New OPAL program, staff to start summer

by Priya Ramaiah | 7/9/15 6:53pm

The OPAL office in Baker-Berry LIbrary, where a meet and greet was held with new staff hires earlier this week.
by Katelyn Jones / The Dartmouth

On Sunday, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership will kick off its new OPAL Impact leadership development program with a retreat in Triangle House.

The six-week program, which is based on the social change model of leadership, will run as a pilot program this summer, program facilitator and assistant dean and advisor to Pan-Asian students Shiella Cervantes said.

OPAL Impact was first conceptualized during an OPAL staff meeting, Cervantes said. During the meeting, she, as well as assistant dean and advisor for sexuality, women and gender

Michelle Hector and interim student and community summer program coordinator Jeremy Guardiola, spearheaded its development in the fall.

Hector said that she and her team also looked at other leadership development programs across campus, such as the Rockefeller Center’s Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors program.

The program, which is expected to include around 15 participants, will include sessions led by sociology professor and vice provost of academic initiatives Denise Anthony as well as women and gender studies professor Pati Hernandez.

While OPAL has run leadership programs in the past, including a spring program geared towards first-year students titled the Leadership Discovery Program, Hector said that OPAL Impact is distinct because it occurs during the sophomore summer term.

That all participants will be sophomores at the midpoint of their Dartmouth careers is significant, she said.

“This is the first time a lot of students are in leadership roles in their organizations, or they’re thinking about what’s next for them in the coming year,” Hector said. “It’s a cool opportunity to target those students.”

The social change model functions as a cornerstone of the program, Cervantes said. This model concieves of leadership as a collaborative process with three components: individual values, group values and societal or community values.

The goal is to work with others to form common goals around a shared vision that aligns with personal values, Cervantes said, adding that journaling and reflection will play an important role in the program’s curriculum.

Self-knowledge, leadership competence and facilitating social change are the primary goals of the model, according the OPAL Impact program website.

Program activities will utilize StrengthsQuest, an assessment that identifies an individual’s top areas of talent in order to facilitate effective team building, Hector said.

“I’m really excited to see how it plays out,” Cervantes said of the program. “It’s important to contextualize what you get out of the program within your own life as well as personal goals regarding being at Dartmouth.”

OPAL Impact’s launch comes after a period of staff turnover at OPAL, including the resignation of former OPAL director Alysson Satterlund, Center for Gender and Student Engagement director Kyle Ashlee and first-generation students advisor Karlos Santos-Coy.

Last year, the CGSE was absorbed by OPAL, though it still retains its physical location in the Choates residence hall cluster.

“What many people may not know is that the CGSE, formerly the Center for Women and Gender and, originally, the Women’s Resource Center, has existed as a separate entity and as a part of OPAL at different times in the past,” interim OPAL director Reese Kelly said.

OPAL recently appointed Kari Cooke as assistant dean and advisor to black students. Cooke began her role in the new position this month, while Cervantes began her role as Pan-Asian advisor last summer.

Kelly added that OPAL’s mission is two-sided, as it involves not only providing support and resources to students of varying identities but also educating all students through programmingto enrich the community as a whole.

While the program is running as a pilot, Hector said, OPAL facilitators and program coordinators will be working carefully to determine when and how it might be offered again.

“It’s about how individuals can come together as a group to take advantage of differing perspectives and values and ultimately create positive social change,” she said.

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