Millennials, the current generation of college students, have grown up in an ever-changing economy. According to the Pew Research Center, the millennials are starting out as “the most politically progressive group in modern history.” Yet, this generation sometimes gets the reputation of being apathetic to the world around them.

Allison Dunn, the assistant director of co-curricular leadership programs, says she has a different opinion. As a director of Leadership Tech, she says this program shows that students in this generation are eager to make the world a better place.

“Many times we hear in the media that this generation [is] self-centered and always ask ‘what’s in it for me,’” Dunn said. “One of the things I enjoy most about the program is the amazing opportunity to work with students who are concerned about the world. They want to change the world and they have the energy and ideas that just might do it.”

Since 2004, Leadership Tech has had more than 1,500 participants. Leadership Tech is a co-curricular certificate program designed to develop future leaders through service and learning experiences. The students meet in groups with their facilitators throughout the year to discuss topics ranging from community projects to self-exploration.

“Leadership Tech is a great way for students to learn about their own leadership styles, capacities, preferences, and strengths, while developing a commitment to life-long learning and community engagement,” Dunn said.

The program is divided into three sections. In year one, first-year students work with juniors and seniors as their facilitators. The facilitators use Sean Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” as a reference and guide. The main focus of this section is to help students to better understand themselves and others.

The next section is designed for sophomore students. These small groups focus on a particular subject and create a community service project related to their theme. The last section is for students with a junior standing or above. They form groups to work on a community project addressing society and environmental sustainability, global social change, health and wellness, or multicultural communities.

Cody Watson from Williamsburg, Va., a junior majoring in history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is one of the facilitators for year one. In this position, he works with co-facilitator Monica Mazumdar from Springfield, Va., a junior majoring in finance in Pamplin College of Business. They meet twice a month with their group of first-year students. Watson and Mazumdar challenge their group to apply what they learn in the lessons to their everyday life.

“We like to keep our group actively involved with the program outside of our meetings so they are continuously developing themselves,” Watson said.

Watson was the first member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets to become a Leadership Tech facilitator. Watson manages his time between the corps and Leadership Tech as well as the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, Association of the United States Army, Phi Alpha Theta, Big Event committee, and College Republicans. He says that Leadership Tech is an invaluable resource to help expose new students to the corps.

“Being a cadet gives me a long list of opportunities to develop as a person and a leader,” Watson said. “I wanted the opportunity to share my experience with others. The fact that I can be a positive influence on [students’] college experiences, maybe even their lives, is quite humbling.”

Mazumdar shares Watson’s passion for exposing students to new leadership activities. Although she first saw Leadership Tech as nothing more than a good resume-builder, she soon realized that this was the perfect opportunity to join a program that could positively impact others.

“It’s amazing seeing students mature and develop into leaders,” Mazumdar said. “I remember how I was my freshman year and how far I’ve come, so it’s exciting to be a part of their development.” Mazumdar is also the vice president of Latin Link, a member of African Student Association, Kasual Comedy, and was a Hokie Camp counselor.

Although Watson and Mazumdar have both have leadership experience and possess similar traits necessary to be in the program, they are quite different from each other. Dunn says Watson is a passionate student who wants to see his students achieve great things and take full advantage of all Virginia Tech has to offer them. She describes Monica as a conscientious student who understands the value of applying what you’re learning in the classroom in real-world experiences.

“As co-facilitators, we balance each other out really well,” Mazumdar said. “In my opinion, there is no perfect profile of a Leadership Tech facilitator. All the facilitators come from different backgrounds and have different personalities, so everyone brings something to the table.”

Both Watson and Mazumdar applied to become facilitators last year. They said the program requires a lot of time and dedication, but is definitely worth the effort.

“It is such a rewarding program to be a part of, especially from the facilitator standpoint,” Watson said. “Being a facilitator is as much of a lesson in leadership as being a member of a group.”

Last spring the program had a record number of applications for positions. For approximately 150 openings, there were 255 applications for year one, 131 applications for year two, and 81 applications for year three positions. The facilitators are selected in the spring semester for the following year.

“We select the best facilitators we can and base our acceptance numbers around the number of facilitators we have,” said Matthew Creasy from Mechanicsville, Va., a graduate student in education leadership and policy studies in the School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Creasy is the graduate coordinator for Leadership Tech.

“I want a diverse group of facilitators, because the students who apply to our program are diverse,” Creasy said. “I’m looking for students who have an interest in making a positive impact on the next generation of Hokies, care about their fellow students, are responsible, and are able to have fun.”

Dunn has similar standards for the facilitators. She said she looks for someone who is passionate about Virginia Tech and is a self-motivated team player. They should have demonstrated leadership abilities, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to community service.

Current students in the Leadership Tech program are working to narrow down their community projects. One group is working with Cook Counseling Center on campus to increase positivity in the students. Another group is working with a local elementary school on their school garden. Past projects include an anti-bullying program for Giles County seventh graders and a fundraiser for the Hand in Hand program for elementary schools in Israel.

Leadership Tech strives to give students the skills and experiences they need to be active citizens and change the world. Dunn says her most memorable experience with the program was watching her first group of students graduate. She had been with the students from freshman to senior year, and she was able to see how Leadership Tech had an impact on their collegiate careers.

“[It’s amazing] to think about where these students will be in a year or two or five and the realms of influence they will have once they graduate and leave Virginia Tech,” Dunn said. “We truly are providing the skills and experiences needed for this generation of students to be the change they want to see in the world.”

The Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech encompasses departments dedicated to providing a rich co-curricular experience and essential student services. Virtually every aspect of a student's life outside the classroom is represented through the division's departments.

Written by Lauren Marshall from Marshall, Va., a senior majoring in communication and human development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Development.

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