The Adventures of Student Leaders: Lillian Whitcomb

Many students leave high school as solitary jaguars, on a quest to find their place in the world. When they arrive at Heidelberg, they encounter a multitude of leadership opportunities and discover an entirely different animal. Welcome to our new monthly web series: The Adventures of Student Leaders.

Lillian Whitcomb was told often as a child that college should feel like home. But for a young girl who moved around a lot, she really didn’t know what that meant. Until she arrived at Heidelberg.

Lilly was invited to participate in Scholars Day and received a welcome she’ll always remember.

“I decided to tour campus and everything turned out right,” says Lilly. “The welcome and the reception, and how excited everyone was that I was there … I already felt really loved coming here.”

Everything has come full circle and Lilly has now embraced that warmth of feeling truly at home. She made it so by taking advantage of opportunities to grow her leadership skills with several student organizations on campus. As she pursues her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Economics, she’ll graduate this May with a host of tangible and transferrable skills that have helped her become a well-rounded person ready to take on the world beyond Heidelberg. 

Impact through Student Senate

One of the first organizations Lilly joined was Student Senate. 

A fellow senator who is a member of the Philalethean Society introduced Lilly to other Phi members, and again, she “felt immediately loved.” So while she may not have envisioned herself participating in Greek Life, she enjoys it a great deal. This year, she’s serving as president of the Phis.

Fast forward to today. Currently, Lilly is balancing her coursework with serving in various leadership roles across campus. She is president, campus coordinator and trip leader of the Alternative Break organization, treasurer of the Honors Activity Board, treasurer of Berg Allies, a member of the Honors Committee and four academic honoraries. She even co-founded one of Heidelberg’s newer student organizations and serves as president of Keep Calm and Carry Yarn.

A logical question might be: where does she find the time? The answer lies is in those tangible skills she’s acquired as a student leader: Time management and the pursuit of personal growth.

Lilly is admittedly a spreadsheet kind of person, utilizing that tool to keep herself organized and on track. But there’s something much more intrinsic that she’s gained through student organization leadership.

“I’ve gotten a better sense of who I want to be as a person based on all of the interactions with others in my student organizations,” Lilly explains. They’ve stretched her and taught her about organizational structures and the importance of effective communication. “I’ve really learned to meet people where they’re at,” she says.

Leadership, defined

As someone who was a leader in high school, Lilly always thought she was an active listener, but at Heidelberg, she discovered that she was listening “through my own lens.” Now, when she meets people, she seeks to understand their perspectives first. She’s often one of the first to reach out – something that hasn’t always come naturally. But she knows now that someone’s got to take the first step. All the better if it’s her.

Her definition of a good leader is someone who gets things done, who is persistent and tries to keep everyone happy (while realizing that’s impossible 100 percent of the time) and who utilizes skills in marketing.

Good leaders, she says, “are receptive to change.”

“Just because I’ve done something before doesn’t mean it will be the same the next time.”

Heidelberg’s upcoming Veterans Day ceremony, a campus remembrance and recognition event organized and conducted annually by Student Senate, is the perfect example. Lilly relied on her middle school experience and interest in documenting oral histories of veterans to take the lead in planning this year’s ceremony. She secured the speaker and skillfully promoted the event, which is being held on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

All of Lilly’s leadership skills nurtured at Heidelberg are certain to serve her well as she pursues graduate school with an ultimate career goal to work in environmental economic policy.

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