In 1992, University Vice President and General Secretary Paul Burgett and local philanthropist and founder of PayChex Incorporated Tom Golisano came up with a unique program that would allow campus leaders to participate in a series of leadership workshops. Golisano agreed to have his staff at PayChex, a Rochester-based national organization that offers payroll and human resources tools and services to businesses, share their leadership techniques and skills in an array of workshops.

Last Saturday, Jan. 23, marked the 19th anniversary of Golisano’s commitment to UR students.

‘I think the student body benefits from the leadership skills that attending students bring back with them,’ senior Senator Kiersten Hughes said. ‘Students learn how to motivate themselves and pass on that motivation to their peers.’

Nearly 100 students, including presidents of intramural ultimate Frisbee teams, Residential Advisers, among other student leaders, congregated in front of the Information Technology Service Center to prepare to load the buses to the PayChex headquarters in Penfield. The 9 a.m. departure easily weaved out anyone who was anything short of a leader.

The event started with the greatest incentive known to students: free food. Although student meal plans shouldn’t be running low this early in the semester, the conventional breakfast and assorted drinks created an orgasmic flow into the cafeteria.

As students simmered down and sipped their coffee, the morning kicked off with speeches from the Director of the Rochester Community Center for Leadership Glenn Cerosaletti. The representatives from PayChex congratulated student participants for qualifying and applying for the program, as well as their admirable decision to wake up before noon on a Saturday morning.

The day was broken up into three workshops, with a lunch break and keynote speaker following the first two. Students had the choice to register between two of four workshops that were instructed by PayChex staff members, including a public speaking and situational leadership workshop. The final afternoon workshops were all instructed by UR head honchos, including Dean of Students Matthew Burn on ‘The Importance of Planning’ and Associate Director of Wilson Commons Student Activities Laura Ballou with ‘Leadership Styles.’

Naturally, the workshops got mixed reviews from participants. For some students, the information was redundant. At times, it seemed as if the instructors took everything about leadership that students either already knew or guessed, and added a fancy acronym and formula to make it sound like a futuristic concept or device. For example, situational leadership was simplified into a four pillar formula for infinite success – supporting, coaching, direction and delegating on a basis of competence and confidence were supposedly applicable to all leadership dilemmas. Think your vice president wants to overthrow you? No problem. A little direction and coaching should compensate for their low competence.

However, for others, the program was a fun and interactive way to increase confidence and attentiveness in campus leaders. The public speaking workshop, for instance, offered effective tools and techniques for a leader to structure his or her speeches into ‘tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell what you told them,’ as well as being mindful of his or her ‘ums’ and ‘uhs.’ So the next time you have to grunt out a speech on the spot, never be afraid to pause – it beats umming and fidgeting.
Pleased, unimpressed and indifferent students alike would agree that there were stellar speeches by Burns, Burgett and Rochester community developer and keynote speaker Wade Norwood, who ran against Bob Duffy in Rochester’s 2005 race for mayoral control.
Norwood kept the crowd laughing with his stor-ies of his Farmville competitiveness with Burns. But ultimately, he wanted leaders to be willing to ‘golf with the monkeys.’ Sounds like a hard use of symbolism or anecdote to pull off, but Norwood was able to tie it to being prepared and making adjustments.

Burgett, as usual, didn’t fail to disappoint as he closed the show with his grandiose storytelling abilities and enthusiasm for student involvement.’

This year’s event was spearheaded by Take Five Scholar, YellowJacket acapella member, and president of the Student Leadership Advisory Board Jacob Grantier. Grantier collaborated with Cerosaletti and a RCCL student committee, comprising of five students who were highly pleased with last year’s program, to run the event smoothly.

The success of the operation relied on setting up the online application process, selecting participants, organizing registration and picking workshop topics. SLAB was very instrumental in evaluating student suggestions and using them to help develop this year’s workshops.

Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.

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