Snow has fallen and a crisp layer remains as Southern Maine Community College opens up its doors for the Spring semester. Even though it doesn’t feel like Spring just yet, students are springing into step, excited for another semester, and the fresh opportunities it provides. One of life’s many skills that help people succeed is a strong understanding of Leadership. Many future endeavors require leadership qualities, and leadership comes in many different styles and is shown in multiple ways. The question is, what types of ways is it shown, and how does it apply in real life?

Fortunately, SMCC’s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership (Cesil ) values an understanding of leadership and knows how vital a quality and skill it is. With that in mind, Shane Long, Director of Residence Life and Student Involvement, set out to create a program that focused on leadership and the role it plays in everyday life. After a while of brainstorming, Shane Long was able to pull on Alex Carrier, a graduate intern of the University of Conneticut to research and build a curriculum for a leadership program. Of that, the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) was born.


In the Fall of 2014 the first ever session of ELP set way, with 10 students excited and eager to learn and grow as leaders. Led by Shane Long, Madelyn Holm, Greg Anderews, and teachers assistant Rik Sawyer, the first session of ELP was a huge hit! Designed to help students develop their own sense of what leadership is, and what it means to them, and giving them the opportunity to learn about basic leadership skills, ELP has been extremely successful in producing leaders in the SMCC community.

Shane Long, creator of ELP, has been cooking up this idea for years, but the timing was never right. Until now. When asked about what he believes one of the biggest goals of the program would be, he said “It encourages students to take on leadership positions and helps to prepare them for that step, 4 of our current Resident Assistants (RA’s) are graduates of the program, and the current Phi Theta Kappa and Student Senate president is a graduate of the program as well.” Needless to say, the first year of the program was very successful.

Offering a semester’s worth of free and invigorating classes, the Emerging Leaders Program opens up the eyes of its class members. From a strengths test taken in the first couple of weeks of the program, to working with teammates to find a community benefiting project, to eye opening diversity training.

When completed, the program is put on the student’s transcript and is an amazing and unique accomplishment to include on the resume. Students only need to register for the program before the semester’s ELP classes start, and commit to attending every class. Did we mention it was free?

With three graduated ELP classes, the program is only growing in innovation and capability. Bringing in admired and inspiring guest speakers, and bringing together people from all different walks of life, the Emerging Leaders Program offers a way to learn more about each individuals leadership styles. A student who graduates from ELP now has something more to look forward to with the Dirigo

Leadership Program, the third installment in a line of leadership opportunities the Cesil office is now offering. The Dirigo Program offers leadership training on a more individualized level, helping students to maximize their skills and expeiriance as leaders. The goal with the Dirigo program is to have it be beneficial to what students will use it for as they plan their next step, whether it be transferring to a 4 year college, or jumping into the workforce. Students will have 6 group meetings and 4 mentoring sessions that are scheduled individually, all focused on raising that level of leadership and preparing students for the real world. Danielle Despins, the Leadership Programs Advisor, and Rik Sawyer, former ELP TA, and current Student Activities Advisor, are both facilitators for the ELP program and contributing creators of the Dirigo program. They will be leading the first session of the Dirigo program this spring, 2016. When asked what she hoped students would get out of the leadership programs currently being provided on campus, Danielle Despins answered “The development of leadership skills is an ongoing and everlasting process. Our goal is to provide students a foundation of tools for their continued journey. Our hope is students will graduate from the program with more confidence then when they started, a more robust understanding of their personal leadership styles and a stronger network of student leaders on campus.”

There is always room to wonder how the leaders of a leadership program are effected by their work. Does it change their perspective, or their leadership style? Despins answered “I have always naturally gravitated toward leadership roles; however, until facilitating this course I had not broken down the layers of my leadership philosophy in order to define and teach it to others. As a result, I am much more conscientious as I make leadership decisions.”ELP1

Fall 2015’s ELP TA and 2015 Student of the Year, Maisarah Miskoon was never actually a student of the ELP program, however still feels she learned about her leadership style as an effect of being on the ELP team “I wasn’t in ELP prior to becoming a facilitator because I felt that I was already a leader and was confident of my leadership strengths. As a facilitator, I got to share my experiences as a leader with ELP participants. But I learned about my other strengths and weaknesses during the small discussion sessions during ELP so that’s pretty helpful”

With hopes to bring the ELP and DLP programs to the midcoast campus in Brunswick, the fast progression of this full spectrum of leadership opportunities can only be attributed to the extreme success of the program. With strong leaders willing to put in the hours, these programs have grown, and continue to improve and change. “I don’t want the program to get stale. We are constantly trying to improve and make changes to the curriculum.” Shane Long said in a meeting to talk about where he sees the program going in the next couple of years.

Many ELP grads find that they still hold a special place in their heart for the program. Here is what some of them had to say!

“I loved discovering my unique leadership style. Today it’s a tool that helps me stay motivated and confident in my abilities. I would tell future ELP students to make sure they love the project.” Monica Klein, ELP Grad Spring 2015

“I have used the education I’ve learned in the program by working on my leadership skills with other people at both of my jobs, especially at Shaws, where I am a night manager. I try to get others to work together and respect each other. Sometimes others like to try to tackle everything on their own, but it definitely works to their disadvantage most of the time. This class has helped me work with my associates to ensure that everyone feels important to their job and so that they can have the confidence to know that they have leadership skills as well.” Isaiah Lemay, ELP Grad Fall 2014, CNMS Grad

“I loved how I got to compare mine and my teammates abilities, and work together to see how our own strengths could best be used. We truly were a team of leaders, not just one leader and a team of followers!” Erik Squire, ELP Grad Spring 2015, Phi Theta Kappa and Student Senate President

“I would recommend to future students to make sure they have some spare time to devote to this class as it is a worthwhile commitment. I have used the lessons learned in ELP to help with my video production career and to lead as a better director. I very much enjoyed the comfortable atmosphere and all of the lessons of how to be a better leader and how that can apply to your life.” Alexander Balzano, ELP Grad Spring 2015, CNMS Grad

Find you are interested in participating in one of these amazing programs? You are NOT TOO LATE!

The first class of the Spring 2016 ELP session will be beginning on February 3rd, 2016! An hour and a half class, once a week on Wednesday mornings from 10 to 11:30, a class you will NOT want to miss out on! Register at elpsmcc.wordpress.com before the 3rd to reserve your spot!


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