The Mercy core value of service was felt before the semester even began, as students from Georgian Court University and other New Jersey colleges—the College of Elizabeth, Seton Hall University, Union County College, Caldwell University, and Bloomfield College—gathered in the GCU Casino building to launch the 2019 Servant Leadership Summit. The January 18 event, which will be held annually, focused on servant leadership, what it means to serve, and different types of leadership styles. Students also put what they learned into action by participating in volunteer projects following the event.
The Servant Leadership Summit kicked off with powerful keynote speaker, Antoinette Ellis-Williams, Ph.D., chair and professor of women and gender studies at New Jersey City University, as she shared her experience as a servant leader. She also shared some of the experiences she had growing up and discussed a range of difficult contemporary topics, including the government shutdown, the idea of the country building walls, and how people don’t often speak up during such conflicts.
“Anything that challenges the status quo is uncomfortable,” said Dr. Ellis-Williams, as she described why people are not always willing to speak up. She also mentioned how people build walls of their own against one another, and how walls must be broken in order to make change.
Dr. Ellis-Williams also provided helpful advice on how to be a servant leader by listening to one another and by being there to serve others.
“Just show up,” said Dr. Ellis-Williams. “To come in (to a meeting or gathering) sitting in a nonverbal way is powerful.”
Learning About Leadership Styles
The event concluded with a Q&A, and student leaders were split into two groups. The first group went to the Casino Ballroom, where students were greeted with a lesson on servant leadership from Joy Smith, Ed.D., director of GCU’s Educational Opportunity Fund program. She discussed what has to be done to be a servant leader and how it may be different from other leadership styles.
Other students went to the Lion’s Den with GCU Dean of Students Amani Jennings, who split them into even smaller groups. They learned about bureaucratic leadership, democratic leadership, and other styles, and persuaded judges—“Shark Tank-style”—why their leadership approach was the best.
Later, all students participated in service projects. They stuffed bears for children in need, created care bags for the homeless, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and wrote cards to children in hospitals. These service projects also demonstrated how GCU and other college students are eager to serve.
“Events like these are extremely beneficial to students,” said Kayly Donovan, a member of Women in Leadership Development and co-president of the Dance Alliance. “Not only do they give us a chance to develop our leadership abilities, but they help us engage with new people. I would love to participate in something like this in the future.”
Story contributed by GCU student Dennis Gribben ’18.