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My greatest challenge as the grand marshal

By Advaith Narayan November 6, 2020

I have recently been very introspective of my motivations, challenges, and education throughout my college experience. After thinking about it, I finally identified my greatest challenge as the grand marshal. I have been absolutely elated to learn so much about myself but I have also found myself facing a dilemma. This week, I would like to share with you what this challenge is and how I approach it.

As the highest elected student official at Rensselaer, I need to lead the Student Senate and represent the student body in efforts to see to the embetterment of the student experience. This task seems simple enough, but the issue is that I am only in office for a year and with only four years of experience . Looking at the big picture, four years is not a lot of time to address all the grand challenges and efforts we wish to undertake here. So, to maximize the likelihood of achieving the goals most important to the student body, I need to spend enough time to train other, younger members of Student Government to ensure that they can continue to be successful and effectively lead after my term ends and after I leave RPI. This responsibility to train the future generation is my greatest challenge as the GM.

The result of this responsibility is that I must balance the operational excellence of my team with mentorship of future leaders by embracing mistakes as a function of growth. There is no doubt that learning in such an environment is extremely valuable and fosters growth. Such a practical learning experience is also a great investment in the future because it breeds deep rooted knowledge and expertise that can carry on for years to come. However, allowing for such an environment often comes at the cost of effectiveness and excellence in the moment. There simply isn’t enough time in the day nor in my term to fully embrace mistakes for every single issue we face because some things are urgent and of the utmost importance for the wellbeing of the student body. However, I cannot ignore my role as a mentor for other student leaders because that would be doing them, and the future student body, a major disservice—and thus, my dilemma.

Managing these two duties is a delicate balancing act. I am always considering the priority of the topic at hand and the opportunity cost of embracing this topic as a full learning opportunity and risking diminishing the efficacy of our actions. The decision is not always as dire or black and white—for most of the regular work being done, there is plenty of room for embracing mistakes while still preserving our operational excellence. But oftentimes, the best learning opportunities arise from the most important issues we face. Navigating those opportunities is when I am challenged most.

Through reflection and while regularly facing this challenge, I have been working to make my problem solving process more effective and less taxing on myself and others. I have found it useful to look back on defining moments of my time in student government, thinking about my best learning opportunities and what was at stake then. This allows me to look at the situation through different lenses, not just as the GM. I encourage you to reflect on responsibilities in your own life to identify your challenges in order to tackle them more effectively.