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Program Seeks Students Wanting to Hone Leadership Skills

By Tim O'keefe ('10), JMU Public Affairs

Kijiji logo

More information about Kijiji is available on its Web site.

Hanging from a wall in Michael McCleve's office is a picture of a flying eagle with the subscript, "leadership is action, not a position." McCleve, JMU administrator of University Unions, will put those words into practice as he directs a new student leadership program called "Kijiji," a Swahili word meaning "village."

"With Kijiji, the desire is to create, quite literally, a community of students who are interested in influencing their environment," said McCleve. "We want students to leave this university and have a desire and developed ability to improve society."

Spurred by the vision and leadership of Dr. Mark Warner, JMU senior vice president for student affairs and university planning, Kijiji will develop leadership in non-traditional ways as opposed to classroom lectures. Group activities could include "trust falls" on ropes courses, video recording Kijiji students doing specific tasks and playing games where someone purposely breaks the rules.

"The program will get students involved in fun games, activities, experiences, dialogue and discussion so that the learning process comes not from a textbook or lecture, but from what they observe and what they hear from others," said McCleve.

Additionally, Kijiji will involve collaborations across JMU. Representatives from the University Recreation Center , Wellness Center and Center for Multicultural Student Services, as well as others, will make guest appearances as Kijiji makes use of the university's vast resources.

The yearlong program will start in fall 2009 and will meet once a week during the academic year. Applications are now available online for the free program. While all students are encouraged to apply, the program is geared toward underclassmen who are not yet heavily involved in the JMU community.

"We are looking for students who have a commitment and a passion for engaging the process of becoming a better citizen," said McCleve. "A large majority of JMU students are not actually involved in any campus experiences."

Kijiji is using a variety of ways to advertise. From residence advisers and transit bus drivers wearing T-shirts, to flying discs and bookmarks passed out on campus. More information is available on the Web at www.jmu.edu/kijiji and on Facebook, under the group titled "Kijiji Leadership."

Planning for Kijiji has taken nearly 18 months. Warner approached University Unions because he wanted a leadership program, like Kijiji, targeting students who have not found their niche at JMU. Warner and staff looked at similar leadership programs at Elon University and Arizona State University to help develop Kijiji.

"From my conversations with Dr. Warner, his vision is to create something that is a life-transforming experience as a student," said McCleve. "As students leave the university, we hope they look back and say that Kijiji made a difference in their lives."