Leadership Development

A Year in Review

College is weird. Growing up is weird. Life is just simply weird. This is ultimately what I have learned this year.

I don’t know what my expectations of college were but I can tell you I could not have imagined what I have experienced. School this year has been wonderful. I have cried. I have laughed. I have laughed until I cried. I have had so many new experiences. I am a completely different person than I was at the beginning of this school year. I absolutely loved myself and who I was when I came to school so this actually is weird for me to say. Why change things that are already good? Well because there is always room for growth. I am so different than I was before this year and I am so happy about it. I now know how to love as deeply as possible. I now know how important it is to make yourself uncomfortable sometimes. I now know that it can be a good thing to disagree with people, for how else would we really find out who we are and who we are not? I now know that people are so different and appreciating these differences is the most wonderful thing that this world could possibly do. I know that people and things change and this can be really hard but it is usually for the better. I have learned to open up; to hold the people close to you even tighter. I have learned ultimately that life is really good even when it doesn’t seem that way to the eye.

The people that I have been surrounded with are the reasons that I have learned the things that I have. I have found my people here at Central which is so so special and crazy considering the fact that I had no idea who most of these people were a year ago. These people are crazy weird. I have never met people this fun and open and truly genuine. I have been so blessed to call the people below some of my best friends. To start off, I’ll just start with my roomies.

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Allie is my person. This is something that I have known for much longer than the past year. Allie and I came into college as high school best friends and are leaving as lifelong best friends. After this year I really and truly think my life would end without Allie. Allie has taught me how to care so much while simultaneously being spontaneous as hell and doing whatever comes at you. Allie has her shit together. She doesn’t think she does, but compared to most people our age, she’s pretty much superwoman. We call her mom for good reason and that’s because she generally knows what the responsible and right thing to do is. The best part about this is that she’ll be standing right behind you to support you even if you choose to do the not-so-responsible thing. Allie is this spicy ray of sunshine that can be so brutally honest and tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear but also be the one to pick you up and push you further when you fall down. I think it is easy to be either the person who is always picking people up or the person who is always being real with everyone, but I think it is so special and amazing to be both of those people at the same time which is what Allie is to me. We don’t always see eye to eye but the friendship and bond that Allie and I have is completely unbreakable. I cannot see this life without Allie.

Now, Julia. Julia is just a ball of fun. Julia is the person that constantly reminds me that it is okay to do whatever the heck you want sometimes. Sometimes you need to stay up until 2am laughing just because even though you have an exam at 8am and that’s something that Julia reminds me. Julia has taught me that everyone is different but everyone is perfect. My favorite part about Julia is that she recognizes and constantly reminds those around her that we don’t have to do everything exactly right to be wonderful. Julia is understanding and genuinely cares about everyone around her. Julia is not afraid to be spontaneous and has a mind that is so deep and complex that she cannot focus on just one thing at a time. Julia wants to make everyone happy and wants to change the entire world all at once. Julia has so much passion and desire that she cannot contain it and this is what I admire from Julia the most. I only had the opportunity to live with Julia for one semester but I can tell you second semester was way more interesting than first and I can’t help but think that this is largely in part to Julia Nachman.

Anyone who lives in Barnes Hall also knows that I have some honorary roommates, also known as room 108. Room 109 and room 108 might as well have been combined because we all pretty much had entrance rights to each others rooms at all times anyways. Room 108 consisted of Kyle, Noah, Thomas, and Jake. I can honestly say these boys are some of the best friends that I have had and will have in my entire life.

I don’t even know where to start with Kyle. Kyle drives me absolutely nuts with his constant need to make noise and move but I wouldn’t change it for the world because he is my go-to when I need some entertainment. Kyle knows how to make people laugh. Kyle can twerk better than any girl I’ve ever known and also has the best impressions of anyone out there. Kyle is one of those people that you naturally just let go around. Kyle is the most sarcastic person I have ever met but after getting to know him and his sarcasm, I have learned that Kyle is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. Kyle has taught me to always shoot for the stars and to do whatever makes you happy.

Now, Noah. Where do I even start. Noah is like the one I go to when I need a light heart. Whether it’s some constructive criticism, just a late night conversation, or a person to make me laugh, Noah is so light-hearted and sincere about everything that he does. Noah has taught me that it is okay to say whatever you want to say but to think about what you say first. Noah has never said something that he doesn’t mean and he has never said anything without true knowledge and reason behind it which I respect so highly. Even when Noah and I do not see eye-to-eye, I respect what he has to say because he has thought it through and has valid reasoning to say what he is. Noah is thoughtful and kind. Noah is truly the kind of person that I hope that my future children grow up to be. Thank you Noah for teaching me how to work for what you want and how to constantly push yourself to be a better person even when you are already one of the most kind and generous people that I have ever met.

Thomas is just one of those people that you want to be around. Thomas has this innocence about him that draws you to him. People want to be around him because Thomas is fun, and reminds us that growing old is inevitable but growing up is a choice. I want to clarify that this is such an admirable thing. Thomas is in no way childish, he just knows when it’s okay to stop ‘adulting’. Thomas also sees the good in everything. I have always considered myself to be an optimistic person but since meeting Thomas, he has upped that bar. Thomas is the kind of person that will sit with you for hours just to try to make a bad situation seem good. He is the person that will tell you whatever you need to hear to make you smile. Thomas doesn’t do it on purpose and I’m not even sure he really knows that he does it, but Thomas constantly pushes those around him to do and be better.

Jake Eaton. Jake is one of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. When I first met Jake I could have never imagined the impact that he would have on me and my life. Jake is, for a lack of better words, real as hell. We all go through life meeting people and letting them see whatever it is that we choose to let them (which usually isn’t much at all). We then meet people that we open up and talk to about our lives and how the things that we are going through and dealing with are affecting us. And then sometimes, you meet people that pull the things out of you that you didn’t even know lived inside. This is what Jake Eaton is to me. Jake Eaton is unbelievably loyal and full of love. Jake Eaton cares more about other people than most. Jake has taught me that it is okay to let things out because that is the only way to get rid of them. Jake is the kind of person that you can sit up until sunrise with, talking about nothing and everything all at the same time. The friendship that I have made with Jake has taught me to see people as they are. Do not judge a book by its cover but do not assume that what is on the outside is necessarily different than what is on the inside either. Jake has an amazing ability to make people feel special. Whether it is a stranger he met on the street, or a long lost best friend, Jake can make you feel like the most important person in the world. I can honestly say that Jake Eaton is single-handedly one of the most down-to-earth and kind people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Our last honorary roomie that does not live in 108 or 109 is Lucas Gustafson. For anyone who knows Lucas, you can probably assume what I am about to say. Lucas Gustafson is the greatest person to walk this earth. I am absolutely certain that there is nothing in this world that could prevent Lucas from being able to make me smile. Lucas knows how to make people feel like they are worth his time. Lucas will do anything for anyone no matter what the consequences. I would trust Lucas with my life and people who do not know Lucas would think I’m crazy but anyone who has ever spent 10 minutes with him knows that there is no better person in this world to trust with your entire existence. Lucas has taught me that at the end of the day what matters is what you did to make someone else’s day/life better. Whether you simply made someone crack a smile or you changed their life, wake everyday with the intention to make a difference in someone else.

Next are the people that have been forced into my life by family trees and an everlasting love for cows. While I didn’t chose these people to walk into my life, I’ve never been more grateful for something than the fact that they did. Morgan, Susie, and Derek are three people that I could not imagine my crazy life without anymore.

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Morgan is my mentor. I talk about her in probably every blog post ever because she has had the biggest impact on me in the last nine months than anyone. Morgan truly is the person I wish I was. Morgan is beautiful inside and out. Morgan is amazingly talented and smart. Morgan has more wisdom than anyone I’ve ever met and she is one year older than I am. Morgan has taught me so much more than I could ever fit into a paragraph. The impact that Morgan has had in my life is something that will absolutely never go away and I will never forget. I don’t think that Morgan realizes that who she is is the kind of person that leaves a mark on every single persons life that she ever comes in contact with. I truly believe that if everyone had a Morgan in their life, this world would be such a different place.

Now, Derek Sturvist. Derek just speaks the truth. Derek will not hold back in his beliefs and I admire him more than he will ever know for this. Derek is the most passionate person I have, and believe that I will ever, meet in this life time. His passion shines through in everything he does. Derek also is one of those people that knows how to make someone feel wanted and special. Derek makes people feel like they have a purpose and like their existence generally matters to the destiny of this earth. While I’m not sure that he actually believes that sometimes, he has this ability to make others feel like they can do and accomplish whatever they want.

Susie. Oh my goodness. Susie is the person I wish I was but simply never will be because the personality that she has is one that you are either born with or you are not. Susie does what she wants when she wants but simultaneously does everything she does for the betterment of other people. Susie rode in a car with me for 10 hours last night when we had a research paper due this morning solely because I wanted to meet my mentee (Hannah who is absolutely amazing, but I will boast about her another time) but did not want to ride alone. Susie is dedicated and loyal. Susie says what she is thinking and does not hold back what she is feeling. Susie has taught me the meaning behind the phrase “you only live once” and it is that you literally have to do whatever the hell you want to do now because you may never get another chance to. I was absolutely blessed to have Susie walk into my life and I could never imagine my life without her.

So these are my people. These are the people that bring the best (and sometimes worst) out of me every single day and I could not be more thankful for every single one of them. Thank you for challenging me and showing me what it looks like to be an amazing person. Thank you for always giving me a shoulder to cry on, no matter the time of day. And thank you for being the kind of people that make this world better by simply existing.

The relationships and people that I have met here at CMU remind of the the Social Change Theory of leadership. This theory says that individuals bring their own personal skills and abilities to a group or relationship in which they can combine their skills and create something bigger than themselves. That is exactly what these relationships and people do every single day. I could not be who I am without them and who I am is someone that wants to impact something larger than myself. We could not have the impact on each others lives and the rest of the world without the skills that we individually bring out in each other.

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Community, Leadership Development, Leadership Training

Special Olympics LEAD Team

As a special education major, you can assume that I am obsessed with Special Olympics. Special Olympics is a way for people with disabilities to be active and have fun in a setting that focuses on them and their personal achievements. Ever since my freshman year of high school I have been volunteering with Special Olympics. I’ve always known that there are events and games that I still have not yet experienced but what I didn’t know is that there were more opportunities for these students than just on the track, in the pool, on the slopes, or in the bowling alley.

As a Leadership Advancement Scholar, we are asked to join a LEAD Team through the Leadership Institute. We are given many options of which teams we would like to join based on what each teams focus is and what you are interested in. OBVIOUSLY when I was told that Special Olympics was one of the options that we had, I had my heart set on it. When people asked me what I put down as my choices as we had to choose three in case some filled up, I told them Special Olympics. When they said “what about the other two”, I literally said “I don’t know I just really want Special Olympics”. That probably wasn’t the smartest thing I could have done but truly I just have such a passion for this organization.

What I didn’t know about the Special Olympics LEAD Team was…well, pretty much everything. When I was told that I got the Special Olympics LEAD Team I was ecstatic. Then I realized I didn’t even know what we would be doing. I assumed we would be volunteering at the Special Olympics events and just helping out with whatever they needed. I was wrong and as much as I would have loved doing all of those things, I’m happy that I was wrong because it opened me up to so many new things.

The Special Olympics LEAD Team was focused on putting on a Leadership Conference for both students with and without disabilities. HOW SMART AND AWESOME IS THIS??? I would have never thought that Special Olympics would put on an event like this. I thought Special Olympics just hosted sporting events and competitions but I was so wrong and I was amazed by this.

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Sometimes I forget that not everyone sees themselves as leaders because I see everyone else in that way. Having a conference to show these students that they are leaders regardless of any restrictions that they may have is so important. These students have the ability to make such a difference in their communities and the lives around them but they need people to teach them what that looks like, how they can do that, and to simply encourage them and show them that they are capable of this and that is what this leadership conference is all about. The students went through several activities, lectures and sessions that taught them about different aspects of leadership and how it only takes one person to make a change.

My role in this conference was to be a guide during the day. I had a group of students that my partner and I were responsible for during the day. We would walk them to and from each session and help facilitate during their activities. The most important part of our job as guides was to encourage them and help them take away what they were supposed to from each session. Making sure that they were having fun and understood the purpose of each activity and how it applied to them in their communities and schools was vital to this conference being a success.

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What I took away from this was just as important as what the students took away. First of all I got so many new experiences through this lead team. I have worked with students with disabilities and without disabilities in so many different environments but never in one like this. Gaining this experience of facilitating and managing groups of students in this atmosphere was so new and exciting for me. It also reminded me that EVERYONE needs reminders that they have the power to do the things that they want to. Society can put stereotypes on people and groups and even the people that fall under these stereotypes and groups forget that the limitations put on them are false.. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what circumstances you have, you can make as big or little of a difference that you want. I grew up just knowing this but not everyone has that. This conference reminded me that everyone has those abilities but some people need reminders of that. As a leader in society and an advocate for those specifically with special needs it is my job to be the person to give them those reminders and the tools to be the best that they can.

This conference is so important and just shows that Special Olympics will never fail to amaze. From this conference I now know what kinds of things people should know about leadership and that there truly are no limitations for anyone who wants to be a leader. This was such an important experience as a future educator specifically for students with special needs and I can’t wait to continue instilling these ideas and experiences in the students and advocates of special education around me.

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Leadership Development, Leadership Education

Leaders Connecting With Leaders

I think most people demonstrate leadership daily whether we realize it or not. Everyone takes lead at some point in society. Whether it is a mother raising her children or a father going to work to support his family, these are acts of leadership. The difference between people who realize they are leaders and people who do not see themselves as leaders makes a world of difference in the lives surrounding those people. For people who know that they are leaders, I think we can all agree that there is no moment where you realize this; it just happens.

For me, I always knew that I was a leader. I had always found myself stepping up and leading even when I was younger and I had grown up being told that I am a leader. I did however have a day when I realized that this actually makes a difference in the people that you surround. Even if you aren’t changing someones life, just being in the presence of a natural leader can change the atmosphere. I realized this the day that I listened to the 2016 Central Michigan girls soccer team speak to our Introduction to Leadership class.

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The captains of the girls soccer team came in to speak with us and automatically I connected with them. I was a captain of my high school soccer team. The difference between my soccer team and theirs was that theirs was very successful. The CMU girls team had a very good record and they owed their success in part to their captains for their leadership. My soccer team in high school was growing and very young so we weren’t as successful on the score board. I was however also a captain of my volleyball team in high school which was very successful in making it to the state semi-finals for two years. I could connect with them in this aspect as I had been on a team that really and truly didn’t need my skills on the court as much as my leadership abilities. I saw both aspects of the spectrum.

The captains of the soccer team said that in their role, they didn’t need to be controlling on the field; that’s not what the team needed. What the team needed was someone to create and maintain a positive atmosphere and relationships with each other. The captains told us that this was their biggest job, not to control the field. I found myself thinking back to my volleyball team where this was also my role. My team did not need me to tell them what to do, they needed me to encourage them and maintain a positive environment.

soccerI then began thinking to my soccer team in high school. When reflecting back, I did not see myself doing that as much as trying to help the team learn more about the game. At the time, I saw my role as making sure everyone knew what their job on the field was. Almost like a coach on the field. While I don’t think that the role I took on on this team was wrong because each team is different and needs different things from their leaders, I think that listening to the captains speak reminded me that their is also more than just a score board.

I think I did a very good job on my volleyball team as my role as captain. I gave my team the things that they needed to be successful. As a captain of my soccer team, I probably could have done more. It was important for me to help my younger teammates as much as I could on the field but I think I forgot to keep the positive fun environment. It is important as a leader to stay focused on the task at hand, but if you aren’t creating a positive atmosphere that makes people want to reach those goals then your goals become even further away from you.

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What I took away from the soccer team captains speaking is that it is important as a leader to evaluate the group/team in which you are working with and what they need from you as their leader. Sometimes people need you to just encourage and that’s it. Sometimes people need you to direct them and tell them exactly what to do and when. But a lot of the time, people need both. People need direction from their leader in what they should do but they also need encouragement in completing these tasks and goals.

After this lecture, my goal is to remember that each group, team, and individual needs different things from their leaders. In order to get the best from the people that you are leading, you need to create a relationship with them to figure out what exactly they are going to need from you in order to be the most successful. I would also like to self reflect on myself after working with a team to see if I did a good job in giving them what they need and what I could do differently to be even more successful.

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Community, Leadership Development

Kappa Delta Pi

As a Freshman in LAS we are asked to join at least one registered student organization. As you can imagine, a lot of us join more than one. Actually, most LAS kids end up joining way too many than they can possibly fit into one schedule and end up having to narrow down their choices. As a freshman I also joined many RSOs here at CMU. One organization that I joined and have already gotten so much out of is Kappa Delta Pi.

Kappa Delta Pi is a a national honors society for future educators. I am currently an honorary member in KDP because you cannot be a full member until you are in your sophomore year. In Kappa Delta Pi, we are given opportunities to do free professional development, discuss with other future educators about the field of education, and work hands on with students and in schools to gain more experience in the field.

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Kappa Delta Pi is so rewarding because it reminds you that education is fun. In today’s society, education is almost always thrown in the heat of things — and not in a good way, usually. Being in an organization that is focused on the positives of education and how we can make a difference in the classroom before during and after our career is so refreshing. I am constantly surrounded by people who are just as passionate about the same things as me and I think that this is something that is very important for a college student. Kappa Delta Pi does service events to help the community while simultaneously building out skills as future educators.

The event that I find so fun and beneficial is Literacy Alive. Literacy Alive is a week long event that Kappa Delta Pi puts on in the local schools around Mount Pleasant. Members of Kappa Delta Pi can go to the schools and read with the students. This is a really awesome thing because kids love it. Kids read every day in school but think back to when you were six years old and just learning to read; when new people come in your class you want to show them everything you can do. You were so excited to show off your skills. During Literacy Alive we are getting students excited about reading while also gaining skills in the classroom and getting hands on experience with the students. Being able to promote learning in a way that gets students excited is what education is all about and this is one of the really great things about Literacy Alive.

Another cool aspect to Kappa Delta Pi is that like Greek Life we have a Big-Little program. As an honorary member you cannot be a little yet, but you can be a mentee and receive a mentor. My mentor’s name is Michaela. I’m really excited that I got Michaela because Michaela is on the executive board as Treasurer of Kappa Delta Pi and I would eventually love to run for an executive board position. I hope that I can learn a lot from Michaela as an executive board member.

I am so excited to continue my experience in Kappa Delta Pi over the next few years here at CMU. Kappa Delta Pi has already given me so much knowledge and experience and I can only imagine the things that I will take away from KDP in the years to come.

Leadership Education

A New Kind of Debate

When I heard that I was required to take a debate course for my LAS protocol I immediately got scared. I don’t do conflict. When I think of debate I think of people stuck in their ways trying to convince each other to believe them but having no intentions of really listening to the other side. I was surprised when I walked into this class and on the very first day, Dr. Professor Cory Hillman elaborated that this class would consist of debate through reasoning and knowledge. I really enjoyed this class because it forced us all to think of things from both perspectives. In our debates we had to actually refute what the other person was saying. It was less argumentation and more discussion. I think that what I’ve taken out of this class mostly is to be open minded and see things from all points of view. I’ve learned to realize that there is not always a right way and sometimes there are equal pros and cons to both sides of an argument. Being forced out of my comf0rt zone to argue for things that I don’t necessarily agree with forced me to have to see the other side of an argument and realize that there are pros to everything even if I still don’t agree with it. Overall, I’ve learned being able to accept everyone’s opinion and views is a very very important part of being an effective leader.

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Leadership Education, Leadership Training

Start With Why

In our LDR100 class, we were split into groups of about eight people and given a book to read and relate to our leadership experiences. We were then asked to do a presentation for our class to teach them what our book was about and demonstrate the things that we learned. Our book was about starting with a purpose and not just the product. We discussed starting with WHY you are doing something rather than what you are doing. To demonstrate this, we took videos of our friends and family discussing who their role models were and why. This taught that you pick your friends and family for who they are rather than what they do. You start with why they are your model.

“If we all take some responsibility to start with WHY and inspire others to do the same, then, together, we can change the world”. -Simon Sinek

In the book, Simon Sinek discussed the importance of the golden circle. The golden circle is a demonstration of how you should make decisions in order to be an effective leader. You start from the inside and move out. So, you start with why you want to do something. You move to how you’re going to do something, and then you figure out exactly what you are going to do. This is proven to be how successful businesses like Apple run their business. By using the idea of starting with why when working in groups, you will be a more effective leader in whatever it is you’re doing.

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Leadership Development, Leadership Training

Mentor/Mentee Retreat

As a freshman in college, there are many things to look forward to in the first weeks of school. As a Leadership Advancement Scholar, there are even more things to look forward to in your first few weeks of school and there is one thing that us Freshman talk about for weeks… Mentor/Mentee Retreat.

One of the really special things about LAS is the Mentor/Mentee pairings that you receive throughout your college career. When you get accepted into LAS as a senior in high school, there is a process set up so that every incoming freshman receives a mentor throughout your college career. As a sophomore, you will receive your own mentee to help guide through their years here at CMU. This is one of the most fun parts of LAS.

Within the first few weeks of being at CMU, the freshman and sophomore mentor/mentee pairs go on a retreat weekend to Eagle Village to get to know their mentor/mentee and learn how to work with and support each other. This experience is something that I know I will never forget and I’m so excited to take my mentee to next year.

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My mentor is Morgan Clark. Morgan and I are a special duo because we are pretty much a hot mess all of the time. I actually had the opportunity to hangout and get to know Morgan before the retreat which made my experience so much more fun because I was already comfortable with and loved Morgan. We discovered before retreat that we have awful luck and are both physically incapable of doing anything remotely athletic so we knew that retreat would be a struggle. The best part is that we were excited to do it anyways.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Morgan at retreat and simply from having her in my life it is to push yourself. Like I said before, Morgan and I knew that we would struggle on most activities at retreat. I mean if it puts it in perspective for you, Morgan and I each counted 30+ bruises and scratches on our bodies after that weekend. But our motto was that if we were going to do bad, we might as well try our hardest. So yes, if there was a way to make any activity more difficult for us, we shrugged our sholders and and said “why not” even though there are a thousand reasons that two unathletic girls should not try to be athletic.

One way that Morgan and I pushed ourselves was rock climbing. I have not been rock climbing since age 6 and at gymnastics class.. I knew that this would not be easy. But we decided to do it anyways. And to make things better, we chose to tie ourselves together while climbing. If we’re going to go down hard, why not go down trying our hardest, am I right? The best part about this was that we actually didn’t fail. Morgan and I made it all the way to the top of the wall tied together. While it wasn’t easy and there were multiple times that the words “Morgan I literally can’t do it” came out of my mouth, Morgan continued to encourage me and help me figure out a way I could do it.

img_0030The next thing that we did that I’m still not quite sure how was “the wall”. The wall was an activity that we did with other mentor/mentee pairs where we have to get everyone over a giant wall using just our teammates. This may sound easy but let me tell ya…. no. While at this point Morgan and I had already said we don’t care what it is that we’re faced with this weekend, we’re trying everything, I really really did not think this one was going to happen. And to my surprise with these doubtful thoughts rolling through my head, Morgan volunteers to go first. This is a shining of example of where Morgan has taught me to step out of my comfort zone. Morgan knew how difficult this activity was in general but then she stepped out of her comfort zone and pushed herself to go first.

So if you ask me about my absolute most memorable moment from mentor mentee retreat, it would be the high ropes course. Morgan and I were both to say, at the least, scared as Hell. We tried to make jokes about it and laugh it out but lets be honest, nobody enjoys dangling in the air on cords trying to walk across thin ropes. So what did Morgan and I do? Well… we said we are already freaking out so why not just go all out and blindfold ourselves in the air too. Everyone told us how ridiculous we looked and how loud our screams were when we would fall because we could not see anything. We were also told good job for pushing ourselves to do things that we aren’t comfortable doing. I am extremely confident in saying that I would never have done that without Morgan and I’m so happy that we did. While there were times when being able to see would have helped us a lot, completing an obstacle successfully without seeing, I felt so accomplished doing something I never would have thought I could.

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One thing that Morgan and I tried that we didn’t necessarily excel in but I give us points for trying was the ladder in the high ropes course. The ladder was just a bunch of 4 by 4 pieces of wood hanging from cables in a ladder that dangled and swung from the ceiling. perfect-picWe saw it and, again, shrugged our shoulders and thought “why not”. There were 8 bars on this ladder from floor to ceiling. We made it to the fourth and while it was physically draining, our goal when starting was just to make it to the third bar. We really did almost give up. I mean really we sat on the third bar for twenty minutes contemplating attempting the next level. We then spent 30 minutes trying to get to the fourth. Then, when we decided that we had already exceeded our goals and wanted to go down, Morgan fell on the wrong side of the ladder and there was no way for us to get down except do it all over again so that her cord was on the right side of the ladder to be able to get down. Literally writing this blog right now I am laughing because we were so amused by the fact that we had to do it all over again that we just laughed for 10 minutes. We barely made it to the 4th level the first time.. how were we going to do it again.. Honestly this was a disaster and took way longer than it should have, but we did it. This taught me that when things go wrong, you laugh about it, and you pick yourself up and keep going. Although I think this ladder was where all 30+ bruises of ours came from and we were sore for the week following, this was the most fun part of mentor/mentee retreat.

I can honestly say that this was a weekend that I will never forget and I think that without this to start off my freshman year, I would not have had the same experience this first semester. I would not have pushed myself socially, academically, and physically in the ways that I have had I not learned from Morgan during the mentor/mentee retreat that I can literally do anything if I try.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” -Wayne Gretzky

 

Leadership Education, Leadership Training

Making a Connection

As a Freshman in LAS, we are taken to Central Michigan Universities Leadership Institute Connections Conference. The Connections Conference is held at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City (yes, we did get to play in the water park).

Going into Connections I really and truly had no idea what to expect. I was thinking something along the lines of a High School Leadership Conference; we all get lanyards and get in groups of people we don’t know, it’s awkward for a minute but then we all get really comfortable doing different leadership activities together. While it was kind of like this, it was not exactly.

When we first got to Connections we all went to our rooms to settle in for a minute, and then we went to this big ballroom where we had an introduction from the Leadership Institute. After the introduction we split into groups based on the ballroom written on our name tags (this I predicted). In the session we discussed some things dealing with leadership on campus and connecting with new people. After this meeting we went back and had dinner at tables based on a different sticker on our name tag (I was still right about the name tag thing I’d like to remind you). At dinner we had conversation cards that we used to get to know the other people at our table. It was really nice to get to know new people on campus and the different things that they’re interested in. After dinner it was water park time.. My mentor, Morgan was unable to go her freshman year, so she came this year with my cohort. Morgan and I spent most of our time obsessing over all of the babies in the water park and walking back and forth from the water slides and the hot tub. We left the water park to get ice cream and shower before we had to be back at the ballroom for a pizza speed dating. Here we just ate pizza and walked around and talked to people that we didn’t know trying to make connections with each other whether it be about leadership or our personal interests. I really liked this because it pushed me out of my comfort zone to meet new people and learn about their interests and passions on campus. After pizza and speed dating, it was time for bed.

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On the second day we woke up and had breakfast and then began our speaking sessions. This was the part that I had never experienced before and I really enjoyed. At every other conference I’d been to, everyone had the same speakers and whoever the conference had was what you got. At connections, there were about 5 different speakers for each of the four sessions. You were allowed to choose whichever speaker you wanted to listen to based on your interests and what you though would be most beneficial for you. After the session was up, five entirely new speakers would arrive and you would pick out of those five who you wanted to see. I really liked this because you were able to pick the speaker that interested you and benefited you the most. A lot of topics I’ve listened to people speak on a million times so it was nice to have options of things I might not have heard about yet. After lunch and those four sessions were over we met back with our original groups to discuss some more things about leadership on campus and how we can apply the things that we’d learned to our roles on campus and in our leadership positions.

Ultimately what I took away from from the Connections Conference is how making connections with people is the best way to learn about and accept the things that we do not understand in our lives. Everyday we see things and lets be honest you wonder what the point of something is or who would ever want to do or have that. Why would anyone ever want to join a squirrel watching club? Who would ever actually want to do that? Good question….. Here’s what I learned: ask. Ask why people are interested in what they are, why they do what they do; you’ll be surprised how much sense that makes and what you may be interested in as well. Try to make connections with the people you think you have no connections with because you will be so surprised.

 

Leadership Development, Leadership Education, Leadership Training

The Spark in My Eyes

As Anne Frank once said, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”. We all make the choices we make because to us, that is the best choice that we can make; that is the best you that you can be in that moment. The challenge we are all faced with daily is ‘is this it? Is this the best we can ever be’.

Let’s just be completely honest here; anyone who regularly attends leadership conferences rarely ever goes into it thinking that they will come out of it a new person with all of these new ideas and philosophies. Every conference pretty much hits the basic points in different ways; the importance of team work, identifying different leadership styles, communication, et cetera, et cetera. Here’s the reality of a leadership: you probably will not learn some great, brand new life changing idea by going to a conference, meeting, training or really anything. Here’s another reality: that does not mean that you are the best that you can be and you know all there is to know; you are never done growing.

I went into Spark Leadership with a pretty good idea of what to expect. First there would be an opening speaker that would motivate you to look deeper into the meaniimg_0518ng of the activities and things that you were about to do (BTW you did great as always, Dan Gaken). You would then get into smaller groups based on the information on your name tag (you know what I’m talking about, the one that always makes you feel a little bit more sophisticated than what you actually are) that you would spend the rest of the day with learning and growing in leadership. You would then do activities that are usually fun, scary, exciting, and frustrating all at the same time and debrief afterward about what you learned and took away from the activity. After having fun with your new friends you would have another speaker or two to remind you of the ways that these new skills can be exemplified in your daily life. At the end you would get your goodies (tshirts are my favorite), fill out some last minute surveys or paperwork for the conference, and say your goodbyes to the people you spent the day with. For anyone that attended Spark Leadership or really any kind of conference or training can probably back me up in saying that this is pretty average. Anyone who has ever been can also say that you will always come out better than what you started regardless of the numerous times you’ve already done any of the activities or heard any of the speakers.

I believe that you learn more from the people whom you go through the activities with than anything. People are different and this shines within leadership. People have different strengths and weaknesses. You are not the best at everything. For a competitive overachiever, this is something that I still struggle to accept and remind myself of everyday. Trainings like Spark Leadership remind me that THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. How lucky am I to be able to learn something from every single person I meet, in an environment where everyone is a stranger? There are endless opportunities to learn from others’ strengths and weaknesses at Spark Leadership and this is my absolute favorite part of anything ‘leadership’.

If you take anything from this blog, please take this: you will never grow to your full potential if you cannot be honest with yourself. Self reflection is a key part in learning and this is one of the biggest things that I took away from Spark Leadership. Look at yourself in the beginning and see your strengths; appreciate them and utilize them. Then, look at your weaknesses and embrace them. Embrace them in everything you can. A leadership training is meant to push those weaknesses and make you better. If you cannot look at yourself and say “okay, this is what I need to be better at”, how will you know when to push yourself. Before Spark Leadership, I recognized that trust and stepping out of my comfort zone is my biggest weakness. I know the areas in which I am good at and I like to stick to them. I am good at giving instruction, I am good at seeing all sides of a situation, I am good at taking charge. But what happens when I choose to ignore those things? What happens when I choose to embrace my weaknesses? Well, my weaknesses become stronger. At Spark Leadership we did an activity where we all had a partner. One of us was blindfolded and one was not. We were told that we were to go through this obstacle course but we were not told that it was filled with mouse traps (yes, they were real and set), randomly placed desks, creepy music, and the noise of random traps going off with our partner. The partner that was not blindfolded had to lead the other through the course without touching them but if they touched any of the obstacles they had to start over. Normally I would have jumped to the role of leading the partner through the course. I had no idea what the course looked like, I did not know my partner, and I had faith that I would be able to lead her easily through the course. Instead of doing this, I asked to be the one blindfolded. This scared me. Bad. I did not know what to expect of the course, who this girl was, or like the fact that I would not be able to see. I chose to do this because before the training I recognized that this was where my weaknesses lay. This is where I wanted to improve my abilities. Being able to recognize that I am not very good at these things and being able to push myself to improve on them is how you get the most out of anything. At Spark Leadership I stepped out of my comfort zone and improved myself because I was able to recognize my own weaknesses.

So yes, every choice that we make is the best choice that we can make with the knowledge and experiences that we have been given. Everything that we do is out of the best parts of our hearts and this I truly believe. Even the most poor decisions are innocent; they are the decisions we make because that is what we have learned to be the best. The decisions that we make now that seem genius may seem silly in five years but right now that is the best we know. The difference between the best decisions and the worst decisions are simply the experiences and knowledge that we have gained. Spark Leadership is one of the experiences that I have taken advantage of to become the best me that I can be.

Leadership Development, Leadership Education

Leadership Safari; Novices Ready to Learn

Novices; plural of novice- someone who is just beginning to do something; someone who is not yet a full member of a community. Synonyms: learner, beginner.

Leadership Safari is a four day program at the beginning of the year for incoming freshmen at Central Michigan University. At Leadership Safari, students have the opportunity to learn about the different aspects of leadership, how leadership is portrayed throughout campus at CMU, and to branch out of their comfort zone to new relationships and experiences. There is no other freshmen orientation that can even be compared to Leadership Safari.

At Leadership Safari, the participants were all broken into small groups of about ten participants and one student safari guide on the very first night. I did not know anyone in my group of black leopards, and I had no clue that I would spend the next four days learning about what kind of experience we were going to get here at CMU through tears, laughter, and anger. I had gone to countless leadership conferences in the past, by this time I thought I was a pro and had done all there was to do at a leadership conference, but I had no idea how all of the things that Safari has to offer can make such a huge impact on someone.

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Coming into this, we were all novices. We were new. Whether you had never attended a leadership conference, never been away from your parents for that long, or were just a new student at CMU this was a new experience for everyone. The truth is, I don’t think anyone came into this expecting what they got out.

Between talking about extremely personal topics with practically strangers, crying to slam poetry, and activities that show you who you really are, this week is hard. This week is exhausting. This week is uncomfortable. This week is sad. This week is happy. This week is only described in one word as “Safari”.

The toughest thing for me during this week was being pushed outside of my comfort zone. I try to hide it because I know that it is not a strength of mine, but I am very shy. I wouldn’t say I don’t like meeting new people or trying new things, but they scare me. Like I said, Safari is full of new things and new people. There is not one activity that you do where you don’t either try a new thing or meet a new person. So having to be out of my comfort zone this entire week was hard for me. I recognized this right away. I recognized within the first hour of Safari that this was going to be a challenge, so in everything that I did, I tried to figure out ways that I could push myself as far as I possibly could.

Recognizing ways that you can push yourself and others around you to be better is one of the most import parts of leadership. By being able to see your own strengths and weaknesses, you are able to act upon them to utilize your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. Safari was an amazing way to practice the skill of self evaluation and stepping out of your comfort zone because we were constantly doing things to push us to our highest potential.

Leadership Safari opened my eyes to the fact that there is always more to be learned. There is always more to benefit from. There is always more to do. Like I said, the number of leadership conferences I have attended in my years is probably close to record breaking (sorry I’m dramatic, I know). So coming into Safari, I had done a lot of the activities we did. I had heard almost anything that the speakers said somewhere, sometime before; but there was something different about hearing it in a place where everything and everyone is new. There is something to be said about an atmosphere where you are surrounded by people who are there because they want to make a difference. Being in a place like that makes you see things differently. It’s hard to explain, but you realize that there are so many things that are so much bigger than yourself and you start to hear things a little bit differently and start to see things through different eyes. Safari showed that no matter how many times you hear the same speech, no matter how many times you play the same game, no matter how many times you’ve done the trust fall, you are always looking at things from a different set of eyes than you did the last time and there is always more to be taken out of these things than what you may have gotten before.

Overall, Safari is definitely one of those things where you get out what you put in. It is however an experience that is impossible to not take anything out of. I would recommend Leadership Safari to any incoming freshmen. In fact, I think I may even go back next year as a Safari Guide because I’d like to help other freshmen have an as poignant experience as I had.