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NSLS Success Stories, Leadership Development, Make a Better World, NSLS Chapter Spotlight

How One Chapter Built a Strong Community During a Pandemic

When Hannah Gates nominated the Stevenson University chapter of The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) for recognition, she had a deep understanding of what made it special.

Despite the challenges brought about by a global pandemic and rules around social distancing, all of which impact member engagement levels, the chapter excelled at continuing to build and support its community while maintaining a growth mindset.

For their success and continued member engagement, the NSLS awarded the Stevenson University chapter one of two Distinguished Chapter honors for 2022.

“What I love most about our chapter of the NSLS is our authenticity, creativity, determination, and drive to continue developing leaders, even amidst the challenges brought on by a global pandemic."

Hannah talks about how they managed to use creativity to make a tangible impact.

"Our chapter continually held events that helped develop the skills of future leaders on our campus and beyond. We hosted workshops, activities, and speakers that helped students tap into their full potential and unlock aspects of themselves that they never knew existed. We saw students going above and beyond to serve our campus and its surrounding community everyday.”

building a community during a global crisis

During the pandemic, Stevenson students particularly appreciated the benefits and resources offered by the NSLS, such as exclusive access to its library of educational materials and leadership-training content.

“The NSLS has continued to provide resources and a means of community building, even during times of isolation and separation through the pandemic. This allowed our members to pursue their goals and aspirations of furthering their leadership skills, which has truly helped them thrive and inspire worldly change as we slowly enter a post-COVID era.”

Those resources helped the chapter cultivate student leaders such as Sarah Padilla. She was awarded the 2022 Geraldine and Sam Dell Scholarship for Character and Excellence in the Sciences for her academic achievements and her campus and community service activities.

Hannah says the most sought-after resources offered by the NSLS were the Speaker Broadcasts, which they used to strengthen the chapter’s sense of community among its members.

“I believe that our members find the Speaker Broadcasts most useful and engaging. Our chapter gathers together to watch the broadcasts live, which makes for a really wonderful community-building and learning experience. This gives members the opportunity to meet people on campus that they usually wouldn’t see in their classes, listen to inspiring leadership figures, and build connections.”


The atmosphere of encouragement and support helped members stay on track with their own personal and career goals during a stressful and challenging time.

For better or worse, the pandemic significantly impacted Gen Z, particularly in the area of soft skills and career development. And in some groups, trust in higher education institutions diminished as a result of early pandemic responses.

However, effective leaders know how to help their teams grow during a crisis. For example, many NSLS chapters successfully implemented programs to increase member engagement over the last few years.

Stevenson University was no exception. Hannah credits her experience as chapter leader with her own personal growth, which helped her achieve her educational and career goals.

“Being a chapter leader has truly challenged me. I’ve always been someone that has wanted to be highly involved in everything and the NSLS was no exception. I was inducted in fall 2019 and by the following semester, I wanted to join the Executive Board. I truly used my opportunity as a chapter leader to push myself to new heights."

The learning outcomes by seizing this opportunity have proven to be worth the challenge.

"I learned how to be a team player, organize large scale events, be flexible, and most of all, be a leader. Now, working full-time as a nurse, these traits have all been beyond useful in my practice. I can truly thank the NSLS and my experience as a chapter leader for encouraging me to take the leap, pursue my goals, and inspire others to do the same.”

leading during a crisis helps forge the future

Taking a leadership role in a chapter of the NSLS brings its own challenges as well as its own rewards. One such reward for Hannah has been a deeper and more profound understanding of what it means to be a leader in any context. 

“For me, leadership means setting an example and actively walking alongside those you collaborate with. It means giving a voice to the voiceless. It means being strong, determined, courageous, relentless, bold, daring, innovative, and adventurous.”

Her experience has also given her insight into how future chapter leaders can implement the lessons she and other Stevenson students learned in maximizing personal results from their own participation.

“For future chapter leaders, I encourage you not to view the NSLS as a club or organization on your campus. Choose to view the NSLS as a professional development opportunity. There are so many doors that are provided to you through NSLS membership, and you truly make or break the experience that your members have on your campus. Be excited, be engaged, be active, and have fun. Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges. You never know what you’ll learn on the other side.”

Community building is a significant part of the service effort for many NSLS chapters, but it takes on special importance in the wake of disasters. Find out how one NSLS chapter stepped up to help a Tennessee community after a statewide tragedy.