In an effort to smoothen board transitions from year to year, Dwight Hall leaders are rolling out a new mentorship program.
On Monday, Dwight Hall assigned freshmen to shadow current executive committee members as part of its Freshmen-in-Service Program, which introduces first-year students to local non-profits and functions as a pipeline for future leadership of the community service organization.
“The key is institutional memory,” said Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18, co-cordinator of Dwight Hall. “When you have an institution that’s as big and as old as ours, finding a way to maintain best practices or maintain core values and ideas that have stuck with us through the years is the key to success.”
Dwight Hall has struggled with transitions in the past as a result of low interest in certain roles on the executive committee, which has almost doubled in size in recent years as a result of additional programs and expansion within Dwight Hall.
According to D’Ambrosio, the pipeline program operated in an unofficial capacity last year with him inviting several “standout” members of the Freshman in Service Program to attend executive committee meetings. This year’s shadow program marked the first time that Dwight Hall has formalized the link between its Freshmen-in-Service Program and the executive committee.
Of the 20 freshmen in the program, five already serve on the organization’s executive committee, and the remaining 15 have been assigned to seven tracks on Dwight Hall’s major governing body. Each mentee will undertake a project that if approved, will be incorporated in the fall to develop the function of each position.
Surbhi Bharadwaj ’20, International Network Coordinator for Dwight Hall, is one of the five freshmen who currently serve on the executive committee. Bharadwaj, a staff photographer for the news, found it challenging “getting used to the massiveness of Dwight Hall,” saying that the track program can better prepare freshmen for leadership roles.
Alissa Ji ’20, who was assigned to the finance track, said the program benefits both the freshmen membership and Dwight Hall itself.
“It allows FIS members to make an impact in something that they really care about by both helping out with the projects in their assigned track and potentially initiating new efforts to assist with the growth and evolution of the ExComm roles,” Ji said. “It also presents opportunity for FIS members to learn if ExComm is the place for them and, regardless of whether or not they end up joining ExComm, to bring that knowledge to other service and campus endeavors.”
Simon Cooper ’20, who was assigned to the development track, said the program allows freshmen to obtain leadership experience without being overwhelmed by the workload. He will facilitate Dwight Hall’s relationship with Ezra Stiles College this semester and will become a co-coordinator of Freshman-in-Service next year.
Ultimately, not all 15 will end up undertaking full roles on the executive committee given the scarcity of seats.
“Competition is a good thing. Dwight Hall is a meritocracy,” D’Ambrosio said. “We want the students who work the hardest and who do the most within Freshman-in-Service to try to achieve leadership positions and try to show that they are the best for the job.”
Still, Ji said some freshmen might choose not to run for executive positions next year, adding that Dwight Hall fosters an “environment of inclusivity” that is antithetical to competition.
Serena Ly ’20, who was assigned to development, said Freshmen in Service members do not engage in community service for a title or prestige.
“Just like many other members in ExComm, I feel that holding a position on ExComm is not nearly as important as continuing efforts to affect positive change in the community, whether this be with a two or three-word title or without one” Ly said.
Both D’Ambrosio and Cooper underscored that the purpose of Freshmen-in-Service was not to groom new members of executive committee but rather to inspire leaders in public service.
The introduction of the track program follows similar initiatives at Dwight Hall to combat inefficiency from transitions in management. Changes to Dwight Hall bylaws last January mandate that one co-coordinator must have at least a year of experience, which will ensure that the organization will always have a trainee and an experienced director to oversee operations.
“It takes half of your tenure to learn how to do the job,” D’Ambrosio said, adding that neither he nor his previous co-coordinator had experience in the role before taking up the position.
The Dwight Hall executive committee is comprised of 17 undergraduates elected by the cabinet, the constituent group of member organizations.