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Student Leadership Model

An Evolutionary Model for Student Leadership in Community Service & Service Learning Administration:
The Evolution of Student Leadership
At the Meelia Center for Community Engagement
Saint Anselm College  

Student Leadership Phase I: Office Assistant/ Project Leadership Model


  • Primary work of community engagement falls to Director
  • Students (primarily Federal Work Study) help manage community engagement
  • Additional student(s) coordinate one-day service events, or on-going service projects

Duties for Office Assistant/ Project Leader include:

  • Receive community requests and solicit campus response
  • Help with volunteer recruitment, placement and support tasks
  • Help organize and run service events
  • Provide office coverage
  • Assist Director as needed

Strengths of this model:

  • Provides needed support
  • Limited cost to institution allows program to stay under the radar
  • Increases student ownership & leadership in community engagement
  • Allows program to expand on and off campus presence and reputation

Disadvantages of this Model include:

  • Student availability may not coincide with Director need
  • Students may hold limited view of their leadership role
  • Community comes to administrator as primary point of contact
  • Placement of student leader on campus limits their understanding and engagement in community, and their role in creating new opportunities for engagement

Student Leadership Phase II: Affiliates Coordinator Model


  • Affiliates Coordinators assume primary responsibility for community engagement at a set of community agencies (affiliates)
  • Agencies are organized into sets by type of service, geography, or anticipated # of volunteers/service-learners. 

Additional student(s) divided into roles that:

  • Coordinate one-day service events
  • Provide assistance in the office

Duties of the Affiliates Coordinator include:

  • Establish working relationship with agency staff (may entail from 3-6 agencies, depending of student initiative and ability and administrative need.)
  • Help identify opportunities for service and service-learning at assigned sites
  • Help establish system for orientation, placement, supervision and support of volunteers and service-learners.
  • Serve as liaison between campus and community
  • Problem solve as needed
  • Keep Director apprised of status of community partnerships

Strengths of this Model includes:

  • Tighter structure to manage engagement at agencies
  • Enhanced ability to monitor engagement and quickly respond to problems or new ideas
  • Program expansion is more intentional as Affiliate Coordinators develop new opportunities in response to agency requests, student interests, and course links for service-learning.
  • Frequently unleashes even greater student ownership and leadership of community engagement

Disadvantages of this Model:

  • Students placed on campus may not gain level of community involvement to satisfy their own service impulse
  • Limits on direct involvement hinders deeper understanding of agency and community need and corresponding opportunity development
  • Requires a good measure of administrative capacity at the agency. Some agencies with great need may have to be by-passed if they lack strong agency supervision and administrative support.

Student Leadership Phase III: On-Site & Affiliates Coordinator Model


  • On-site Coordinators perform their administrative support of community engagement directly from the site
  • Management of a single agency allows for focused attention and deeper involvement.  New opportunities emerge.
  • Experienced student leadership can provide novice Co-coordinators with on-the-job-training, and smooth leadership transition
On-site coordinator duties include:
  • Collaborate with agency staff to define volunteer and service-learning engagement. Help agency with volunteer policies, orientation, supervision and evaluation.
  • On campus recruitment, and on-site placement and support of volunteers and service-learners
  • Assistance in ensuring service-learner engagement meets course learning goals
  • On-site problem solving
  • Resource development as needed
  • Assistance in monitoring student involvement
  • Provide direct service at agency, often establishing new levels of engagement that others can later occupy

Advantages to this model:

  • Can target on-site coordination at agencies with many volunteers and service-learners
  • Can insert on-site coordinator where agency's administrative support is lacking
  • Can assign several on-site coordinators where campus engagement is multi-layered or extensive
  • Single student point of contact present at site can convince reluctant agency or faculty of campus' capacity to manage responsibilities.
  • Satisfies student leaders appetite for direct service involvement
  • Provides advancement opportunities for student leaders

Disadvantages of this model:

  • Supervision of on-site coordinators creates a challenge
  • Effective use of on-site coordination can lead to rapid expansion of community engagement, creating strain on other administrative structures
  • Placement of on-site coordinators at only some sites may cause resentment at agencies without commitment of on-site coordination

Student Leadership Phase IV: Comprehensive Student Leadership Model


  • Creates an additional layer of office management to support an expanded evel of community engagement
  • Assistant Director has role in managing and supervising on-site and affiliate coordinators
  • Office Manager has role in managing and supervising office assistants and service events
  • Additional Coordinators manage Transportation, Public Relations, Web Page, Information Management, etc.
  • Student Assistant Director and Office manager serve as management team along with Director and the Administrative Assistant to develop and refine policies and procedures, and manage overall community engagement.
  • Throughout the student leadership ranks staff are encouraged to serve on committees focused on volunteer recognition, leadership training, team building, policies and procedures, communications, etc.
  • Other campus professional staff (HR, Communications, College Advancement, Career Services) are invited to help train and support the student management team and committees.

Advantages to this model:

  • Where administrative resources are limited, this structure helps get the important work accomplished
  • Maximizes student leadership development and opportunities for promotion
  • Student volunteers & service-learners may be more open in expressing concerns to student supervisors, enabling problems to be addressed sooner.
  • Reducing the number of students that any one person manages, provides greater support
  • Provides a whole new dimension of professional development for student leaders
  • High level of student leadership, student management and subsequent community engagement may create resource development opportunities that further program development.

Disadvantages of this model:

  • Students are sometimes reluctant to hold their peers accountable
  • May be difficult to find the right student leader for all positions (especially given reliance on work-study to pay student leaders)
  • Tight schedules, and semester-to-semester changes in schedules hinders some student leaders getting to site or delegating tasks to office assistants as needed
  • Sometimes academic overload can cause students to fall short in meeting responsibilities
  • Student leaders are often drawn to multiple campus leadership roles
  • Ability to effectively manage all work may reduce pressure on campus administrators to increase professional support for the community engagement office.

Student Leadership Phase V: Comprehensive Model, integrated with Federal Work Study and Institutional Advancement


  • Maximizes use of FWS and College generated payroll and scholarship resources to allow for broad recruitment and retention of skilled student leaders
  • Provides student leaders a differential pay scale to correspond with responsibilities
  • Serves as a visible testimony of campus commitment to service and service leadership; facilitates recruitment of new student leaders and the development of outside resources

Advantages to this model:

  • Can help campus meet 7% FWS community service requirement
  • With proper documentation the college's contribution to a student's FWS wages can fall to 10% (if a contract exists for on-site coordinators) or 0% (for AmericaReads)
  • Pay differentials encourage new students to apply for service leadership positions
  • Pay differentials encourages students to take on additional responsibility
  • Grant resources or college pay roll to support non FWS coordinators ensures that all jobs filled with quality leadership
  • Scholarship assistance beyond hourly compensation rewards leadership and may allow for greater post-graduation service involvement and leadership
  • Broader and more significant community engagement creates new opportunities for college advancement to secure dedicated resources for the community service center

Disadvantages of this model:

  • Higher pay scale and expanded programming and leadership staff increases college cost of community engagement
  • Reductions in overall FWS allotments to college may lead to reductions in Community Service FWS allotment
  • Increased Community Service FWS may reduce availability of FWS to other campus departments
  • Economic downturn may lead more students to use of FWS eligibility across campus and thus lead to a reduction in FWS allotment for all campus departments, including community engagement

Student Leadership Phase VI: Comprehensive Model with Leadership Teams


  • Organizes community engagement center's work into groups of activity and deploys a Team Leader to support each group
  • Groups include Family and Children Team, Education Team, Adult and Teens, Community Outreach (i.e. work managed primarily by the community engagement center)
  • Multiple Team Leaders conduct work formally performed by Student Assistant Director and Student Office Manager
  • Expands student representation on engagement center's management team, bringing greater student voice to the table
Advantages to this model:
  • Reduces the risk of overwhelming students on the management team
  • Increases team-building potential within smaller student groups and strengthens relationship between the team leader and their assigned coordinators
  • Allows students within each team to more fully support and develop one another
  • Increases likelihood that student management team can conduct regular site visits.
  • Increases student leadership promotion opportunities
  • Smaller groups accelerate the orientation and training of new staff, especially the start-up of the academic year
  • Allows for new ideas and approaches to spread more quickly
  • New teams can be added and agencies moved around as the need arise to accommodate added sites or to achieve a different balance in management team responsibilities
  • Allows Team Leaders to expand individualized support to student coordinators
  • Closer management allows teams to be quickly activated to respond to the urgent business of the engagement center as needed

Disadvantages of this model:

  • Adds to the number of student management team positions creating recruitment challenges
  • Adds another layer of leadership responsibility as teams are called upon to build strong connections with the engagement center and other teams
  • Increases the work of the Director to develop and support the expanded management team
  • Expands use of center's FWS and payroll resources on in-direct support of community engagement.