Ineffective leadership transition can lead to club burnout
By MEREDITH JENNINGS
Clubs at UMW are not a new phenomenon, but what is new is the method in which they are being led.
The Student Leadership Summit is one way UMW helps train student leaders. It’s been around for three years, and the purpose of the summit is to encourage members of club leadership to attend various seminars and lectures about topics ranging from public speaking to club retention.
However, before the summit existed, there were problems with how students on this campus handled leadership positions and it is yet to be determined if the summit has been truly assuaging these problems.
“I did experience burnout. Actually, I burned out so much that I ended up dropping PRISM [People for the Rights of Individuals of Sexual Minorities] all together after my tenure as president,” said Candy Slamin, a member class of 2018. “I must admit that I don’t think I necessarily handled the workload well. Things got done, and major problems got solved, but I remember often worrying more about the club than I did my classes and stuff. It became in a sense, a job to me.”
Slamin explained how she wasn’t even anticipating becoming president of PRISM. She had been the vice president for the 2015-2016 school year, but midway through the second semester she found out that the current president was going abroad.
“Well in the sense that being president of a club as active as PRISM is something you never really feel ready for, and because I became president so suddenly in the middle of the year, I was a little lost,” said Slamin. “But, that being said, I had people to fall back on who helped me a lot.”
All clubs have an executive board that helps manage the club under the direction of the president. But each and every club on campus is managed differently and it’s hard to have a universal expectation for how the the workload is regulated. Stress and exhaustion can take their toll on all club leaders.
“Burnout is a serious issue. I think the most important thing is sharing responsibility between club leaders, not having the club rest its entire shoulders on one person,” said Olivia Lehman, president of the Creative Writing Club. “Otherwise, it can really take the fun out of [a] club.”
In the formative years of the Creative Writing Club, one area that was a source of stress was the fact that older members of the executive board didn’t aid the incoming members in becoming adjusted to the work. Lehman said that the previous president handled the transition of power poorly and that in turn has made her want to do better for future students.
“I tried to make it a smoother transition this year, making sure our new president knows everything he needs to do to be ready for next year.”
In terms of how leadership practices have changed, Erin Shaw, the current president of PRISM, explained how she’s been handling the stress. The methods that work for her are intricate schedules that aid her in managing her time down to the hour.
“The workload is a lot, but I have a great e-board supporting me,” Shaw said. “We have transitioned in power to the new leadership, but I keep thinking I’m coming back in the fall. I keep saying things like ‘so next year we’ll…’ I’m so proud of our e-board, and I know they’ll do a great job.”
Shaw has also been to all three annual Student Leadership Summits. She notes how it’s been useful to her in how she’s learned from other student leaders on campus.
“The student leadership summit also led to the creation of the Multicultural Leadership Council, which has been a great resource for me.”
A previous version of this article was titled “Ineffective club leadership can lead to club burnout.” It has since been altered to better reflect the article.