Drew Dudley, Coordinator of the Leadership Development Program at UTSC, has decided to leave the university after seven years of building leadership and community at UTSC.
National Chair of Shinerama, co-founder of Conduct Becoming Canada and first ever chair of “Million Dollar Youth,” Drew attended Mount Allison university in Sackville, New Brunswick. With an aversion to big cities, Toronto was never on the list when Drew began applying for jobs. He doesn’t remember why he applied for a job in Advancement at UTSC. After initial doubts on the part of the hiring committee, they gave Drew a chance and were happy with his interview.
When Drew joined Student Affairs as Coordinator of Student Development he was in charge of campus groups and leadership. Too big to accomplish together, leadership was put on hold while he restructured the way campus groups operated.
In November 2005, Drew was invited to be a part of the Leadership at Allison speaker series, which he had been a part of as a student. It was the first time he gave a leadership talk in front of a large crowd. “It turns out I was good at it,” says Drew. “So when I moved to student life, I [put] all those elements together, and it was so well received, that we knew we had to stay at it.”
The university then hired staff to take over campus groups, and Drew managed to focus on the leadership development program.
This program focuses on making sure students leave with more than just a degree. Divided into five categories, students attend several talk, workshops, and discussions. The Inside the Leader’s Circle, in which Drew interviews influential personalities like Peter Mansbridge, Adria Vasil, Douglas Coupland and Jeff Rubin, is the most popular series.
Leadership is a significant factor for Drew, who says he always wants to find ways to get better. “It [is] a drive to want to be better, happier, have more of an impact. I always enjoyed being a part of something that makes a difference. With leadership it’s making a difference in your life and hoping that it makes a difference in others.”
Asked where his inspiration comes from, Drew says it’s mostly from the students. “My inspiration comes from the idea that what I’m doing makes a difference to people.” However, he says, it’s a struggle.
“It’s the weirdest balance. I love it when people say I’m an inspiration but I have never been able to wrap my head around the idea that I deserve that. I see myself as such a screw up […] that I get inspired to be what the people in the audience think I am. I will never be better than when I’m speaking. That’s the best Drew there is.”
Drew cites an inspiring reason for leaving UTSC. He tells a story about his friend Alison who dropped out of university several times until she found a place that was right for her.
“What made Alison so spectacular was that she had the courage to keep making changes until she had the life that she deserved, and I was telling this story to a group of students in Calgary in June and a voice in my head when I said it said you’re a hypocrite. I couldn’t shake it. I realized I wasn’t happy.”
“I was telling people to have the courage to make changes in their lives until they were happy, and I wasn’t doing it [and] I realized I couldn’t go back up on stage again until I did it.”
“There [is] no step forward [at UTSC] and I need to get better. I realized there was happiness out there for me and […] I was too scared to go chase it, and that was inconsistent with what I was telling people.”
Drew’s job is yet to be filled, though Hamza Khan, who has worked with Drew, will take over until the end of September. “I did the best I could on the way out to make sure that my leaving would have as small an impact as possible,” he says.
Since his decision to leave, Drew has set up the company Nuance Leadership, where he hopes to host weekly workshops at several schools. He has also applied to speak at TEDx Toronto, and is waiting to hear back.
Having invested so much into the leadership program, Drew thinks it’s time to accomplish more outside of his work. “Follow your heart, follow your dream, you can do whatever you think you can and when you do so it has a positive impact on others. This is my version of living up to the message I gave for a while. And I’m not saying I didn’t do that but I think I can do it better.”