For the first time ever in the summer of 2011, the University of Delaware instilled a summer leadership program designed for incoming freshmen to take their first steps onto the extensive path to self-discovery. The program was aptly named "QUEST" focusing on these students' newfound abilities to question to help satiate their curiosities, understand leadership as a journey, explore possibilities on campus and in the community, serve others, and eventually transform themselves and their community after their experience in QUEST.
The life changing four day leadership experience includes keynote speakers, workshops, community service, challenge and ropes courses and related outdoor activities and time for reflection and bonding as a group. Check out the 2013 agenda here.
Now, after its third year running, the QUEST program has since expanded into a yearlong leadership experience (following the initial four day program) totaling at 72 freshman participants, 12 University of Delaware student Peer Mentors, and professional staff members of UD's Division of Student Life. Susan Luchey —Associate Director of the University Student Centers for Leadership Development— and Matthew Creasy —Program Coordinator of the University Student Centers for Leadership Development— conduct the program.
Furthermore, the program selects peer mentors to provide guidance to these "QUESTers", to help ease their transition to the UD campus, and to help them become more confident in their ability to become effective campus leaders. These peer mentors have to have completed at least the Emerging Leader level of the Blue Hen Leadership Program in order to be eligible for the position and many of them completed the QUEST program as freshmen.
The QUEST program is part of the Blue Hen Leadership Program on campus, a multi-tiered leadership program which further encourages campus and community engagement. The BHLP's mission is to "build individual and organization leadership capacity and foster engagement and service by providing diverse opportunities to question, explore, understand and apply leadership in order to positively transform one's campus, career and community."
QUEST participants (or "QUESTers", as they are often referred to) apply and are carefully selected from all across the country for the program according to their ability to demonstrate an immense passion and aptitude for leadership and an aspiration to become engaged within the UD community. These students are driven to positively influence the community. Each of them brings a unique perspective to QUEST and to UD, and the impact they have had and will have on the university, their community, society and humanity is undeniable.
"QUEST was honestly the greatest experience of my life," said one freshman participant. "I feel so comfortable now and have developed so many great relationships because of QUEST. It also helped me grow as a leader and start me off on the right path to make a positive impact." And that impact is reciprocal: these young leaders are not only impacting UD, but are incredibly receptive to allowing UD to influence them right back. Another QUEST participant noted that the participants feel that they were "a part of something bigger than ourselves." In fact, QUESTers report high levels of campus involvement. One hundred percent of the 72 freshmen involved in QUEST are registered members of the Blue Hen Leadership Program, and the majority of QUEST participants reported involvement in RSO's, Residence Life, Greek Life, Athletics, Student Government Association, Blue Hen Ambassadors and Academic Enrichment programs such as Nucleus.
QUEST students also engage in workshops throughout the program and the entire year to help foster their natural leadership ability. For example, students discuss the importance of bystander intervention through workshops with Student Wellness & Health Promotion, learn more about career options through presentations from Career Services, discuss with peer mentors and staff the resources that are available to them on campus, and also have access to the brand new BHLP Center to study and engage with staff as well as other student leaders on campus. The QUEST program and the Blue Hen Leadership program alike have engendered a strong community of student leaders on the University of Delaware Campus. Students involved in these programs have demonstrated a strong ability to understand themselves and their peers, to seek challenging and meaningful learning experiences, and to impact the UD community as well as the greater community.