A legacy to young leaders
Contributors: Ahmed Alotaibi and Michelle Lee
LaNita Weisenberger, Assistant Director of the JMU Center for Multicultural Student Services (CMSS), is a legacy to young leaders.
While a mentor, she is also a mother to students of different cultural backgrounds. Weisenberger helps minority students to raise them into great leaders. She also advises them to embrace different cultures.
“Growing up in a home that is diverse lends itself to give you the opportunity to be more open-minded to different experiences and to people’s backgrounds,” she says.
Amongst her classmates, Weisenberger was a biracial student of German and African American ethnicities. Coming from a different background has helped her to appreciate other people who are also different.
Due to her upbringing, Weisenberger also understands how hard it can be for minority students to attend a predominately white institution, PWI.
“I build programming and build resources for these students so that they’re not just a number. So that people know who they are, that they have a face and a voice,” says Weisenberger.
As the Assistant Director of CMSS, Weisenberger does programming with student executive board members of cultural organizations. She is currently the faculty advisor for the Asian Student Union and the Korean Student Association.
Weisenberger’s typical day at JMU consists of interacting with students, administrative work and attending meetings.
“Developing relationships. That’s pretty much what the job is about,” she says.
Every day, students walk into her office to ask for advice. The questions range from about organizational programming and event planning to personal life choices. Weisenberger believes that in her field, both faculty and students spend a lot of time showing their true personalities through the relationships that they develop.
“I love the creative minds of young adults,” says Weisenberger. “They’re not afraid to have these big dreams, but to take the dream to a reality is a great process.”
Weisenberger’s favorite thing about her job is being a part of that process in her students’ lives. She mentors them when they are starting to recognize their niches and their identities.
Weisenberger hopes that after she mentors students to become strong leaders, they will graduate from JMU to become a mentor for others. She finds importance in passing along knowledge to future leaders to prepare them for their experiences.
A piece of knowledge that Wiesenberger passes onto young leaders is how cultural diversity effects great leadership. Appreciating diversity enables people to hear various perspectives. It helps individuals to learn about other people and how to communicate with them. In all kinds of leadership, communication is what forms success. Especially when that communication is not verbal. Weisenberger expects her students to develop an understanding of that concept.
“There are so many other ways to communicate with people without the spoken word,” says Weisenberger.