Karla Inchaustegui, the former Chapter President of William Paterson University (our 2022 Chapter of the Year) calls their journey to receiving the top award a "road to resurrection and triumph."
This chapter's incredible story of being nearly inactive to driving student engagement is a testament to what can happen when you put together a great team. Karla couldn't help but shout out everyone on her E-Board, attributing their success to everyone involved.
Besides earning Chapter of the Year, their Chapter Advisor Donna Minnich-Spuhler also was recognized as Distinguished Advisor of the Year, helping to lift a vanishing chapter back into prominence on campus. And it all began with communication.
Taking Small Steps to Success
One of the first things Karla and her team did was activate the chapter's Instagram account. From there, they hosted in-person and online events to generate engagement.
Once the buzz was back on campus, they leaned into our mission of making a better world by incorporating a Fundraising Chair Committee and Community Service Chair Committee to better assist fundraising events and community service initiatives.
As a result, they were recognized at the university's SGA Leadership Awards, winning Outstanding Event of the Year in the educational category for their event, Overcoming to Achieve: A Black Woman’s Perspective on Success and Leadership. It was co-sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the Black History Month Celebration Planning Committee.
They also formed strategic partnerships with other groups driving positive action in the community, including:
- OASIS: A Haven for Women and Children
- Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center
- Universal Institute Inc. Rehabilitation Centers
They also ran a number of events themselves to make a direct impact on their community, such as:
- NSLS & WPU Resident Clothing/Food Drive
- NSLS Handicapped Patients Bake Sale
- The NSLS Presents: Mental Harmony, Working with the Mind
With a strong team in place leading with a positive mission, they had over 100 newly-inducted members in the 2022 spring semester alone. Karla and her team took a transformational leadership approach to this revamp, with a focus on "transparency, honesty, empathy, commonalities, opportunity, and innovation."
Leadership Development that Brings People Together
The impact on members has been huge. "This chapter has provided students, and myself, with the opportunity to refine our leadership and problem-solving skills, cultivate character, be innovative with event creation, engage with diverse yet like-minded students driven toward a common goal to live the mission of the NSLS, and to challenge the status quo of what it means to be a leader."
As for top features that Karla sees having the greatest impact, she mentions the Foundations of Leadership program, which speaks to the high induction rate at WPU. To be inducted, students must complete this leadership program.
"[FOL] creates an educational overlap in other leadership studies found in business management or MBA level courses—something that may not be found otherwise in undergraduate majors."
The Foundations of Leadership provides that backbone or platform to begin honing the skills hiring managers actually seek.
"It permits students to identify their leadership styles and goals in their life and provides fantastic real-world application towards leadership roles, management of an organization, and engaging with other like-minded, talented, ambitious students."
It always comes back to that community. Through Success Networking Teams and the social events Karla and her E-Board put into place, they were able to connect on a real level, improving soft skills even if they didn't know it at the time. She also says that the Speaker Broadcasts and scholarship opportunities were other favorites of new members.
Shifting Your Mindset to Achieve Your Goals
For Karla, running the WPU chapter played a major role in her development as she pursues a career in business.
"I’ve had the opportunity to truly test and challenge my leadership capabilities and all that I had learned during my undergraduate studies."
The business management major and recent MBA graduate looks back fondly on her NSLS experience, especially being able to work with so many amazing people.
"In the process of resurrecting the chapter, I was supported by the best E-Board ever and I’m very proud to have known and worked with each individual."
Relationship building is one of the most important qualities of leadership, and it was the driving force for this chapter's immediate success.
"It was invaluable to be able to interact with some of the best, most intelligent, talented, and incredible students on campus with distinct yet fascinating leadership styles. I probably would never have known or encountered them had I not participated in the NSLS."
Unsurprisingly, her advice for other chapter leaders isn't related to bookkeeping or time management, as important as those are; it's about human connection and listening to others.
"Don’t underestimate the perspective of a member. I would always purposely shift my perspective and engagement style from a professional/administrative viewpoint to a more casual and curious approach. This would help me better understand and empathize with students. Members are your chapter’s lifeblood, and they can serve to be one the best sources of inspiration for creating invigorating events and navigating your organization on how to best meet their needs."
By setting that solid foundation, the future for the WPU chapter looks bright.
"I feel fulfilled as an alumni knowing that the chapter has been successfully resurrected, that an E-board has been properly established, that our chapter has a fantastic Chapter Support Manager and Chapter Advisor, and that WPU students will have the opportunity to participate with the NSLS for years to come."
When asked what leadership means to her, it always comes back to community building and the responsibility to empower others.
"Leadership means to guide your community towards maximum potential through acts of cultivation, dedication, compassion, patience, vision, and persistence."
The William Paterson University community is no doubt stronger for having such a dedicated NSLS presence on campus, thanks to the leadership team that transformed a nearly nonexistent chapter into Chapter of the Year.
Teamwork makes the dream work. William Paterson University's resiliency stems from the team behind it. The same principle carries over to the workplace, as you'll learn in this article.