Benardo Dargan: Creating a legacy by building leaders
Finding purpose within your career is not always an easy task, but when discovered, can result in great success and fulfillment. Benardo Dargan is one who has found the path to purpose within his career — in building leaders. In his role as director of student development at Clemson, Dargan shares that developing strong student leadership begins by supporting his staff.
“Because one of the things I think is critically important, in terms of really looking at the model of leadership, is that I reflect what it is that I believe is leadership; that I am able to support my staff in ways that are important for them to be able to do their work with students,” Dargan says.
Hanging on the wall in Dargan’s office is a famous quote by Mahatma Ghandi that says, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Expanding on this idea, Dargan says that living forever through learning is creating a legacy for yourself. He says the focus on students is important (it’s what we do), but the focus is on staff is also vital to success. Dargan says, “To be fully healthy, connected and engaged with them [students] we have to be in tune to who we are.”
Since July 2011, his role as an administrator has evolved and he has had the privilege of working with almost every area of the Gantt Center for Student Life, including the four areas he currently supports: Leadership Learning, Student Media, Student Organizations and Clubs, Civic Engagement as well as the advisement of Graduate Student Government. These areas are just a few of the programs within the Gantt Center for Student Life, which focuses on student development. Dargan’s administrative role is to provide leadership, training and to students, as well as the associate directors of student development programs, who provide students with stepping-stones in their journey to become effective leaders not only in diversity, but also in other areas.
The idea of cultivating diverse learning experiences for Clemson’s students is dependent upon all of the areas in which the Gantt Center for Student Life oversees. Dargan says they all work together to provide a holistic student experience and integrate ethical leadership into all aspects of their daily lives. He says, “One of the things that I’ve been impressed with since I’ve been here [at Clemson] are the stories I hear from others about our students; the constant positive feedback I hear about Clemson students who are doing internships or newly employed and how we’ve built great leaders here. In my role, personally, I feel I am not doing my job if I’m not providing a good balance of challenge and support to students.”
Dargan knows from firsthand experience how this support is a key part of guiding students toward success. He began his path as an undergrad at South Carolina State University and says it was the best experience of his life. Dargan says his experience was enriched, in part, because of the multicultural (both domestic and international) faculty that taught him in his own journey to leadership. He left feeling like he could conquer the world because he felt he was given the tools he needed to be successful.
Although he was a music education major and spent time in his early career as a band director in the public school system, Dargan knew he wanted to do more and work with college students to give them the tools they would need to succeed. After receiving a master’s degree in student affairs administration from Michigan State University, Dargan’s professional experience in international and multicultural programs to his current position as director of student development has given him insight into what leadership is all about. Through his work in the Gantt Center, Dargan is creating a legacy and helping to build future generations of Clemson leaders.
–Ashley Hall, Class of 2015