Jake Meding ’12 spent a busy four years at Elmhurst College. The political science major led student and service organizations, helped build homes for the needy, and raised money for worthy causes. He was the president of the Student Government Association, president of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and a member of the College’s Advisory Council for Strategic Planning. His work on campus and beyond earned him the 2012 Senior of the Year award. Meding, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in college student affairs at Eastern Illinois University, told FYI that getting involved was the key to getting the most out of his time at Elmhurst.
In what ways do you think you’ve grown in the last four years?
I was just talking about this with a few of my friends. I think the biggest change is that I have become so much more confident. To become a leader, to help organize things, that was a big step and a drastic change for me.
Where did that newfound confidence come from?
It came from other people seeing abilities in me, and pushing me to do more. I remember as a freshman being voted onto the Student Government Association board by upperclassmen. That was a big deal to me. It built my confidence and made me want to fulfill their expectations of me.
Why was it important for you to be active on campus?
From the beginning, I knew I wanted college to be different from high school, where I’d basically just run cross country and track. I wanted to be more involved. I was fortunate because my sister, Brittany, came to Elmhurst three years ahead of me and she was very involved on campus. So I got to know people through her and they all encouraged me to get into student government. I’m so glad I did. The people I met through student organizations are going to be my friends for the rest of my life.
You were engaged in a lot of student service projects. Can you tell me about one that was especially important to you?
One of my goals was to get the campus community working together. For example, my fraternity worked with the Niebuhr Center’s Partners for Peace program on a food drive. We collected more than 2,000 pounds of food from around the neighborhood. I remember Ron Beauchamp [director of the Niebuhr Center] calling to tell me how amazed he was at the work we’d done. I like the idea of connecting diOerent student organizations to meet a need.
Your fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, received the College’s Chapter of Excellence award. Was that gratifying?
It’s one of the things I’m most proud of. I always said, “We’re going to do twice as much work as anyone on campus, and we’re going to smile the whole time.” That’s what we did, and
it never felt like work, because we were doing it with people we loved hanging out with. That always makes it fun.
What about your studies? Tell me about a memorable class or teacher.
I took a class in American political parties with Lee Daniels [an Elmhurst professor and former speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives]. We looked at how political parties got started and how they evolved. What was great was the way he brought his inside perspective to the class, and was able to say, “This is how it really works.” That made it a great class.
You’re now pursuing a master’s degree in college student affairs. What inspired your interest in that field?
My experience at Elmhurst. I learned so much, and now I want to help other people get the most out of their college experience. For my thesis I’m going to look at why college dropout rates for men are greater than for women and why men’s rates of engagement and success are lower than women’s. I want to know: Why are men falling behind?
What advice would you give a student starting at Elmhurst?
I actually have a cousin who is thinking about coming to Elmhurst. I told her that if you want to just go to class and show up, you can do that, but the best way is to get involved. And when I say get involved, I mean really get involved. Go to the meetings and try to make a difference, try to make things better. Try to make your own college experience better.