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“Mr. JeffDess” and GCU Students Explore Servant Leadership

Four students showing their drawings

Left to right: GCU students Ariana Mexquititla, Lia DiLeo, Samantha Widmer, and ShaVianhnah King make cards for the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Toms River. Photos by Tyler Chamra.

Dozens of Georgian Court University students representing various campus groups listened intently as motivational speaker Jeff Dessources shared his perspective on leadership on Friday, January 19.

JeffDess Student Leadership Day
Jeff Dessources

“Servant leadership is real. It’s deciding that we are here to be better individuals,” he told leaders from student government, Women in Leadership Development, Emerging Leaders, athletics, Mercy Collegiate Society, and various clubs. “And yes, it’s scary sometimes because being in our comfort zones can be really cool. Fear exists just as comfort zones exists. Recognize what that is and you’ll learn how to overcome it.”

The inspirational/motivational speaker, who is known by college students nationwide as Mr. JeffDess, works as the assistant director of campus life at New Jersey City University. He is also the author of three books of poetry and co-founder of Trill or Not Trill, which promotes student leadership and development in ways that are relevant, informative, engaging, and hip.

Avoiding the Easy Way Out

While encouraging students to step up, Mr. Dessources explained that being a leader is never easy. Instead, people who are willing to lead have to “get comfortable with spaces that are uncomfortable—and conversations that are a little bit difficult.”

Too often, leaders are lulled into what’s easy and simple as they go about their day-to-day lives, he said.

That’s not how change happens, he explained, adding lessons he recently learned from watching his father tend to a garden.

“My dad is really into it and after he’s been digging for a while, his hands, clothes, and body are dirty,” he said. “But from that experience comes life, growth, development, sustenance. All of that from being willing to get just a little bit dirty.”

Investing in the Future

Ultimately, students working in student government and leadership organizations are making an intangible investment in their future.

“Being involved now, and the level of involvement you are putting in now will make all the difference when you leave this place,” he offered. “I can’t stress the importance of involvement. From learning effective communication to public speaking, and being around different types of majors, different types of leaders—it all makes a difference.”

“As campus leaders, you may find yourself working with or sitting next to a future nurse, a future engineer, a future doctor, or a future graphic designer—leadership gives you diverse experiences. I’m telling you what I know: leadership experiences will change your life. It’s a fact.”

A group of students in the Casino building making sandwiches
Students prepare PB&J sandwiches for The Center at Asbury Park.

Giving Back

His talk, part of GCU’s annual Leadership Day, also included volunteer activities. About 60 GCU students participated in a host of service projects—making cards for the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Toms River, PB&J sandwiches for The Center at Asbury Park, cat and dog toys for the Northern Ocean County Animal Facility, and knitting and crocheting for Warm Up America. They also hosted a clothing and canned good drive to benefit Fulfill and Goodwill Industries.

“Participating in the service projects was enlightening,” said sophomore ShaViahnah King, a social work major from Brick, New Jersey. “It made me realize and remember that everyone is not as fortunate as I am and that I should never take the things I have for granted.”

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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