An honorable society on campus

By Ben Blakney, Technology Director

EWU’s chapter of The National Society of Leadership and Success, or NSLS, has officially sent out all of their applications for nominated EWU students. Going on its 5th year, the chapter is headed by President Elles Starke, and Advisor Romeal Watson.

In 2019, EWU inducted 88 students into its ranks. This year, they have introduced 269 new members, for a total of 466 inducted chapter members. Ninety-five percent of these members are Washington natives.

“What differs for [the Eastern Washington chapter] in particular is that we really build a sense of community with our members,” said Starke. “We really try to build in opportunities for the members to develop themselves.”

Since 2015, EWU’s NSLS chapter has provided its Cheney community with nearly 1,500 hours of community service. NSLS members, according to Starke, pride themselves on helping each other learn and grow.

“We really try to build in opportunities for the members to develop themselves.” -Elles Starke, NSLS President

Becoming a member of NSLS comes with a great deal of perks besides numerous chances to grow through collaboration. Scholarships, keynote speakers, insurance discounts and internships can all be expected as a member. The Society aims to be a beacon of personal growth and will assist its members on that path, confirmed by both Starke and Watson.

Interestingly enough, EWU’s NSLS chapter has seen impressive growth despite COVID-19’s effect on similar honors societies. Adding to their 1,753 active members, Starke projects the organization will grow by 300 this fall 2020 quarter.

“We have twice as many students as the largest group we’ve ever had come in at one term,” said Starke.

Prior to COVID-19 limitations, EWU’s NSLS chapter had already begun efforts to allow the organization to function remotely. The attempts were a success.

“Students are looking for ways, actively, to build onto their portfolios,” said Starke. “And because campuses are closed and maybe internships or jobs have been closed down, they are looking for those opportunities to still benefit remotely … Eastern’s [chapter] has had a growing number of distance learning students.”

Student working on a laptop. During COVID-19, Honors students will be meeting online.

Thanks to these advanced forays into distance learning, when COVID-19 shutdowns occurred, NSLS was already equipped to handle the online transition. Due to the small size of EWU’s chapter, typically its members were not able to attend national-level society legislature and conferences. Given EWU’s pre-existing satellite skillset, they were able to send two board members to the NSLS (Virtual) National Summit. 

This two-day event included “tons of networking, of that same spirit we see [developing] at the chapter level at Eastern,” said Starke, and is an opportunity not usually afforded to smaller societies.

“There was a lot of content provided that’s directly applicable to students’ lives,” said Starke. “[Content that helps]  them become better leaders in their community.”

Starke went on to mention how pre-COVID, NSLS was quick to offer her accommodations to maximize her success. NSLS allowed Starke to become a board member remotely (compared to in-person) because of her mobility-related disability. This ideology applies to all inducted members; they look out for each other. Students who live separate from the local chapter, or are concerned about COVID-19, are still able to fully engage with the society thanks to EWU’s advanced remote experience. 

Unfortunately, despite the massive turnout, many students were concerned that this organization was false. Many fake societies exist as a ploy to scam students out of “application fees” for nonexistent organizations.

Both Starke and Watson said nearly half of the new member orientation was devoted to proving the society’s legitimacy.

“It’s really a dedicated organization that’s focused on leadership and community involvement,” -Romeal Watson, NSLS Advisor

“It’s really a dedicated organization that’s focused on leadership and community involvement,” said Watson. He then emphasized that it was a student-led organization, heavily focused on student leadership and the achievement of goals.

Watson went on to describe the beneficial community with NSLS that he’s only needed to supervise; the students are the ones running the show.

“You can have larger, more robust goals,” said Watson. “And sometimes, in having those, it might mean you have to put in more work into it … so [EWU’s NSLS] has what’s called a Student Network Team (SNT) of three to four people, and the first thing they have to do is establish a set of goals that they would like to achieve in that given year …”

Following the formation of an SNT, members work together towards not only their own goals, but the ambitions of their teammates as well. Networking, providing insight and simply being available are all ways the SNT’s collaborate.

“There’s someone who can help you here, one way or another,” said Watson.

NSLS also takes pride in their connections to EWU’s diversity on campus, as they partnered with the Disability Studies program and others to host the 2019 Pacific and Western Disability Studies Symposium. Colleges from all around the globe had presenters on EWU’s campus for two days of seminars, presentations and breakout groups focusing on disability studies.

If a student feels they meet the criteria for membership, but have not received a nomination, an application does exist for the student in question to join the ranks of EWU’s NSLS.

“The best thing you can do is get involved in your own success is by seeking out people who can help [you] in [your] efforts,” said Watson. “As long as you’re doing that, and you get stuck, you can reach out to people who can actually help you. That’s going to increase your chances of really making it through this experience.”