Using the Toolkit During Your Term as a Student Leader
This gives a brief overview of how you may use the different tools in the toolkit throughout your own experience as a student leader. Throughout every stage, consider how you will evaluate how things worked and learn so that you are improving your own abilities and the capacity of your Student Association.
We have covered the following parts of your term:
- You Won, Now What? Getting Started
- Big Picture Planning and Strategy
- Delivering Programs and Projects
- Reporting and Accountability
- Transition and Passing the Torch
Each phase of your term we have suggested several key actions:
Questions to diagnose and understand what matters and what you are dealing with at that point in time.
Key activities to consider, both at your school and collectively with other student associations and partners.
How the toolkit tools help you at this point in your term.
Some actions are important to all phases:
Evaluation and Learning – Key for Future Funding & Future Success
One of your commitments for most funding is reporting on how you spent the money and what difference your activities made.
Evaluation is the tool that helps you keep that commitment. Good evaluation practices unlock the door for future funding, and help you and your team learn what works and what needs improvement.
The key to successful evaluation and reporting is to do a small amount of evaluation throughout your whole term, for every activity, instead of scrambling at the end.
By making evaluation a habit you will have a set of insights and learning that will help you immediately, and that you can combine for your final reporting.
Student leaders that neglect ongoing evaluation and learning throughout the year find the final reporting requirements to be a burden during the busy time of transitioning to your successor.
Evaluating early and often is the key to success.
Taking Care of Yourself
You’ll be very busy – perhaps more than you expected with all the activities this year. So, make sure you’re modeling how to be busy with mental wellness. A self-care plan will be your best investment of time at the beginning, and learn / adapt as you go.
We know you know the drill: get enough rest, exercise, eat healthy, nourish good
friendships, keep your workload manageable, and get help with stresses when you feel the pressure.
But that can be hard to actually do in the fast pace of a student term.
The key is that you can’t help others easily if you are overwhelmed yourself.
Taking care of yourself maximizes the good you can do, and sets an example for others.
As a student leader, you have many demands and stresses yourself. Working on mental wellness is an opportunity to improve your own wellness habits.
You can become a role model for others as you demonstrate self-care and consider the following:
Have a self-care plan as you begin your term—how will you manage your workload and deadlines? How will you cope with stress of expectations, crisis, your own challenges, and hearing about other students’ stresses? When will you take time for yourself? What is renewing and calming for you? Who is your network for support, conversation, and help?
How will you meet mental, physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social needs in your life? How can you balance competing demands?
You will be so busy throughout your term that there will be pressure to cut corners on self-care. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking that you can work through burnout or stress simply by working harder.
One of the most important skills to cultivate is saying no, politely.
Finally, become educated on the mirage of social media—studies show that increased time on social media correlates to lower mental wellness[citation], and that late night phone usage also correlates to mental wellness challenges [citation].
Your Future Résumé
Being a student leader is great for your résumé. Leading and delivering on programs, services, and change during your term is even better.
Growing, sustaining, and developing the student-led mental health initiative at your school will give you incredibly valuable experience that future employers will appreciate. Mental health is a key area for many employers—they know that a healthy company has healthy team members.
Some institutions have an addition to academic transcripts called a co-curricular report.
This is an official record of activities like volunteering, student leadership, etc. It is recorded by a faculty member, rather than the student simply saying they did (and that endorsement has more weight in your job hunt).
Check with your school if they offer something like this, and what you need to do to get that official record of your contributions to the school and broader campus community. Your students association may be a co-sponsor of such reports (and if you don’t have co-curricular reports you might check with a SA that does and see how to get one implemented at your campus).
Working together creates far greater impact than working alone. Much of the toolkit is focused on actions you can take directly, and so the bias is towards things at the local level at your school.
However, the greatest gains come from showing that there is impact across the province, not simply in one or two places.
To benefit, you have to contribute. Build time into your plan for making sure that collective actions are also important. This might be making sure that a common survey is distributed and supported on your campus – this helps you because funders are interested in a collective story, not a set of individual campus stories.
Look for ways you can benefit from a Community of Practice, such as the Healthy Campus Alberta community of practice – this helps you learn from others and contribute your experience. Building a culture so that it’s routine to have student-led initiatives as part of campus mental health approaches requires collective effort.
This means telling a story for Alberta that weaves together the individual actions we all take to show that students, institutions, and the community can work together to create worthwhile change.
Be part of that story—think about what it is, where you fit, how you contribute, and how that larger story benefits you.
This includes both learning from peers and supporting other student leaders across the province, but also coordinating activities and evaluation to show collective impact.
This is especially true for data—having consistent province-wide data makes funders and policymakers much more confident in your work as part of a bigger strategy and approach.
It reduces their risk, and shows that individual schools aren’t working from scratch or reinventing the wheel.
An Alberta story shows that resources are being put to the best use.
Because this toolkit was funded and managed through ASEC’s ACMHI effort, we frequently refer to ASEC. However, the tools and skills here also apply even when you are outside the ASEC umbrella, whether that is in a similar alliance like CAUS or the Alberta Graduate Council, or in industry, academia, or community organizations.