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GCU Launches Annual Servant Leadership Summit

PBJ volunteer service featured

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.

Servant Leadership Summit Antoinette Ellis Williams Web featured
Antoinette Ellis-Williams, Ph.D.

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.

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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