Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Seniors take leadership roles to support student life as they prepare for life after college

Addon Rodgers

Have you ever attended Sloughfest? Have you stopped by Gus’ Snack Bar between classes for a quick meal? Maybe you’ve requested information at the front desk of the library. Clubs, food, fun and academics may seem like totally separate realms, but they share something in common: they rely on students to operate. For seniors working within the various offices and groups on campus, their involvement can look and feel like so much more than just ten hours every week.

Supporting the students who rely on services and look forward to events is a way to engage with the college and make an impact before graduation. 

Senior Morgan Bielfeldt’s leadership journey began when she found acceptance and belonging within Greek life.

“My first year was still [affected by] COVID, and it was hard to meet people,” Bielfeldt said. “That’s what pushed me to rush.” 

Once she made that step, Bielfeldt found a community of people who she said were “very much themselves.” Over her four years of membership, she has become more involved within her sorority, accepting responsibilities in pledging and eventually being voted into the positions of Social Chair and Date Party Chair. These roles, which Bielfeldt has taken on this year, have allowed her to plan staple events within the sorority.

“We do a Back To School Day party, we have Jungle Bungle during activation week and we plan events with other Greek groups,” Bielfeldt said.

In addition to collaborative projects across campus, Bielfeldt is now helping to put together this year’s Delta Chi Theta formal. This event holds special significance through the camaraderie it builds and the recognition it gives to the group’s outgoing members.

“That’s the overall intention of it: celebrating the year we’ve had together, welcoming a new pledge class and sending the seniors off,” Bielfeldt said.

Bielfeldt has juggled her roles within Delta Chi Theta, work in the admissions office and membership on the softball team. For those in their last year of college, membership and leadership roles can serve to honor their skills, hobbies and contributions to the college. 

Senior Esme O’Rourke joined the Office of Student Life for graphic design and was promoted to marketing director, representing an intersection of her talent for art and passion for effective communication. O’Rourke said that her involvement has been helpful in learning to collaborate with others.

“I’ve never been in a leadership position before, and I think it has taught me how to work with people and work as a team and also be kind of a role model,” O’Rourke said.

Teamwork and collaboration with other students plays a huge part in her current project of designing and marketing for Sloughfest. Though she said that the responsibility was “a lot,” she has found satisfaction in putting together one of Augustana’s most cherished events. For this year’s festival, she is aiming for a visual design that is different and authentic to herself.

“I’ve been able to use my artistic side to create some cool design assets for the merch and for the posters,” O’Rourke said. “My graphic design major has really helped with the more technical side of it.” 

Without the contributions of students, events like Sloughfest would not come together. Nearing the completion of simultaneous graphic design and studio art majors, O’Rourke has spent years building the very abilities she now uses in her contributions to student life. Working within a college community demands the ability to meet deadlines and engage with those who will benefit from that work.

In O’Rourke’s case, her involvement has been deeper than she ever expected. Though taking on the responsibility of leadership roles can be daunting, it can pay off both during the academic year and after graduation. 

“The whole school is counting on you to make it a welcoming and diverse environment and I think my coworkers and I have done a great job of doing that,” O’Rourke said. 

Where will O’Rourke take these skills after college? She hopes to continue her role as an intern at design firm Moxie Sozo, leveraging all that she has learned through her involvement in the OSL.

“My [design] skills have improved a lot, my people skills have improved a lot and becoming a leader has helped my self confidence,” O’Rourke said.

Students work throughout the college, and some roles are more visible than others. In the case of dining services, that visibility can be face-to-face. In marketing, students see the result of the leadership of seniors and the teams they guide. Student government sits somewhere in-between; though the Student Government Association hosts and promotes events throughout the year, sessions are attended primarily by members of the group. 

Current SGA President and senior Rachel Nandalenga said that her decision to join as a senator during her first year at Augustana was a recognition of how limited her time in college would be.

“I joined SGA because I wasn’t able to in high school, and I was like, ‘this is the last time you’re probably going to be in extracurriculars like this,’” Nandalenga said.

Her reasoning speaks to the nature of college involvement and to the position of seniors reflecting on past and future opportunities. College can be intimidating in its scale but also an achingly short chapter in the scheme of a life. Choosing, as Nandalenga has, to contribute time and energy to a position like SGA president is a recognition of fleeting opportunities for learning and leading.

What’s more, the responsibility of leading Augustana’s student government is one bestowed by the student body itself through election. The trust placed in Nandalenga as president then turns into an opportunity to improve the lives of others.

“On Thursdays we meet to bring up student concerns and plan to see how we can better the campus,” Nandalenga said. “The biggest thing that I’ll be able to take into the world is being able to empathize with others and represent them.”

By leading a group of senators and executives with direct ties to their constituents, Nandalenga has exposed herself to various ideas and ways of communicating that make every person unique. She said that embracing diversity and setting clear expectations has been a success for the Senate.

“We’ve set expectations for our committees to do one big project every semester, and that has really increased the productivity of the Senate, especially in engaging with the campus community,” Nandalenga said.

As leaders, seniors are limited not by their aspirations but by the time they have left at Augustana. As bittersweet as this reflection can be, it can also act to motivate positive change. For Nandalenga, one of her final projects has been to establish a newsletter and a publication called “SGA Speaks” to highlight the services the student group provides.

“[The newsletter] will help the student body to know what we do, how much we have in our account and how much we give out to student groups,” Nandalenga said. “We do provide money for student groups, but we’re also here to communicate with administrators and get your concerns out there.”

As new campus groups and events are continuously dreamed up, student leadership will continue to play a pivotal role in life at Augustana. Seniors have experience in their academic majors, skillsets built through involvement and passion and positions of trust within the groups they join. Reflecting on the finality of a last year at college also means acknowledging the beginning of a new and exciting life afterwards.

Bielfeldt, majoring in biology and chemistry, plans to pursue a Master’s degree in nursing at Elmhurst University after graduation. Her leadership within Delta Chi Theta has given her management skills. Her involvement in admissions has led her to engage with diverse groups and work directly with students and parents alike, teaching the effective communication required in her field.

“I’ve become very good at working with a budget, managing funds and setting deadlines,” Bielfeldt said. “Within admissions, being able to hold conversations with other people and answer questions for them will transfer over well.”

O’Rourke has been able, in her final year as an Augustana student, to design art and merchandise for one of the college’s largest events of the year. Her work as part of a team within the OSL mirrors the kind of collaborative efforts seen at design firms like Moxie Sozo. 

“I feel very proud of myself and how far I’ve grown as a freshman, and now I can say that I have made a difference in the school before I leave,” O’Rourke said.

Nandalenga has seen her responsibilities increase as she moved from her position as a senator to that of SGA president. She said her role represents part of an ongoing tradition of seniors supporting incoming students.

“I’ve really gotten to know a lot of different types of people. There are always people coming in and going out, including seniors who graduated,” Nandalenga said. “They really taught me a lot and helped put me on the path that I am today.”


Disclaimer: Gavin Nicoson currently serves as a Division II senator for SGA but did not conduct the interview of the SGA president.

Additional reporting by Allie Rial

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