Following the lead to the future

A giant redwood tree standing alone will topple under its own weight. Only in a forest of redwoods can the tree survive, supported by the roots and branches of other surrounding trees.

This theme of community was discussed Tuesday as Susan Komives, associate professor of College Student Development at the University of Maryland, visited USF as part of the University Lecture Series. Her address was directed towards the several students in attendance as she discussed the leadership role of college students in the new world community.

“You come to something like this because you care about making a difference,” Komives said. “This generation of students ? is one of the new threshold generations.”

She said students entering college today are part of a generation that grew up in an era of change. She said current students are more technologically aware and are more aware of human dignity. Komives said in the new millennium, it is human issues which will come to the forefront.

“Anything can happen with technology, we?re not surprised by that,” she said. “What does it mean to be human together is the question for the times we live in.”

Komives said in this new era, old hierarchies of leadership no longer exist. She said everyone has a leadership role and must use this role to better the human community.

“Our shared agenda is to be leaders,” she said. “Every place we go we think of community.”

Using the comparison to the redwood forest, Komives described leadership in the world as working in a matrix. One person, she said, cannot lead alone. It is only through the support of an entire community that leadership can be found.

“Everything in our world is connected,” she said. “The more we realize that the better we?ll do.”

Komives said shared leadership and community work hand-in-hand in creating a better society.

“Leadership is the way we invade the future,” she said. “In today?s complex times, it has to be viewed as imbedded in relationships ? not an (individual) leader but people coming together.”

Komives said a leadership community is better than an individual leader. She said more voices and disagreement help society grow.

“We must view the world as a community,” she said. “In a community (people) share responsibility for the greater good.”

Komives said building such community relationships requires being a leader in every aspect of daily life as well as reflecting on personal perspective. She said people must be able to look inside before being a leader in the community.

“The challenge to us, our public and private self need to come closer together,” she said. “We?ve got to take care of ourselves so we can engage with others.”

Komives said this is where students are important. She said the generation that now makes up college students has been exposed to more human cooperation with a greater stress on human dignity, and can use this in future leadership.

“The most valuable people are the newest to come in,” she said. “Our shared future has got to be recentered around being humans together.”

Komives said this recentering can be applied to national events and how they relate to leadership. She said the leadership of today will be important in 18 years when her granddaughter, who was born on the day of the tragedy, enters college.

“The events shaping her life now I think will make us stronger,” she said. “It?s not easy, we know that. It starts with us.”

Komives has been working as an educator for 32 years in student development. She is the co-founder of the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs and has co-authored a book about college students and leadership.

Kristina Baun, a student at USF, said Komives put her ideas in general terms that were effective.

“(She was) very informative and very motivational,” Baun said. “She touched on elements of leadership.”

Baun said Komives pushed students to become leaders.

“She motivated people to take part in the community as a whole, not just as (one?s) self,” Baun said.

Contact Rob Brannonat