When the Leaders Lead…

Over the years, Lauren and I have written about how the Undergraduate Leadership Program, now the CUNY Peer Leaders. We have expressed the ways in which they have stepped up and shined. We have discussed how they have never ceased to amaze us. This post is no different. On Friday, Feb 19, 2021 at The Graduate Education at Work in the World Conference, they did it again!

For full disclosure, the other Co-Directors (Kaysi Holman, Lauren Melendez and Stefanie Sertich) and I are very protective about the Leaders because we have created a space that is grounded in a culture of care. We don’t just allow visitors to come into the space as a performative gesture of “doing the work.” With that said, during the pandemic this program has provided the Leaders with a space to learn, breathe, discuss, and create bonds without many of them ever meeting each other. For the conference, four Leaders volunteered to host the panel: “Inclusion, Agency and Community in Higher Education: Making the most of Student Life.” As usual, we, the co-directors, created a scaffolding (a framework to guide the conversation) for Sam Ascencio, Moses Matos, Ramesh Beharry and Sheila Janeo to build upon. To that they came up with the following questions as discussion topics:

  1. What does “Making the most of ‘Student Life’” mean to you right now?
  2. How are you feeling about the faculty’s social and mental awareness of their students in the pandemic right now?
  3. What strategies have worked for you to both give support and gain support for burnout or mental health in the past six months?

With critical thinking, experiential knowledge and grace, the Leaders candidly answered the questions to educate the audience. What was the icing on the cake was the other Leaders who were in the audience also shared their thoughts. As a collective they built on each others thoughts and ideas, but also highlighted how how they learned from each other. They have given professors grace because they don’t know what the professor is going through because grace is reciprocal. They explained the significance of having open communication with their professors during COVID-19. Being inspired by each other and sharing their thoughts during their panel made Sheila redefine “community” and included a temporal element. This happens every two weeks on a late Friday afternoon. However, this time the audience which included educators of all kinds, listened and learned from undergraduates who spoke their truths. In other words, they experienced the Leaders lead.

Zoom conference with CUNY Peer Leaders on Zoom


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309