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The Chronicle of Leadership: Lessons from Higher Education

Dawson is a senior studying kinesiology at the University of Central Missouri and aspires to work in college student affairs.


Like many others, my secondary education included going to a private school, and there was no football team, and we did not get all the famous commodities as the large 6A schools in the area, that were providing faulty education by the minute. Their teachers don't care about the success of their students, nor do they care about the personal relationships within the student body and the school at-large.

With the help of my grandparents, I attended a private Christian school, not because my family is rich by any means, and not because I was overly religious, but because I was severely bullied throughout elementary and middle school. Bullies would always kick me out of groups, steal my food, cyberbully, and jump me during physical education class. This was definitely not the highlight of my life, and by the time I was in 8th grade, I took the last stand against the main bully himself. The result ended with me serving an out-of-school suspension and never did I return to that school.

Following suit, I was asked by my grandparents to attend a local private school, and refused, stating that I would have rather been homeschooled. They got me to go to an interview, and then I started to attend the private 2A, Division 1 Christian school. I was forced by the principal to go back to Pre-Algebra, even though my previous school had me enrolled in Algebra 1. This provided a non-sensical fault to the established mathematical abilities that were in the progression of an honor society placement. It wasn't until my sophomore year that a new perspective of mathematical abilities was handed down by the instructor.

During that same year, my grandfather passed away (2015), following the day the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. That day will forever hold dear in my heart, like a legend, and my father figure returned to heaven. The next day, the chapel was canceled, and there was an opportunity to speak to my class about how broken my life had become, and the influence my grandfather had on my life. I promised my grandfather that I would make a difference in others' lives and start by joining the student council.

Student council didn't go as planned. I ran as the sophomore class representative and was beaten by the future-validictorian of our class. Nonetheless, I still continued to be involved with extracurriculars, and with the student body. The next fall (2016), I ran for the junior class representative and won.

In the fall of 2016, during the second day of soccer practice, my right index finger fractured and later that week, I was taken to the hospital, stating that it was "nothing but a jammed finger." The doctor came back into the room and explained in fancy medical jargon that I had fractured the bone and wouldn't be returning-to-sport anytime soon. Nine weeks later, and plenty of occupational therapy sessions, the surgeon cleared and gave me the all-go for my return-to-sport. As the defensive midfielder, my return was one of the biggest hypes and sincerities on the team. My speed and defensive capabilities were utilized and earned us the 3rd place trophy at the state championships. During my time of injury, I had the opportunity to assistant coach the junior high and junior varsity boys' soccer teams. This opportunity was an amazing experience to understand how team dynamics work from an administrative standpoint and to develop the love for the game, outside of playing. This was the beginning of my career in serving as an athletic trainer and what inspired me to take care of soccer athletes.

My senior year in high school, after having served as junior class representative, and student body vice president, I was unanimously elected as the Student Body President and served the entire school at-large with high dignity and honor. Within the year, my administration was able to accomplish all the goals set forth in my candidacy.

Fractured right (index) proximal phalanx. Two 3 millimeter screws were inserted during open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery.

Fractured right (index) proximal phalanx. Two 3 millimeter screws were inserted during open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery.

College Life - First Semester

Skip forth to college life...move-in day! Move-in day was one of the most exciting, yet nerve-racking, days that I've ever experienced. Almost 500 students were all moving in on the same day, just to our hall. The process was incredibly confusing, and the paperwork was much, much worse.

Meeting my roommate and his parents was an interesting adventure, and figuring out how to structure our room was a challenging one. After our parents left, the residential advisors showed us more paperwork to complete but provided tasty lemonade and Sodexo cookies. That same night, it was difficult to sleep and get any rest; but moreover, the next few days I attended our "Experience Kickoff," and got to meet many individuals from my college that I still talk to, and have expanded my social circles even more with.

The first week of class was the most difficult - navigating my way around campus and telling the differences between Hendricks and Humphrey Halls, and Martin and Wood. In many instances, I got turned around and lost, but managed to find my way to class! Also during this week, one of my residential advisors invited me to go to a comedy show on-campus, and we came back and there was a hall council meeting. She encouraged me to run for the president position, and I said, "Why not?" A week later, I was voted in as the president of my hall council and learned important administrative work; including how to work Google Drive, Spreadsheet, etc.

Hall council was certainly stressful, as I was the only guy that was on our six-man team. With this being said, I would often go and play soccer throughout the week to relieve some of my stress. Although, this was never fully enough, and I would go into my hall director's office and she'd gladfully listen to my often, and long rants. I'm thankful I had support from the Graduate Assistant Hall Directors and other residence hall staff.

In my first semester of college, I changed my major once within the first couple of months. I was a health studies, pre-physical therapy major, and I changed it to physical education, exercise science. But little did I know that this would not be the last time I'd change my major. During the second semester, our professors created a new degree, "kinesiology," with many different options for concentrations. I happened to keep towards my athletic training route.


Second Semester

As an experienced hall council president, I saw the opportunity to run for the Vice President of the United Student Housing Association (USHA) position. I did not run unopposed and had to deliberate on many ideas and issues revolving housing and philanthropy projects. After a rough pro and con debate, the results were in and I was elected to the executive board. Immediately following the meeting, I was asked by the advisor if I wanted to attend the Student Government Association (SGA) meetings as the housing representative (in the Senate) and, likewise, I said, "Why not?"

After several months on the executive board, I have experienced a tremendous amount of fun, and memories. I had the opportunity to go down to Jefferson City, Missouri, with SGA and meet with senators and representatives about key policies and legislation affecting the universities around the state. In addition, I had the privilege to be involved in SGA and USHA with the University Issues Reform Bill, Office of Technology Authorization Resolutions, Graduate Assistantships reform, Project Safe, Patriot 5K, What Were You Wearing initiative, Children's Mercy Project, Wash Alert, and taking an official stance on Missouri House Bill #573 on Title IX.

At the end of the year, the Office of Student Activities held an awards ceremony, and I was presented with the Outstanding Leader Award, and furthermore, was also given two speaking roles in our Star Reception (Rising Star and USHA Representatives of the Year), as well as being awarded with the Program of the Year.

Without my residential advisor asking me if I wanted to run for hall council president, I would and could not be here without her.


What's Next?

As the year wraps up, I will be working as a summer conference assistant for the Office of University Housing. This opportunity was presented through our student organization and was a good opportunity to socially interact with kids of different ages and beliefs, and hone-up on several inter-personal skills (such as communication, customer service, etc.). In addition, as I look forward to the following academic year, I set a few goals for the future.

In the fall, I aspire to become a residential advisor for the spring 2020 semester and make a difference within the floor that I will reside on. If I do not become an RA, I would then run as the USHA President and serve my last two years in leadership. If the opportunity opens up (as an RA), I'd apply for either a role in the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) or as the Student Body Vice President.


Final Thoughts

As a way to wrap up, I figured I would put some helpful hints and tips that I wished I would've known coming into college:

  • It's okay to fail! You must fall before you fly.
  • You don't have to drink to have fun.
  • Join a student organization! You can meet friends and develop long-lasting relationships and skills that you can use in your career
  • Your friends in the fall may or may not be the same friends that you have in the spring. Everyone's schedules will change and that's okay!
  • It's perfectly okay, and not-at-all weird, to go and talk to random students in the diner halls, and in class. Everyone is scared because they don't know anybody, but you just have to be courageous enough to talk first.
  • If you don't know about something, be able to ask for help! Advisors and fellow students are here to help a friend in need
  • Go and talk to your professors during their office hours. Let them get to know you and help you when you're struggling with a subject or something personal
  • Talk to your hall directors! Most of them are students too and are willing to listen to you rant and provide you guidance in all areas of life.
  • Lastly, go to class. After all, that's why we are here.

© 2019 Dawson Davis

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