The sign on my office door says President, but for these first few months exploring my new role at Union College, it ought to have said Tourist-in-Chief. I’ve worked in Adventist education for more than 25 years. I thought I knew a lot about Union. I was wrong. As I’ve participated in student events, met with alumni and gotten to know my colleagues, I’ve been surprised and amazed by Union College.

It’s a bit like the difference between seeing a picture of the Rocky Mountains and actually standing on the shore of a mountain lake. Union College is an experience. It’s more a verb than a noun.

I’m still learning what it means “to experience Union College,” but I already know leadership is a central pillar of the definition.

I see it at every event I attend and in every department I visit: students leading.

At Project Impact, when approximately 750 student and employee volunteers served at more than 60 locations throughout Lincoln, they all looked to Inonge Kasagi, a senior social work major, for leadership.

At vespers on Friday nights, I know it’s all come together because of David Kabanje, a sophomore theology and social work major.

During the freshmen orientation weekend at the Carol Joy Holling Center, the Sabbath services were all student led, with freshmen students participating and up front, sharing testimonies and singing, mentored and guided by Abner Campos and J-Fiah Reeves, the student chaplains.

When I gave the first chapel talk of the year, it was Madison Waagner, the chapel coordinator, who helped me with the order of the program, who prayed with the group before chapel, and who sent me an amazing thank you card.

And at a Warrior volleyball game, it’s students like Emily Wood, a sophomore communication major, sitting in the director’s chair making sure parents and friends can watch at home on UCLive.

My first taste of Union College came when I checked into the Ortner Center before my campus interview in the spring. When I asked the Guest Services director a question, she pointed me to a student. “She’s in charge,” I was told. “I’m just here to make sure she has the support she needs.” I could go on and on about the ways I’ve seen students intentionally empowered to lead.

I’ve realized over the last few months that my job as president is to provide the resources and foster the unique environment that allows Union College to happen. In much the same way, you—the constituents of the Mid-America Union—make Union College possible through your prayers, gifts and other support. Thank you!

In this issue of OUTLOOK you’ll be introduced to a few more examples of Union College students who make this institution an action verb. These students are Union Colleging every day—bringing their educations to life through leadership, service and faith. They inspire me, and they are our future.

This article also appears in the November 2014 issue of OUTLOOK. It was written by Dr. Vinita Sauder, president of Union College.