Soon after Hur­ri­cane Sandy dev­as­tated ocean­front com­mu­ni­ties along the East Coast, many of Northeastern’s 325 stu­dent groups began working on ways to indi­vid­u­ally respond to the ongoing crisis. But it wasn’t until sev­eral weeks had passed that many groups joined forces to for­mu­late a cohe­sive response to the disaster.

But this semester’s cre­ation of 16 new Lead­er­ship Coun­cils will bring together like-​​minded stu­dent groups for monthly meet­ings that aim to build strong bonds, making it easier for them to orga­nize events, share resources, and even respond to human­i­tarian crises like Sandy.

Laura Wankel, vice pres­i­dent for stu­dent affairs at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Part of our goal is to strengthen a sense of com­mu­nity within our campus,” said Laura Wankel, Northeastern’s vice pres­i­dent for stu­dent affairs. “We’re already a uni­ver­sity focused on expe­ri­en­tial and co-​​curricular oppor­tu­ni­ties and this enables us to target our work a bit more specif­i­cally toward cer­tain areas.”

Chaired by a member of the Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion and Stu­dent Affairs staff, the new lead­er­ship coun­cils serve as a plat­form for stu­dent groups to work together on pro­gram­ming, thus solving long-​​standing funding and work space issues. The lead­er­ship coun­cils will focus on six core themes—self-efficacy, com­mu­nity and civic engage­ment, lead­er­ship, inno­va­tion and cre­ativity, assess­ment, and col­lab­o­ra­tion and communication.

Our goal is for these stu­dent groups to take advan­tage of the oppor­tu­nity to enact change and take own­er­ship over a much broader uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity,” said Jason Campbell-​​Foster, director of Northeastern’s Office of Campus Activ­i­ties, which launched the new Lead­er­ship Coun­cils. “Now we have these groups meeting in the same room, so they’re much more able to work together on projects like this.”

The Finance Board often sees events that are sim­ilar in nature and occur around the same time,” added Kate Chan­dley, the SGA’s vice pres­i­dent for stu­dent involve­ment. “If we can clearly iden­tify ear­lier in the process orga­ni­za­tions that are plan­ning sim­ilar events and foster col­lab­o­ra­tion before they go to the finance board, we can hope­fully avoid rep­e­ti­tion and have more suc­cessful and unique events.”

The coun­cils’ struc­ture is sim­ilar to that of the Mul­ti­cul­tural Greek Council, which gov­erns Northeastern’s fra­ter­ni­ties and soror­i­ties, and aims to encourage stu­dent groups and mem­bers of the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity at large to become more engaged.

In addi­tion to cre­ating a frame­work for sim­ilar stu­dent groups to work together more closely, the lead­er­ship coun­cils also make it easier for the uni­ver­sity to tailor pro­gram­ming to par­tic­ular clubs and orga­ni­za­tions. One could envi­sion a first-​​aid course for out­doors groups, for example, or an intellectual-​​property sem­inar for media groups.

The first wave of Lead­er­ship Council meet­ings wrapped up this month, gar­nering a largely pos­i­tive response from stu­dent leaders. “We are hoping to see that this will foster a strong sense of col­lab­o­ra­tion between orga­ni­za­tions that we haven’t seen in the past,” Chan­dley said.