Pay me back? Please pay it forward instead

In the least stalkerish sort of way, I love being part of the Stevens Facebook groups. The “Class of” groups not only provide me an insight as to where the free food is on campus on any given night, but lately has also been a means to rally the student body together towards some sort of cause. With recent discussions in the SGA regarding the potential of members receiving stipends for their duties (that has since been discussed at their past Senate meeting) a new “rally” was floating around my newsfeed over the long weekend. The hashtag #PayMeBack was posted to the end of long winded paragraphs about a person’s contributions towards particular clubs or their overall leadership positions held on campus. I was quick to potentially join and swiftly searched through my tagged photos for a series of photos I could post alongside a paragraph of my own. As I began to type out what I could have possibly wanted to say, I instantly hit backspace on the whole thing. A thought dawned on me: as a leader, I should want nothing in return.

Not to delve into the ethics of being a leader too much, but in my opinion, the number one thing a person needs to understand before taking on a position is selflessness. As much as one can hope that a team/committee/group/rock band will work together and do their parts, we all know it is never 100% true. To be selfless means to put others before you.  To be a selfless leader means to pick up the pieces when things fall no matter how long or awful the task may be. I equate my various semesters of being a selfless leader in cups of coffee I consumed to get the jobs done, but also in the cups of coffee I gave to my teammates to let them know they’re doing an awesome job of getting the job done (okay that happened twice, maybe three times, in my life, but still). A great leader gives their time and energy into their position, so any form of repayment is quite hypocritical to what the job a leader entails.

Does my broke college kid self want to get paid back for the last minute supplies I had to purchase out of pocket or late night Cluck-U to fuel me as I pulled an all nighter working on the SDS set? Definitely. Does my seasoned and experienced leader self want to get paid back for the countless experiences I had that I can talk highly about on my resume or reminisce about? Definitely not. The sacrifices made as a leader, on this campus especially, are what make them worthwhile. It’s more exciting to discuss how you had a group project get ruined and you, as team leader, saved the day with a potential employer than discussing your work that went perfectly smoothly. Even if you lost a couple of bucks in the process, you’ll one day make that back with a sweet paycheck and a pocket full of fantastic stories of your time as a leader. There is truly no repayment greater than experience.

Coming from a student who has sat through way too many hours of various executive board meetings and has served elsewhere on this campus, I don’t need to be repaid for my work over the years. If anything, I’d like my work to be paid forward. Be it in future position holders, fellow student body members, or in myself as I enter the workforce in a month, my leadership skills will idealistically (but probably realistically) be paid forward. No stipend required.