Servant Leadership

Emily Mendoza  |  Cross Country/Tennis  |  Senior  |  Iowa City, Iowa

Representing the NAIA Champions of Character core value of Servant Leadership for the 2014-15 school year is Emily Mendoza. StephensStars.com caught up with Emily to discuss the meaning of servant leadership:

StephensStars.com - What does it mean to display servant leadership as a multi-sport athlete (cross country, tennis) at Stephens College?
Mendoza: Being a multi-sport athlete requires balance, prioritizing, and compromise. I cannot always balance both; for instance, during the fall semester I focus on running hard with my cross country team and in the spring I put all my energy into honing my tennis technique alongside my team. Each sport requires a particular balance, a different team dynamic, and often, a different way to serve and lead. Being a part of two teams with unique strengths, weaknesses, and needs is a challenging yet very rewarding experience. Even if the sports themselves are different, the importance of lifting up others is essentially the same. Each of my teammates, whether for cross country or for tennis, needs to be encouraged and strengthened. Each race and meet comes with triumphs or disappointments. In these settings, servant leadership is the continual process of discovering your teammates’ physical, emotional, and maybe even spiritual needs while seeking to get those needs met. It means working hard as an athlete but working harder as a teammate and a friend.

StephensStars.com - How do the servant leadership qualities that you have acquired from athletics, translate to your personal and academic life?
Mendoza: The life lessons learned from being an athlete and part of a team are entirely transferrable to endeavors in other aspects of life. Building discipline is an essential part of the athletic lifestyle; the early morning or late evening practices, the difficult workouts, the stress of races and matches all play a part in developing strength and endurance. The discipline I’ve built up helps me respect my physical and emotional limits, but it has also taught me the importance of pushing myself just far enough because I know I have the potential to do extraordinary things. This, in turn, motivates me to encourage others in a way that challenges them while respecting their boundaries, both when it comes to athletics and in their personal lives. Integrity is essential to absolutely all aspects of our character and I believe that strengthening each other’s weaknesses is just as important as calling out greatness. This relates to any area of life. I seek to encourage my classmates to pursue academic integrity and take their studies seriously. I push my sorority sisters to love each other and be the best sisters they can be. I strive to serve others through leading the CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) movement on our campus; reaching out to students and helping them develop their faith. In all settings, the goal is to treat people with respect and warmth, but to also encourage them to better themselves and the community around them. There is great joy in seeing my friends, sisters, and classmates grow to believe in themselves. No matter where I am, I strive to push others to recognize their own potential.

StephensStars.com - Describe the importance of having a well-rounded balance of academics, sports, service and community engagement…
Mendoza - At Stephens College, we have unique and fantastic opportunities to be as many things as we want to be. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been involved in so many different aspects of student leadership, but my resume would not mean anything if it was not done with passion, commitment, and balance. Granted, to excel at one thing is quite an accomplishment, but Stephens women (myself included) tend to push themselves to excel at whatever they set their mind to, simply because they can. To balance academic and athletic pursuits while seeking to serve and be a part of a community is a beautiful thing. It demonstrates a passionate and driven life; a life that is invested in and engages the people around it. Truly, our personal accomplishments are made possible through the efforts and encouragement of our community around us, and to give back to such a supportive community through service is incredibly important.

StephensStars.com - How will acting as a servant leader set the groundwork for a successful career and life after your time at Stephens College?
Mendoza - Striving to be a servant leader has helped me develop valuable skills that will certainly lend themselves well to future endeavors after Stephens College. I’ve discovered that seeking to understand the unique personalities of my teammates and the factors that can strengthen or undermine our team are very much in line with my goal of becoming a college counselor. Studying and observing the ways that my teams work best has helped me develop a keen eye for strengths and weaknesses, and acting upon those observations to help a teammate overcome a struggle or celebrate an accomplishment has helped develop my compassion for others. It has always been a joy to see my teammates and friends grow as athletes, as students, and as fellow leaders. My passion for understanding and helping those around me is something I hope to always carry with me, in both my career and my relationships with other people.

StephensStars.com: Who is one person that you look up to in regards to servant leadership?
Mendoza - An individual that I greatly admire in terms of her servant leadership is my advisor, Tina Parke-Sutherland. She has been a great source of knowledge, encouragement, and advice throughout my time at Stephens, and I have immense respect for the ways in which she serves Stephens College. Tina has been at Stephens for a very long time and has served as a leader in various capacities. Within her many roles she serves as a wise and seasoned leader, balancing the needs of her colleagues with the long-term vision to push Stephens and its students even further than we dreamed possible. She believes in Stephens. And we, as faculty and students, are challenged to believe as well. I’ve seen her passion for teaching and expanding our programs throughout the years, particularly in the way that she has been building up the Honors House Plan and has been determined to cultivate a Women’s Studies program. Her intense passion for educating the women at Stephens College is the reason why so many of us absolutely love our faculty and get so much out of our college education. Throughout it all, she is an excellent professor, advisor, colleague, and supporter of Stephens College, leading through serving with a selfless and compassionate heart.

StephensStars.com - What quote best describes the NAIA core value of servant leadership?
Mendoza - “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” - Philippians 2:3-4