Sometimes an active NSLS chapter wins well-deserved accolades for impressive initiatives or big events that create some buzz in their communities and in local media. In other cases, a chapter deserves those accolades for the hard work they do to drive student engagement behind the scenes.
Ishra Ibadat is the NSLS Chapter President for Oakland University (OU), a Michigan chapter that has not yet reached its first birthday. Yet, even so, this busy chapter has burst out of the starting gate with an impressive splash all its own through hard work and goal-setting.
WATCH: IBADAT DISCUSSES THE CHAPTER'S STRONG START
“My chapter at Oakland University started this year from scratch, on a campus with students who had little to no knowledge about the NSLS and little to no opportunities to really strengthen their leadership skills."
Like so many other successful chapters, and successful leaders, Ibadat and her Executive Board persevered and never wavered from their goals—landing impressive keynote speakers at their very first Induction ceremony.
"We pushed through the red tape and got over 500 members in our first semester. At our first Induction ceremony, we had Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Congresswoman Lisa McClain join as keynote speakers, highlighting the impact our chapter made.”
How the NSLS Helps Build Character
For Ibadat, the positive benefits that continue to flow from the establishment of an NSLS chapter at OU validate the effort required to get to that first induction ceremony.
“The NSLS has created an honor society on my campus that is open to a wide plethora of different types of students, where most of the other societies on our campus were specific to different majors. The NSLS has created a community for students who had no other specific sense of belonging before, and now can create an environment with students who have similar goals and leadership qualities.”
In particular, the OU chapter members value the concrete benefits that come with NSLS membership. “The personalized recommendation letter is a great feature that has helped many NSLS members when applying for various jobs, internships, and even graduate schools.”
However, the value of the NSLS transcends help finding a job or a graduate school acceptance. Ibadat says that the NSLS focus on building a better world by providing high-quality leadership training and development resources builds character, too.
“The NSLS has created a platform for Oakland University's students to strengthen their leadership skills and confidence as well. We have created a safe space for like-minded individuals to be surrounded by people with similar drive as them. The SNT's have pushed people to go beyond their goals and offer a helping hand to others who could benefit from their advice and experiences.”
Creating a Strong Community
Growth and development usually require some effort — sometimes a lot of effort. The same is true of building a new chapter. Yet, the experiences it creates and fosters can be powerfully resonant on many levels. Ibadat says working with the OU chapter has been a remarkably effective way to broaden her perspective and cement her appreciation for a sense of belonging.
“My experience being a chapter leader has definitely strengthened my belief in the importance of a sense of community. I have had to push people out of their comfort zones and physically watch how that push can help someone in their leadership skills beyond anything else."
The positive results, Ibadat has learned, will also extend to professional success.
"In my professional career, as an electrical engineering student, I have always seen things technically and logically. However, through the NSLS, my thought process has shifted. I have begun to see things through a bigger lens, and helping people reach their full potential has been an eye-opening experience. It has been tough to manage a chapter, but seeing how much it helps the students on my campus makes it that much easier.”
Ibadat says it’s also helped refine her sense of what leadership is all about.
“Leadership, to me, is the art of guiding individuals towards a shared vision, fostering their growth, and cultivating an environment of trust and collaboration. It's about not only making strategic decisions, but also empathetically connecting with others, empowering them to unleash their potential, and driving positive change through a balance of integrity, humility, and resilience.”
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Managing a Big Next Step
For other chapter leaders who share her values and want to succeed at building a strong group, Ibadat suggests opening up on a personal level with other members.
“I would advise chapter leaders to truly get to know their members and understand what their specific needs are. Every student joins the NSLS for a different reason and understanding what a majority needs to really tap into their full potential as future leaders should be the driving aspect of your chapter’s goals.”
For the OU chapter, the next steps involve building on a strong start.
“The next goals for my chapter are definitely to create a greater sense of community and have all members become more active in what the NSLS is really about rather than just an addition to a resume. I plan to achieve this through more social events and group orientations where students can also meet other members and get to know people who are similar to themselves.”
The Stevenson University NSLS chapter also worked hard to build a strong community during challenging times. Read their success story.