Servant Leadership

Rutgers Dance Marathon raised over $500,000 for the Embrace Kids Foundation this year, a feat that could not be attained without the collective effort of countless individuals. For me, participating in Dance Marathon really gave me the opportunity to reflect on servant leadership and its significance.

RUDM Dancing

One of the things that servant leadership requires you to do is to let go of self-importance and instead focus on a cause that is bigger than yourself. I think that is one of the biggest issues that student leaders have, is not allowing your ego to focus on yourself, but those around you and the community you are looking to serve.


Being able to participate in Dance Marathon showed me a perspective of selflessness that I had never seen in that capacity. For one reason or another, every participant of Dance Marathon chose to serve, be it for the fight against cancer or for a family or person they were supporting. My fraternity participated in Dance Marathon to support Joey DePalma and his family in his fight against leukemia.

RUDM DePalms

It was a great feeling to know that our contributions and donations to Embrace Kids was helping the many people affected by Cancer. Even more tremendous was being able to see how many organizations and people were down for the same cause. Although many organizations at Rutgers may be separate, there was a sense of inclusivity that I think everyone felt regardless of what group they may have belonged to.


It wasn’t just about who raised the most money, or who had the most members from their organization dance the 32 hours, it was about collectively working towards the same mission. I feel that anyone who danced the full 32 hours can mutually agree that it was a tremendous honor to support the cause.


Serving in such a huge philanthropy event such as this, emphasizes the value of collective effort, and represents a key component of “servant leadership.” For next year it won’t just be a question of me participating in Dance Marathon, it will be a question of how many people can I encourage to experience the benefits of such a contribution with me.

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Program Planning: Res Life Style


Planning programs can be challenging in any organization.  There needs to be a balance between fun and what you are actually there to do.  It helps that your organizations members usually want to be there or are at least required to be there.  With Residence Life we are not that lucky.  Programming takes on a new challenge…getting residence to attend.  This may seem like a small feat but I promise you is much more challenging then you think.  Upon reflecting over some of my programs from this past year I could not help but remember a program that was unfortunalty a complete failure.  It was a movie night that I chose to do in the main lounge.  I thought I was set, I picked an awesome movie (Mean Girls) got pizza and soda and put up posters.  I had 2 residence attend. After thinking about it I knew what the problem had been.  I chose to do this program on a Friday night.  The residence requested this movie night and I thought if I made it early enough residence would still want to come…sadly this was not the case.  Needless to say I have not had another program on a Friday.  It was tough to see my efforts be such a waste but I learned a valuable lesson in programming.  I think for the future some things I learned from this class that I could apply to programming is to not be afraid to try things and if they are not successful learn from them and be flawsome!….



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As the member of the Board of Directors for Rutgers University Dance Marathon (RUDM), one of the things that I constantly think about is current participant engagement and ways to engage potential new members. To gain some outside perspective, I had a chat with the Rutgers Hillel President, Raffi Mark, to talk about programming and student engagement.

Raffi Mark (center) with some of his staff running an Israel engagement program.

Raffi Mark (center) with some of his staff running an Israel engagement program.

Ashley Sam: About how many people does Hillel engage throughout the year?

Raffi Mark: Hillel engages 2000 Jewish students per year through our different programs.

AS: About how many students does Hillel engage at an average program?

RM: It’s hard to give an average since we target different sizes. Our birthright trips are about 50 students per semester and our holiday programming serves about 150 students per holiday. Shabbat dinner serves 200 per week on average, but our smaller scale programs reach 10-30. In a given week with the exception of Shabbat dinner we reach probably 100 students.

AS: How often does Hillel hold programs?

RM: Hillel holds almost daily programming.

AS: What are some of the major challenges that Hillel faces when programming?

RM: The main challenges that we face are attracting a new audience and advertising in a way that is effective and meaningful.

AS: What are some successful techniques that have been used in regards to programming?

RM: Techniques we use would include engaging new students in leadership roles to ensure new ideas, bigger attendance, and not being stuck to the status quo.

AS: How does having three separate communities within one organization effect programming?

RM: We actually have more than three separate communities and it makes it a challenge to balance the needs of each one to ensure that everyone is comfortable attending programs while still letting the differences be accepted. We also have the challenge of scheduling while trying not to have an overlap of program times.

This interview highlighted some key points that I would like to draw attention to. Both RUDM and Hillel seem to face the challenge of trying to engage new student participants and spread their messages to the student population. Though RUDM strives to engage 1,000 students for one weekend with maybe 100 of them working throughout the entire year, active participation proves to be just as much of a challenge for us as it is for Hillel with its wide array of daily programming. We also both deal with struggles of trying to connect differing communities. Though RUDM does not bring together different factions of one religious community, RUDM does face the challenge of bringing Greek organizations, community services organizations, and cultural groups together for one common cause. Another major commonality is the approach taken to engaging new students. Both Hillel and RUDM focus on getting younger students actively involved in leadership roles early. Seeing the similarities in these groups illustrates an important point. Every student group, regardless of their mission or affiliation has some of the same problems and successes. We are often put into boxes as “community service organizations,” or “religious organizations,” or “Greek organizations,” etc. Instead of seeing labels, we should all strive to see common struggles and work together to develop meaningful solutions.


Rutgers Hillel President Raffi Mark and I at RUDM 2013. Raffi participated as a Dancer on the Rutgers Hillel Team.

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The Duck Theory


As part of the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), I have weekly one-on-one meetings with my advisor. After we get through all of our agenda items, we usually delve into a pop culture whirlwind of the latest in great music and what happened on the latest episode of Sunday night programming on HBO (Seriously, Sundays on HBO are spectacular.) However, we set those aside to talk shop about leadership. So let’s jump right into what Ryan O’Connell had to say about his experience leading students and what qualities make a good leader.
A good leader according to Ryan has to have two qualities, being reliable and able to instill confidence into people. A leader is reliable in the sense that they always have the best interest in mind, making sure each team member is contributing to their fullest potential. To do that, they have to take actions to show they care. Ryan recalled a story in which he was working at an event in San Francisco on top of scaffolding at 9pm, but there was a person right there with him… the head of the company he worked for. He went on to explain how some of the best bosses he’s had all lead by example, whereas you lose respect for someone who is a “stand and pointer” ordering people around.
url“A leader is like duck.” When Ryan had said this, I questioned his theory at first but it rang true. Imagine a duck on a pond, you can see it gliding along the water with grace. However, hidden to us underneath the water the duck’s feet are paddling like mad. Leaders are like the duck in that they don’t let people see the legs. If a leader shows that they’re worried, it doesn’t do anyone good because it’ll trickle down. If you show that you’re calm and confident, no matter the situation, everyone else will be. Especially in RUPA and with an events perspective, things can get crazy quickly. You have to be able to trust your leaders that they’re making right decisions.
Ryan applies these qualities whenever we’re at a RUPA event. At Scarvest, Ryan was right there with us shucking hay bales around and the week of the Before I Die wall, was helping us lug them inside and out each day. A leader can’t sit back and order people around, they have to be alongside their followers and be a good communicator of believing in what they do. This is why not only Ryan is a great guy, but a great leader.
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Sitting Down with a RutgersZone Manager


Today I sat down with one of my good friends, Michelle, and spoke with her about her manager position at the RutgersZone. Being in a leadership position in the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), it was interesting to see the perspective of another student leader and how the Zone has a great ability to impact the Rutgers community as well. Although the Zone is very different from RUPA, including the way we are structured as well as our organizations’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ (going back to Simon Sinek’s golden circle!), I also saw some similarities. Let’s take a look at two of these commonalities that both Michelle and I share as student leaders:


The first thing Michelle explained to me is the purpose of the RutgersZone, which is to “bring happiness to the Rutgers community.” This one space in the Livingston Student Center serves many different outlets to the students. They serve ice cream, provide fun games, play music and television shows on there many screens. It gives students a place to relax, do homework, or have fun with their friends. The Zone also programs their own students in zone events, such as a networking party, an Anti-Valentines Day party, and much more. She explained that through these programs and fun/relaxing activities during the day, they really have an impact on the Rutgers community. The students who work there really try to cater to the student body’s wants and needs. Students that may live on different campuses or even commuters have the chance to come to the RutgersZone and ‘escape’ from the classroom or doing their homework.

421519_579697845393407_1993431861_nAlthough RUPA is set up differently, with a different budget, or different types of events and the way that we program our events, our goal is to provide students with out of the classroom experiences. Like the Zone, we ultimately cater to the students’ wants and needs in order for them to enjoy their college experience. We program our events with the students in mind and we want to provide them with a variety of events that they will enjoy. RUPA also works closely with the Zone when we program our Buzztime Trivia nights every Wednesday and Karaoke nights once every month. Both RUPA and the RutgersZone take large strides in providing students with fun activities and impacting the college community.


It is extremely important for both employees at the Zone as well as RUPA members to understand and agree with the ‘why’ of their organization to make that impact on campus. Michelle explained to me how important it is to empower her employees by giving them autonomy to complete their tasks. In order for the Zone to attract students, it really starts with the people that work there; they are the face of their organization. At first, she was nervous about delegation and micromanaging, however as she learned and gained experience, she grew more confident in being a leader. Now, she trusts her employees and understands how to effectively communicate with them when problems do arise.


This really resonated with me, and my role in RUPA. When I first began as the Director of my own committee, I didn’t know the first thing of being a good leader. However, once I became more comfortable in my role, I also became more comfortable with my leadership style. I also now have more of an understanding of the importance of having all RUPA members believe in this organization, in order for us to accomplish our goal of providing Rutgers students with out of the classroom activities.

I really learned a lot from Michelle about the RutgersZone and the ways in which they can have a large impact on the community at Rutgers. Although RUPA works with them throughout the year, it was great to hear her perspective on their purpose and the way she serves as a leader on campus.


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Being a Leader Through Action

Anthony Gibbons of the Student Life Marketing Team (SLMT) writes this blog post about what he thinks of leadership.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” – Jack Welch

In retrospect, when I first joined the Student Life Marketing Team (SLMT) about two years ago, I knew little to nothing about graphic design.  Initially, I did not consider all the experience I would gain as a result of working in this office.  Similar to the mindset of most college students, I just saw it as another job opportunity.  However, as the months passed and I acquired more knowledge and experience, I could see how my skills were developing.  As time progressed, my confidence and creativity increased and I was able to establish a level credibility in the office.  As new students entered the office, I was sought out for my opinions regarding what others were producing.  This is when I realized that I was in a leadership position.

What does leadership mean to me?

Lead by example.

I made sure that I followed proper office protocol.  I made a point to keep my work station clean and that I clocked in and out at the appropriate times.  I made sure that everything which was expected for that day was completed because I could not expect something from someone I wouldn’t do myself.

Serve others and get your hands dirty.

In addition to the daily project load, occasionally, we were required to handle minor office maintenance.  I would always volunteer to help out the office wherever needed. Position does not define a leader but their passion.  I realize that restocking printers and throwing out the trash does not make me less of a leader.

Willingness to learn.

As my skills developed in the office, my confidence also increased.  However, I can assure you that it never transformed into cockiness or arrogance.  When it came time for peer feedback, I looked forward to the constructive criticism and frequently asked what I needed to do to improve my work.   I know now that no matter how many degrees or job titles I obtain, I will always strive to stay a student; someone who is always finding opportunities to learn.

Overall, I believe that everyone has the potential to become a leader.  All it requires is hard work, focus and diligence.  Being an effective leader does not necessarily mean that you produce the best work but that you work to inspire others.


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Did you hear the news about Rutgers…


  • Over 500 students and staff attended GAYPRIL opening ceremonies. A program celebrating the LGBTQIA community on campus.
  • Dance Marathon will be hosting an event this weekend with over 600 people dancing for 32 hours and raising over $400,000 for children and families struggling with cancer and blood disorders.
  • Over 25 students are participating on a planning team that is working together with staff on campus to plan Geek Week, a series of programs designed to dispel myths and prejudices about being a “geek”.
  • 80 students traveled to 7 locations during their spring break to help communities as an alternative to the typical spring break.
  • Rutgers students created a special day for almost 100 children with developmental disabilities at the 21st Annual Special Friends Day in March.
  • Close to 200 students are signed up to go down to the Jersey Shore for a rebuilding effort in April.

Just thought you might want to hear some of the newsworthy initiatives being led by Rutgers students this semester. Keep calm and lead on Rutgers Students.

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