ELL LogoWe recently spoke with Kyle Biederwolf, the director of Emerging Lobo Leaders at the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (ASUNM). Emerging Lobo Leaders is a program that provides leadership opportunities for incoming UNM students. It serves as a vehicle to recruit and train future leaders for ASUNM and other student organizations. Please tell us your name and current position in student government. Please also tell us a little bit about who you are: your year, major, and any other background info you’d like to share. My name is Kyle Biederwolf. My current position is Executive Director of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico’s (ASUNM’s) Emerging Lobo Leaders. I am a junior studying Marketing at the Anderson School of Management. I love Lobo basketball, “The Office” and changing peoples lives. How did you get involved in ASUNM? I knew right when I came to UNM that I wanted to get involved in the student government. I was a part of Youth in Government in high school and really found my passion, so there was never a question of whether or not I would join ASUNM. In the spring of my freshman year, then-ASUNM Presidential candidate Rachel Williams and Vice Presidential candidate Jenna Hagengruber reached out to me about running for a seat on the student senate. I immediately agreed, and the rest was history. How did Emerging Lobo Leaders (ELL) get started? About five years ago, the ASUNM President wanted to create a program that provided incoming students with experience, leadership, and involvement in the various facets of ASUNM. After extensive discussion and planning, Emerging Lobo Leaders was born. ELL Group PhotoPlease describe ELL. How does it function? Each semester, we accept 35 students into ELL. Each Tuesday, ELL students meet from 5:00-6:30 p.m. The first two weeks are very team oriented and we use activities like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder and a low ropes course to build a positive team attitude. In the weeks that follow, we teach our students all about ASUNM and everything that they have the opportunity to participate in. ELL students are encouraged to attend meetings and events held by the ASUNM Senate and various ASUNM agencies. During the last four weeks of the semester, each student chooses a mentor within ASUNM and works with them to learn exactly what their job entails. On top of this, they learn about other campus involvement opportunities through panel discussions and visiting speakers. How do you recruit students to participate in ELL? This year, we took a different approach for recruiting. My staff and I spoke to different Resource Centers, different student organizations, and members of Greek life about ELL. We asked these organizations to encourage their incoming members to apply to ELL, and received a lot of applications because of this. Additionally, every incoming UNM freshman is required to attend New Student Orientation (NSO). During NSO, the Student Activities Center and I worked hard to promote ELL through presentations to students and at the Discover Fair (a fair where freshmen have the opportunity to walk around and learn about student organizations). What have been ELL’s biggest accomplishments? ELL’s biggest accomplishments are the students that the program has produced. We have produced past presidents, senators, executive directors, RA’s, New Student Orientation Leaders and so much more. The mission of ELL is to teach students about all of the positions that exist and give them the opportunity to learn about the ones they’re interested in. It is such an accomplishment to see these students thrive in their later years and contribute positive, lasting effects to the campus communities. ELL Students with MascotWhat have been the biggest challenges so far of running ELL?  Lessons learned? Alongside Emerging Lobo Leaders, we also run a program called Advanced Lobo Leaders (ALL). This is an optional program for students who have completed ELL. ELL teaches students all about ASUNM and student involvement, while the mission of ALL is to teach broader leadership skills that can be used in students’ professional lives. In order to further the leadership skills of these emerging leaders, we cover topics ranging from public speaking to event planning and hold events like a panel discussion with former ASUNMers who are now in professional careers. While this is an extremely rewarding program that we plan to continue, ALL has been our biggest challenge so far. It’s a difficult program to coordinate and it is often hard to recruit former ELLers to be a part of ALL. As a staff, we’ve learned that ALL takes a lot of hard work, but we’re excited to take on the challenge! It’s important to us that we don’t let the hard work scare us off. What advice would you give to student leaders at other schools who might want to establish a similar program? I truly believe this program is one that can, and should, be adapted to every campus. The advice I give regarding the creation of a similar program can be summed up in these seven words: plan early, plan often, and be excited. First, plan early. The key to having a successful program is planning early. This includes planning where you will establish your program (in student government, in the residence halls, in resource centers), how and to whom you will market your program (new student orientation, greek life, student organizations, RAs), and what your program’s curriculum will include (team building, meet and greets, mentor programs). Planning early on will help you become more organized when it comes to crunch time. Second, plan often. So, you established this great plan early on – you’re all set, right? Wrong. It’s important to understand that, especially at first, you’re going to be a part of a dynamic organization that changes often, which means you’ll have to think on your feet. Don’t be afraid to be adaptive and adjust your plan when needed. Last, but certainly not least, be excited. To have the drive to start a program like this, you have to be excited about what you’re doing. Beyond being excited to keep your own morale up, having excitement will help you recruit members to your organization. If you’re not excited about your program, no one will be excited about joining your program! This is the best advice I can give you for starting a program similar to ELL, but it’s not the only advice. If you ever find yourself looking to start a program like this and you’re a little bit (or a lot) lost, please feel free to reach out to me at ell@unm.edu.