ASUCI Builds Student Leaders

Now open for registration, the Associated Students of UC Irvine Visions Leadership Program is a class aimed toward developing the social skill set of UCI students.
Emil Kuruvilla, a fourth-year international studies major and ASUCI visions commissioner, emphasized the interactive nature of the class.
‘The first assignment we’re actually doing is [students] have to go to a club meeting,’ Kuruvilla said. ‘They have to say what they liked and what they didn’t like about the meeting, structure and about what was said. They also have to say what they would do better if they were president of the club. It forces people to go out and interact.’
The primary goal of the class is to develop confidence in students. Kuruvilla and fellow course planner Nina Mirsafavi, a third-year criminology major, steer the course in this direction by having speakers discuss their success stories. The two hope to alleviate students’ career-oriented fears through these stories.
‘Right when you start college you’re obviously thinking about a job in four years,’ Kuruvilla stated. ‘I think we all have these worries about what are we going to do.’
The class usually features three or four speakers. Last year’s class featured an official Iranian negotiator.
‘He clicked with some people, but with other people, they couldn’t relate,’ Kuruvilla noted. ‘But the people that did click with him were like, ‘Oh, OK I kind of see what he’s saying.’ He had a hard-knock technique … and people liked that.’
Although interest in the speakers varied last year, interest in the class, for the most part, did not. Kuruvilla estimated that about 80 percent of the students from last year’s class enjoyed the class and gained confidence from it.
‘If we get disapproval it’s usually a positive criticism,’ Kuruvilla said. ‘We always feed off that, too.’
Positive criticism has led, this year, to a few changes in the class from last year, including a business aspect which highlights the lack of a business major at UCI.
The new business aspect of the course has led to the invitation of Judith Rogala to the class as a speaker. Rogala, known for her ability as an entrepreneur, rose from flight attendant to senior management at Trans World Airlins and later became a CEO at Flagship Express.
Also new to the class is what Kuruvilla calls the apprentice workshop.
‘We’re going to actually get leaders from clubs and organizations to come out and they’re going to assign each group a task to do, [such as] a marketing campaign or creating an event on campus,’ Kuruvilla said. ‘It’s kind of like a stimulus. They’re going to go around and do this, and at the end the club leader is going to critique them on how they did. ‘Did your event go through? How well was it planned out? … Did you assign the right amount of people? Did you get the fliers?”
The workshop is aimed at pushing students into situations that force them to be resourceful and build confidence, both integral aspects of the class.
Also important to the course is public speaking. Students debate issues in front of the class and are critiqued on their styles. Last year, ASUCI had Toastmasters, a campus public-speaking organization, come to the class in order to give students advice.
Kuruvilla noticed distinct changes in the behavior of class participants from the beginning of the class to the end.
‘I’ve seen people who want to say something and they want to speak, but they just need that boost, and when they’re forced to go in front of the classroom and actually talk, I think they lose that sweat and say, ‘OK, I’ll do this.’ By the group project it’s awesome to see them explode,’ Kuruvilla said.
The class owes its continued existence to its high rate of success. Among those who benefited from the class is Michael Athari, a second-year biological sciences major and ASUCI commissioner for campus affairs. Athari began his involvement with ASUCI through the course.
‘I benefited from [the class] in the sense that the class displayed the many different ways to get involved,’ Athari said. ‘I found the class to be very interesting and fun since there were many unique public speakers.’
Kuruvilla hopes that the class will open students’ eyes to the opportunities available at UCI.
‘I think the biggest failure for people at this school is walking in a straight line all four years,’ Kuruvilla said. ‘It’s an awesome school, a lot of opportunities. … There’s a niche for everyone at this school, [they just have] to go out and find it.’