Unexpected turns led URI senior to Greek life, HDF major

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Leadership Studies minor pointed Richmond native in right direction

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 17, 2010 – Most college students determine their major, and then pick up minors along the way.

University of Rhode Island senior Steven Schuh did things the other way around. His Leadership Studies minor that led him to a degree in Human Development and Family Studies. He switched his major six times before finding the field that best suited him.

Schuh started as a pre-dental (microbiology) major, changed to biology and then again to biological manufacturing. For a spell he switched to accounting, then decided on business administration before finally realizing that he wanted to work in college administration.

“The one constant I had the whole time was the Leadership Studies minor,” said Schuh, a resident of Richmond who moved to Rhode Island from Connecticut when he was 10. “It took a little while for it to sink in, but I realized that my most meaningful experiences came from the interactions I had with other people, and the HDF major really suited me well.

“I am planning on entering the College Student Personnel program for my master’s degree, which seems like a natural fit. Doing the Leadership Studies minor and finding HDF was a blessing in disguise for me.”

That wasn’t the only surprise that awaited Schuh at URI. When he came in as a freshman, Schuh was determined to get involved on campus in several areas of life with one exception. He did not think the Greek system would be right for him. Yet, spurred on by the encouragement of fellow Chariho Regional High School graduate Jack Blanchette, he joined Sigma Pi.

“A good friend of mine took me under his wing when I was a freshman and encouraged me to check it out,” Schuh said. “I was living with 40 guys who became my closest friends. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade.”

Schuch didn’t just join the fraternity. He became the chapter president by his sophomore year.

“That was a difficult experience, because there were clearly a number of people who wanted me to take a leadership position, but there was also a big faction of guys who didn’t feel I had the seniority to be president at a young age,” Schuh said. “However, having a variety of interests and working with a number of different groups on campus helped me keep the role in perspective.”

Schuh also benefitted from the support of Stephen Simo, coordinator of Greek Affairs at URI.

“Steve and I certainly had our battles at times, but I learned a lot from him,” Schuh said.

The Greek experience had such an impact on Schuh’s college experience that he is going to continue working in the system after graduation. He has taken a job as a colony consultant helping young men who aspire to establish Sigma Pi chapters on campuses around the country.

Leadership and team building are natural fits for Schuh. In addition to his participation in Greek life, he served on the Memorial Union Board and spent his senior year as the Challenge Course Manager on the North Woods Challenge Course on the Kingston campus for the Center for Student Leadership Development. Through the encouragement of Melissa Boyd-Colvin, the Center’s assistant director for student leadership, Schuh began working for the ropes course in July 2009, organizing team-building exercises.

“That has been the best job I’ve ever had,” Schuh said of his time with the ropes course. “You see new groups, whether it be student organizations or executive board team members, and they come in not knowing much about each other. By the end of the day together, they develop teamwork skills and critical problem solving by working together. After four hours, they are friends who understand each other, and to see people grow like that is an incredible experience.”

He has seen an impressive growth in himself during his time at URI as well.

“The biggest thing I learned was to not be afraid to fail,” Schuh said. “Experience is the best teacher, and I feel as though I learned a lot here.”

Pictured above

Steven Schuh

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.