Learning to Lead Through SPS

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Professional Development - Tips to Build Your Career

Learning to Lead Through SPS


Matthew Huber, SPS Member, Rhodes College

Matthew Huber, SPS Member, Rhodes College.When I started college, I wasn’t actively looking for opportunities to enhance my leadership skills—I was much more interested in passing my classes! Stumbling across my school’s Society of Physics Students chapter soon proved to be a turning point in my college career. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, every step on my path from an uncertain freshman to a confident vice-president of the Rhodes College SPS chapter has helped hone my leadership skills, preparing me well for life after college.

When I arrived at Rhodes, I didn’t know much about SPS. However, after attending meetings and talking with members, I saw how exciting and fun involvement in the chapter would be. When I asked if I could help plan some activities, little did I know I would get thrown into a leading role for our main event of the year—the Pumpkin Drop! I took on the task of purchasing dozens of pumpkins to be frozen with liquid nitrogen and thrown from the top of our physics tower. Over-eager to complete my responsibility on time, our physics department ended up babysitting 60 pumpkins for over two weeks before Halloween, filling the hallways and lounge!

My next big step forward was to plan a new event, an SPS-sponsored Yule Ball. This winter formal was held the week before finals. Nothing like this had been done at Rhodes for years, so we had to lay a lot of groundwork to make sure the event ran smoothly. Arranging the venue, music, advertising, and refreshments was certainly a challenge! I gained experience working with and leading a team, and learned the importance of clear communication.

During my first few years volunteering, I wanted to do as much as possible myself to make sure everything got done. However, leadership requires trusting others and giving them what they need to succeed. I was the SPS treasurer for two years, but by my junior year I had moved into a different role. Having confidence in my successor gave me the freedom to lead in other ways. As my SPS responsibilities have grown, I’ve called on my peers for help many times. The more I work with others and support them in our activities, the more confident I become in my own leadership abilities.

I’m excited for this coming year, my last as an undergraduate member of SPS. My involvement in SPS has given me leadership experiences at the local, regional, and even national level that I would not have gotten if I had solely focused on my classes. I’ve grown so much as a result.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  • Deliberately reach outside your comfort zone
  • Ask for responsibilities
  • Work your way into larger roles over time, utilizing past experiences
  • Suggest a new event and offer to plan it
  • Teach your position to others, helping them grow with you
  • Emulate the leadership skills of those you enjoy working for

And finally, as I have learned firsthand, take advantage of the time you have now to further your involvement in SPS. The time will fly by!

Huber demonstrates superconductor levitation at the 2015 Rites to Play spring festival. Photo by Sean Denby.

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