Bridgewater, VA. ‒ An important aspect of community life on Bridgewater College’s campus is engagement. This could entail engaging with other students, professors, or faculty on campus. This summer, Bridgewater hired a new administration member to oversee this ideal. Her name is Sam Schlernitzauer, the new Coordinator of Student Engagement and Leadership.
Born and raised in California, Schlernitzauer received her undergraduate and graduate education from Chapman University. During her undergrad years, Schlernitzauer participated in programs such as Hall Council, Residence Hall Association and the Student Union. She served as the chair and president of the Programming Board which planned events for the student body. These experiences led Schlernitzauer to pursue a graduate degree in Student Affairs.
Once Schlernitzauer saw an opening for a Coordinator of Student Engagement and Leadership at Bridgewater, she pursued the opportunity.
“Engagement is about making connections and building your identity,” said Schlernitzauer, who believes engagement goes beyond the classroom. “It’s about finding community, developing critical thinking and becoming culturally aware of your surroundings. Engagement provides you with the opportunity to become a more well-rounded, holistically developed person.”
Schlernitzauer said this growth of the individual comes not only through programming, but also through leadership opportunities.
“Leadership isn’t one sided. A lot of people think leaders are the people who stand in front of the room, but leaders can also be the people who follow.”
Schlernitzauer believes engagement and leadership exist together because of the opportunities provided through programming, which she argued is essential to the college experience because it teaches students how to become leaders.
According to Schlernitzauer, the most important quality for a leader to possess is respect.
“Regardless of the background you come from or the people you work with, you have to respect each other,” said Schlernitzauer. Ensuring there is mutual respect assures all ideas are valued and all people feel heard, which is a principle Schlernitzauer practices on a regular basis.
As Coordinator of Student Engagement and Leadership, Schlernitzauer acts as a representative for students. Schlernitzauer spends her day with club and organization leaders, Eagle Productions, Student Senate and commuter students. Interacting with many students helps Schlernitzauer understand different viewpoints of the students at Bridgewater.
“Because I work with students so closely, I get to hear how students are feeling, so I serve as a voice for students sometimes,” said Schlernitzauer. “I get to spend my day with students, and that’s my favorite part of my job.”
Transitioning from California to Bridgewater has been a tremendous change for Schlernitzauer, but she has no regrets. She loves her new occupation as Coordinator for Student Engagement and Leadership, and she is excited to serve Bridgewater College this year.