University of Georgia
September 2014
Educating Leaders
Alumni thankful for opportunities

Joshua Delaney was president of the Student Government Association and Shari McIntosh was president of the Student Alumni Council during their undergraduate years at UGA. Both say their experiences helped develop their leadership skills.

Alumni thankful for leadership opportunities UGA provided

Recent students take a look back at how their activities prepared them for life.

It takes more than textbook smarts to succeed in life after graduating from the University of Georgia. It takes a lot of skills, including leadership development.

A couple recent alumni share their thoughts about how UGA helped prepare them for professional life:

Joshua Delaney graduated in 2011 with degrees in advertising and theater, and also served as president of the UGA Student Government Association.

Current job: I am an education policy legislative Fellow in the Washington, D.C., office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). I support Sen. Warren’s education policy priorities in the United States Senate.

More generally, as an education policy practitioner, I work toward the vision of every American student having an opportunity to receive an equitably excellent education by analyzing, crafting and advocating for policies that support that vision. This requires a tremendous amount of leadership because the questions regarding how to improve America’s schools, increase access to higher education, and create opportunities for all children are exceedingly difficult questions. These questions cannot be answered alone; they require collaboration, compromise and communication and the ability to listen.

How did UGA prepare you for this role?

I joke that I really majored in student government while at UGA. I was active in the Student Government Association all four years of my undergraduate experience, eventually being elected president during my senior year. At the time, we thought we were just advocating for students, doing everything we could think of to make the student experience at UGA the best that it could be.

However, we were simultaneously (perhaps unknowingly) exploring and developing our own leadership. Being the chief executive officer of a student organization with an active membership in the hundreds while being accountable to 36,000 students forces you to develop leadership skills rapidly. You make mistakes and have battle scars to show for it, but I emerged from that experience the thinker, communicator and leader than I am today.

What advice would you give current UGA students hoping to improve their leadership skills while on campus?

I have three challenges for students looking to improve their own leadership.

1. Diversify your experience. Push yourself out of your comfort zone by engaging and working with students who are different than you and who you would have never otherwise interacted with outside of the classroom. There are many ways to do this but it is critical for you to be able to accomplish a goal in a student organization with someone who sees things very differently than you do.

2. Fall forward. You will make mistakes and that is OK! But always reflect on what you can do differently next time. Never make the same mistake twice.

3. Listen. It is often more important to understand than to be understood. You are just one student with one experience. The more you can understand with empathy the challenges, concerns and experiences of others, the better leader you will become.

Shari McIntosh graduated in 2013 with a degree in public relations and a minor in communication studies and also served as the president of the Student Alumni Council.

Current job: Business development and marketing manager at idea|span.

Leadership roles: I drive and execute all marketing and public relations initiatives for the firm to promote our work, share our expertise and generate leads. This includes:

How did UGA prepare you for this role?

Because I am a UGA alumna, I am vocal and confident even in the most intimidating of settings. I strategize and find solutions and I never underestimate the importance of relationships.

Being a student at UGA forces you to be uncomfortable at times. The greatness in that is it is practically always in an effort to drive you to create an impactful, positive and forward thinking change for whatever the situation may be. In my “Women and United States Public Discourse class,” I was encouraged to listen to others’ opinions and voice my own—even on the most controversial subjects. In my “PR Campaigns” class I had to work with my team to develop solutions for a client who needed practical applications in order to facilitate its mission. Having served as president of the Student Alumni Council, I understood how fostering relationships is integral to whatever cause you’re working toward—especially for an organization.

As a member of the Student Alumni Council, I gained the most leadership skills by being awarded the opportunity to put myself out there—whether it was speaking in front of a stadium of 4,500 incoming first-year students at Freshman Welcome or announcing the fastest growing Bulldog-owned businesses at Bulldog 100. Through mentors and other leaders who came before me, I learned how to inspire and motivate an entire organization by a vision, lead by example and cultivate other leaders. These few examples between the classroom and my involvement in student organizations have found their guiding principles in my life as a full-time professional and leader.

When you walk under the Arch and into the “real world,” students will be faced almost every day—whether at work or otherwise—with how you respond to the problems at hand. Sometimes they will be uncomfortable, difficult and maybe even seem impossible. I have been prepared to serve as a leader who faces adversity with the confidence that I can get the job done and keep the big picture in mind. I am able to lead and do my job well because in some form, I have done it before through my experiences at UGA.

Other professional activities:

What is the one piece of advice you would give current UGA students hoping to improve their leadership skills while on campus?

Seize opportunities in order to grow from them—even if you’re afraid. Put yourself out there and find something that fuels your passion. This will ultimately help you find your voice as a leader for whatever it is you’re advocating for—now and in the future.