“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
Brittan Edwards epitomizes a servant leader, and her dedication guided her to help train other leaders on campus.
“Georgia College is unique with the resources and opportunities provided for students through The GIVE Center,” said Edwards, who conducted research on service opportunities at other universities. “I worked for two years at The GIVE Center with Kendall Stiles, who is the senior director. She and I came up with an idea to develop a program to make the service oriented leadership opportunities at Georgia College even better.”
The idea, based on fostering the growth of students dedicated to service, focuses on developing servant leaders who truly want to leave a legacy.
“The leadership side of our office is where I wanted to focus our attention on as far as growth and expansion,” said Stiles. “I had been looking for funding to help support our leadership programs and endeavors. This grant was a vehicle to help make that happen. Since the grant was sponsored by the ENGAGE office, it forced us to laser focus our efforts around servant leadership, which made perfect sense since it fits nicely into our center's mission. This grant opportunity came at such a great time and was just the answer we were looking for.”
From that, the Servant Leadership Cohort was born.
“Robert Greenleaf coined the phrase ‘servants leaders.’ I took a lot of time studying his principles and wrote an ENGAGE grant proposal to help fund the project,” said Edwards. “I received the funding to support the Servant Leadership Fellows program, and in the first cohort that begin in fall 2015, we have eight students.”
Students from across campus showed interest in the program. In all, 20 students applied to join the cohort, and with funding set aside for only five participants, Edwards gave up her stipend from the grant to allow more students to join.
“Brittan is a true example of a servant leader. She possesses not only many servant leadership principles, but also is gifted in research and writing,” said Stiles. “She has far surpassed my expectations for this cohort. Her passion, drive and commitment has helped to mold and shape what her legacy will be at Georgia College.”
Participants spend time each week learning different lessons on leadership Edwards develops. They also have a capstone project they must complete. From organizing a 5K to benefit cancer research to hosting an adopt a veteran event and coordinating a fundraiser for a local animal rescue organization, the projects are all different, yet show the impact these students hope to make on the campus and community.
“The cohort participants are freshman to seniors— the only common factor is that they identify themselves as servant leaders and want to better develop their skills,” said Edwards.
Edwards graduated in spring 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She came back in fall 2015 to pursue an undergraduate degree in economics and is currently also enrolled in the master’s of public administration program. With her experience both in and out of the classroom, she plans to work in economic development and possibly teach at the college level later in life.
“The best thing about Georgia College is that faculty and staff believe in your passion,” said Edwards. “Fostering students’ interests is what sets GC apart. I’ve been able to start two student organizations, the Servant Leadership Cohort, serve on SGA, do internships, pursue two undergraduate degrees and a master’s degree, worked as a Community Advisor, completed two of the leadership programs, and went abroad for two mission trips. I don’t think all of that would have been possible anywhere other than Georgia College.”
Students can apply to take part in the fall 2016 Servant Leadership Cohort here. Applications are due by April 30.