WALK Program Builds Leaders at Wayne State
Leadership shouldn’t be limited only to those with in-depth experience.
Wayne State College understands this and strives to provide opportunities to students setting foot on campus for the first time. That’s why WSC teaches them to “walk.”
WALK Program Opens for Freshmen Students
The Wildcat Academy of Leadership and Knowledge (WALK) is a newly implemented program at WSC that offers campus involvement and leadership opportunities to incoming freshmen. The program began last fall under the direction of the Office of Residence Life.
“The WALK Program is a leadership living-and-learning community that is made to engage first-year students,” Matthew Weekley, assistant dean of students and director of residence life, said. “This program is meant to boost the first-year experience and make it more successful. It helps students develop leadership skills to help them engage on the campus community.”
Weekly Meetings and Requirements Challenge Students to Get Involved
A WALK student must maintain a 2.5 GPA and complete a challenge assigned each Tuesday at the group’s weekly seminar meetings. Challenges include getting students out of the dorms and involved on campus by going to student activities or organizational meetings.
“The students also have to take a certain set of courses built into the general education program that reflect leadership,” Weekley said.
The WALK program seminars encourage students to reflect on their involvement on campus and exchange ideas with each other.
“The big thing is for the first year they have a couple professionals that meet with them each week to develop a support structure,” Weekley said. “They develop a close relationship and call themselves family.”
Annie Kucera is a psychology and counseling double major and business minor from Cedar Bluffs, Neb. Annie said she believes it’s important to face weekly challenges whole-heartedly.
“We try to go to different meetings and events and stay and learn, not just to get our points,” Annie said. “One of my favorite challenges was a scavenger hunt where we had to get signatures from various people, and we were able to meet a lot of people.”
Students Gain Unique Friendships as They Begin College Career
J. Scott Jackson is a psychology major and criminal justice minor from Omaha, Neb. J. Scott was active in high school and wanted to continue pursuing leadership roles in college. However, he was apprehensive about the college experience until he discovered WALK.
“I felt like it [WALK] could be a great opportunity to meet friends,” J. Scott said. “I was nervous for college at first, but when I saw WALK I thought being with similar people would help. The friendships we’ve formed and being able to meet figures around campus, like the dean of students, are what make it so great.”
Ciera Afrank is a psychology major from Newman Grove, Neb. Ciera said in addition to leadership opportunities, she’s learned more about herself and her WALK classmates.
“We’ve become a family,” Ciera said. “We’re alike in that we have similar leadership interests, but yet our personal diversity makes it so interesting. The program and living together provides an understanding of what each person is like and has been through, and it also makes the transition into college easier.”
Neihardt Hall Basement Provides WALK Students with Family Atmosphere
The Neihardt Hall basement houses 22 total WALK students this semester. This floor is a smaller dorm community with a capacity for 30 students, which Weekley said helps create a support system for students in WALK.
“Most students in Neihardt are upperclassmen, so it creates an interesting relationship in the entire building,” Weekley said. “The freshmen students have a high level of energy, and the upperclassmen provide mentoring for appropriate behavior. It’s dynamic on both ends.”
Ryan Sousek, a history major from Malmo, Neb., said living together in Neihardt is one of his favorite features of the WALK program.
“It’s awesome. You’re never alone, and there’s always someone to talk to,” Ryan said. “Even though everyone is different, we can still be one big group.”
WALK Benefits Extend Beyond College Experience
Completing challenges and practicing involvement on campus helps WALK students develop a habit of leadership. Obtaining or competing for leadership roles on campus gives students experiences they can use after graduation.
“The new information given to us can apply to our everyday lives,” J. Scott said. “A lot of the leadership we’ve discussed will only help us. In WALK, they always keep us informed about leadership opportunities and community service opportunities. For example, I just recently applied to be a Residence Assistant and Ambassador.”
Annie and Ciera said they also believe the networking connections they’ve made through WALK will help them in the future, and simply being in the program will look great on their resumes.
WALK Program Looks to Continue Improvement in the Future
As a program in its introductory year, Weekley said he recognizes there have been road bumps, but is pleased by the overall success of the program to date.
“We’ve created a supportive learning environment for students,” Weekley said. “One of the things for next year is to start a mentorship program where previous WALK students come back to live with and mentor the next WALK students, to create a legacy of some sort. So far though, we’re happy with the direction it’s going.”
Weekley said Residence Life hopes to create an additional WALK program for upperclassmen down the road.
Application into WALK Includes a Few Simple Steps
The WALK Program offers an application at the beginning of each academic year at WSC.
Weekley and Residence Life review the applications and pass them on to select professionals for additional review to encourage fairness and accuracy.
An application is available on the Residence Life WALK page.