Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

Being involved in college is one of the first pieces of advice students seem to get. I completely agree with this as being involved in college has been helpful to me in multiple ways. However, I took being involved to the extreme when I became president of a campus organization. The organization I was president for was for human development and family science majors. I was really excited to be president, because I had been a part of this organization since the beginning of my freshman year. Being president has good and bad moments, but it teaches you a lot of things. Here are some of the things I learned from being president:

1. Organization and structure are key (even if everyone else thinks it is silly)

I have always been an organized person, and I knew that organization would be important in my role as president. My ways of organization have always made sense to me, but I realize they may seem excessive to other people. Some of my demands for my executive board and how I wanted our organization to function made me feel like a micromanager at times. I learned to defend my over the top choices of organizational structure and organization, because it was helping us keep the organization moving. While my organizational strategies made my time as president less stressful, they will also help future organization leaders. 

2. It is alright to not have a perfect plan

Speaking of structure/organization, something that I struggled with as president was making sure that our organization’s meetings had a purpose and achieved an objective of some sort. I was not always willing to have our meetings follow a “go with the flow” system. I would treat each meeting like a performance where nothing can go wrong and there is no room for improvisation. Despite my unwillingness to be flexible, I eventually found that the meetings that were more loosely planned were the meetings that went better. The meetings where I stumbled over my words and said “I actually have no idea what I am talking about” were more successful and well received than the meetings that were perfectly researched and planned out. 

3. Having interests outside of your major/career makes you a better leader

When originally becoming president I felt that I had to learn everything there was to know about my major, career paths, and whatever other topic I would discuss. I thought that being some sort of human development and family science wizard would make me a better leader. Plot twist: it didn’t. Again, being the person who knows everything about the subject you’re talking about has benefits: you’ll be more prepared for questions and you can point to specific resources. Beyond that though, being knowledgeable about only one experience, career, major, or topic makes you look like a one trick pony. Taking a step out of the world of my major allowed me to make more real life connections with the topics at hand. With that, I could introduce new stories and perspectives to my audience that they may not have heard from professors or advisors before.  

4. Sometimes you have to disagree with your own ideas

One thing that frustrated me about being president is people agreeing with everything that I said. I wanted to be a leader that listened to and implemented other people’s ideas, so when no one was giving me ideas, I was frustrated. Also, I had many big ideas for the organization, and I knew these ideas had flaws, but people wouldn’t always voice their opinions about my ideas. Without feedback from organization members or executive board members, I got better at thinking through my ideas. Thinking through my ideas included thinking about the flaws of the ideas and how they would actually be executed. I was able to come up with an idea, weigh the risks and rewards, and then make a decision on if I should implement the idea or not. When others wouldn’t have opinions about my ideas, I was able to make a choice for myself.

I will admit, being president of an organization is not an easy task. People are relying on you for a lot of things and you don’t really have the choice to sit back and do nothing. While I was only president for a seemingly short amount of time, I learned a lot of things about myself, being a leader, and working with others. I recommend being in a leadership position in any capacity, because you will learn how you function in this type of position and learn many transferable skills. 

Sarah Knowlton

Illinois State '24

Hi I'm Sarah! I am a junior at Illinois State and I am majoring in Human Development and Family Science! After I finish my bachelor's degree, I plan to get my master's degree in Human Development and Family Science as well. Besides writing, I like to read, watch TikToks, make art, and bake!