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Otterbein Van Sant Leadership Program shows students importance of community leadership

Otterbein Van Sant Leadership Program shows students importance of community leadership

By Meagan Van Stone ‘19

“May I dare to be different, dare to be courageous, dare to be creative, dare to challenge others as I am challenged, and dare to make time for this important task.” That is Dean Van Sant's Leadership Creed which serves as the foundation of The Van Sant Leadership Program, named after longtime Otterbein administrator Joanne Van Sant.

Dean Van began her career at Otterbein in 1948, serving as an instructor in the women’s physical education department and later as chair of the department from 1950-62. She paved the way for women leaders on campus. She served as the Dean of Women (1952-60; 1962-64), the Dean of Students (1964-68), and 25 years as the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students (1968-93) with an unwavering and unconditional commitment to students.

The Van Sant Leadership Program provides opportunities for students to develop leadership skills through workshops, retreats and service that will allow them to earn The Van Sant Leadership Certificate.

In order to achieve the Van Sant Leadership Certificate, students must attend all ten workshops, complete 40 hours of community service and hold a leadership position in a campus student organization for at least one semester. Students can choose their own pace on meeting these credentials.

“The Van Sant Leadership Program can be beneficial to any student. Employers are looking for students who have leadership skills,” said Stacey Rusterholz, assistant director for the Center for Community Engagement (CCE).

Workshops are provided each semester and do not have to be completed in any order. If students decide to complete a leadership First Year Seminar class, that will count towards five workshops. Students may attend these workshops without enrolling in the Leadership Certificate. The Van Sant Leadership Program can be completed in one semester or throughout a student’s time at Otterbein. Currently, there are 250 students in the program.

Van Sant Leadership Fellows are a cohort of students at Otterbein who coordinate a leadership development series, weekend leadership retreat and a campus-wide leadership summit through the CCE. Students receive a $1,500 grant, $750 per semester, per year. The scholarship with be awarded to students who have demonstrated a commitment to leadership and academic scholarship during high school.

Every year the Van Sant Leadership Program plans a two-day retreat called the Van Sant Venture. Students go to Camp Wilson, located in Bellefontaine, Ohio, led by the Van Sant Leadership fellows. There they complete different workshops to learn more about identity and taking initiative. All students, whether a Van Sant Leadership Program student or not, are welcome to attend. This year the Van Sant Venture is from November 10-12. The retreat is 10 dollars. Participants receive food and a t-shirt.

“The programs can help any students learn how to work with people who are different than them. All these experiences will benefit students after college, but also during. It can help students become more of a leader with group projects, campus organizations and their everyday lives,” Rusterholz said.

For more information on the Van Sant Leadership Program, visit their website or the Center for Community Engagement