On Purpose: Portrait of Student Leadership

To commemorate our 150th anniversary in 2018, the College of Liberal Arts commissioned 60 photographs taken by Xavier Tavera. Departments and programs partnered with Tavera to envision their images and to write the narratives that accompany each photograph. View On Purpose: Portrait of the Liberal Arts.

Three students meet with State Representative in the Minnesota capitol building.

Writing a short paragraph about student leadership in this college did not prove to be an easy task. 

This is perhaps because of what the College of Liberal Arts is: home to the largest and most diverse portion of the University of Minnesota student body, from all walks of life, who are moving in all possible directions. 

For these students, leadership is more than control, organization, or power. It commands an understanding of the liberal arts mission for inclusion and an appreciation for varied perspectives. It implies a willingness to advocate for positive change and a dedication to the betterment of a vast community. It requires a knowledge of people—the powerful, the unique, the forgotten, the disadvantaged, the passionate. Of course, student leaders are students in the way that they are imperfect and often uncomfortable in a transitional phase of life. However, they are also students in the way that they are zealous in progress and invested in connection with the peers that they represent. 

A handful of us have been fortunate enough to be elected to leadership positions by the student body and strive to exemplify the characteristics mentioned above. There are thousands of us, however, who exemplify the same characteristics every day and represent the ideals of a liberal arts education in a world in constant need of positive change. I truly believe that “student leaders” are developed in droves from the first day of CLA orientation—a cycle that has endured in this college for 150 years and will continue to thrive in years to come. 

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