By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
In a semi-cluttered office, a half-written meeting agenda flashes on a computer screen, an open binder spells out a major initiative and intermittent laughter breaks up the focused effort. The quartet of twentysomethings is running a business: planning, budgeting, hiring and publicizing. The traditional business attire worn nearly every day, along with a willingness to work on the Fourth of July, speak to the serious nature of servicing students.
The four leaders of the Associated Students of Grand Canyon University (ASGCU) -- President Noah Wolfe, Executive Vice President Stephen Steininger, Chief of Staff Aly Halbakken and Administrative Vice President Tim McGill -- have been on campus since June 25 immersing themselves in student government plans for the 2018-19 academic year. Among their first lessons learned is the humble nature of their endeavors.
“It is easy in this position to expect the limelight, to be recognized, yet there is so much work and time invested, I realize that there are so many things not credited to me or to any of us,’’ Steininger said. “We are spending hours and hours sitting at a computer, having conversations, reading emails, and at the end of the day no one will know we did all that. So leadership is about having the humility to say that it is about the people under my oversight succeeding rather than me being credited or applauded for what was done.’’
Wolfe and Steininger began campaigning last November and were elected by the student body in January, an early process considering their late June full immersion. The schedule is designed for the previous executive quartet to help with the transition and to enable the new leaders to weigh in on student leader interviews and select their team, beginning with the non-elected positions held by Halbakken and McGill, who served as campaign manager for Wolfe and Steininger. Each student has a staff member from Student Engagement assigned to guide them, including four hours of their 25-hour workweek devoted to “intensives," which range from hiring vendors to public speaking.
Wolfe exudes leadership skills
Wolfe, entering his senior year, exudes confidence and passion. He is extroverted, energetic and charming. While majoring in Business Management and Biblical Studies and minoring in Entrepreneurship, he developed leadership skills by working as a Resident Assistant (R.A.) in the freshman dormitories for two years and by working the past three years with Discover GCU, which provides high school seniors with a taste of GCU via tours, playing bubble soccer, attending athletic events and staying overnight in the residence halls.
“Working for Discover GCU is awesome because it has shown me how to work alongside of student leaders and gain an understanding of what the common student leader is going through," Wolfe said.
As a graduate of Foothills Christian High School in El Cajon, Calif., an inland suburb of San Diego, Wolfe instantly meshed with the Christian aspect of GCU, but his immersion in campus events was not immediate. He used that experience to find ways to involve the freshmen he counseled as an R.A. and to make student participation in campus events a main part of his ASGCU legacy.
As such, he and his team are thrilled about a new app, GCU Engage, which was developed by the Student Engagement office. Beginning Aug. 1, the app will enable students to easily access a daily menu of ASCGU events along with events organized and managed by the 126 clubs and organizations on campus. Moreover, it has a survey feature that enables students to provide feedback to the student executive team.
Wolfe said, “I hear students say all the time, ‘There is nothing here for me.’ The app works both ways: It tells them what is going on, and it helps us listen to what they want."
Wolfe is also focused on listening to Steininger, Halbakken and McGill.
“There is a lot of importance in me listening to what they have to say,’’ he said. “Their opinions matter because they are going to be leading tons of other students."
Steininger confident yet humble
Steininger’s leadership style is soft-spoken, confident, humble and empathetic. He is tasked with heading the legislative branch, including the eight-member Senate and the clubs and organizations.
As a senior-to-be majoring in Christian Studies with a minor in Philosophy, he helps pay for his education by working with Wolfe at Discover GCU.
“We answer any questions, dealing with how they can afford the school, how they can be integrated in school and what they are looking for in a school," Steininger said. “We show them all the great things GCU has to offer."
Steininger’s involvement in Spiritual Life the past two years has enhanced his GCU experience and prepared him to lead. He served as a Head Life Leader, which entails leading a weekly Bible study, being available to students for spiritual counsel, and mentoring four Life Leaders.
The Colorado Springs, Colo., native was homeschooled before coming to GCU. Among his goals as vice president is to create a culture responsive to adversity.
“It is easy for us, as a community, to focus on what we are doing well, things we excel at, and focus on how many people love this school," he said. “And it is easy to forget that students are struggling. Not everyone is having the picture-perfect college experience that we all envision. ... They realize they are six weeks in, and they have no friends and no joy and no purpose. So how can we, as a culture and as community and student leaders, destigmatize the world around these students to say, ‘Hey, it is OK to not have a picture-perfect college experience. It is OK to struggle because you are not alone.’
"There are people and resources here, whether through Life Leaders, or R.A.’s or through the professional staff upstairs (in the Student Life Building), that students can seek help and become not only empowered in that journey, but encouraged as they pursue the purpose and the reason that they are here, which is to have a more successful future."
In that vein, he will work closely with McGill, who oversees the Freshman Class Council.
“The first few weeks are absolutely critical for the freshmen,’’ Steininger said. “We want to make them feel welcome and give them opportunities."
McGill's lengthy to-do list
McGill also oversees Diversity Awareness and Volunteer GCU, which connects student volunteers to groups on and off campus who need a helping hand. His job on the GCU athletic street team has prepared him to engage with fans at games and implement in-game entertainment. As a sports management major (with a minor in pre-law and communications), the senior-to-be’s job and his ASGCU role are to develop career-ready skills.
“We want to provide the GCU Lopes experience for fans," he said. “It has really been great to talk to people, to make sure they are having a good time, and also to work with student workers. As a manager, I oversee a team of 15 to 20 people, which has given me leadership opportunities to focus on communication, to make sure everybody’s doing well. So we are pouring into them, so they can pour into prospective fans."
Similarly, freshman leaders will pour into the Class of 2022. To that end, McGill has worked with Student Engagement staff to winnow hundreds of applications to a pool of 50 freshmen. Through an interview process, 30 will be selected for Freshman Class Council.
In fewer than two weeks as an ASCGU leader, McGill has developed a lengthy to-do list.
“I am getting familiar with the responsibilities of the role and the seriousness of the position," he said. “I’ve sat in on a couple of interviews already -- we still have spots we are filling in assembling the team that will serve the students. I am getting to know these candidates and working behind the scenes, setting up for when the directors and the coordinators come on campus to make their lives easier."
In the interview sessions with freshmen, McGill is impressed by “hearing their heart to serve and their desire to apply themselves."
In addition, the graduate of Calvin Christian High School in north San Diego County feels blessed just to be in the interview room with the adult staff members of Student Engagement.
“My opinion was valued as far as who I think we should hire in various positions," he said. “It is cool that staff is willing to allow me and all of us to be involved in the process and teach us the process."
Halbakken focused on goals
Halbakken, a graduate of Minnetonka High School in a western suburb of Minneapolis, leads the executive branch, which is involved with internal affairs, public relations and marketing. A communications and marketing major, the junior-to-be helped pay her tuition bills the past two years by working part-time on campus in curriculum development design and recently was hired by Grand Canyon Education's Marketing department, primarily in social media.
Her main takeaway after two weeks of training and planning is the importance of establishing goals.
“It is about the visionary big picture for my teams to apply," she said. “One of the biggest is to increase social media engagement, to take advantage of that platform to market our organization and other clubs and organizations on campus."
While all four student leaders have part-time campus jobs that have helped them develop their leadership skills, those jobs will take a back seat for the 2018-19 school year.
“Aside from school, ASGCU is our No. 1 priority, so it is definitely about time management," Habakken said
“It is also about enjoying college, making time to have rest and making time to have fun," Wolfe said. “There are times we have to sacrifice. There might be an event the next day, so we can’t go to Taco Bell that night. But there will be times when we can go to Taco Bell that night, which will help us interact with students. It will help us to understand what it means to be a college student rather than be so disconnected that we don’t even understand what the common student is doing."
After five more weeks of preparation, the foursome will be joined by more student leaders, and together they'll continue to prepare for the school year -- particularly the event-packed Welcome Week, which begins Aug. 20.
In the meantime, they are true to the Wolfe-Steininger campaign slogan, “Together we can."
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].