambles. As a prime example, imagine all the hard work Basheer has poured into IxDA going to waste after he graduates because the next wave of incoming students all start their own things. Before you yourself go gallivanting straight towards creating something new, do some research, as Basheer has done. Make sure there is a niche that will follow your organization passionately. But I urge each and every one of you to look around first. There are just over 400 organizations on Jacket Pages alone. Surely, there has to be at least one that’s a decent fit for you. Not only will you be able to potentially rise to the top positions and usurp some of these passive leaders who need to go, but you’ll be able to leave your own little mark on Tech as well.

Emma Bones, fourth-year ENVE and Executive Chair of the Community Service Council, says on leadership, “I think you should definitely search around before you create something new. What people don’t realize is that creating something from nothing is extremely difficult. Building upon the groundwork someone else has already laid can often times be easier. This provides an incredibly unique opportunity—to revitalize an organization, rather than to work with something completely from scratch. If you start with this core groundwork, you have the potential to make a much larger impact on campus. Rather than being bogged down with start-up issues, you can focus on spinning your own leadership style into the organization, ultimately hopefully leaving a larger legacy.”

Take these things into consideration. If you think you have the next big idea, by all means, see it to fruition. But while considering what your next “involvement move” may be, think about what you’re looking to achieve. There are plenty of options available to you already, and there are plenty of organizations longing for completely fresh renewal efforts. Your best course of action may be far more achievable than you ever imagined.