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.

Leadership Training

What Even is a Mentor??????

Being a mentor is something that honestly seems so complicated to me. What do I do with a mentee? When do I feed it? Water it? Take it for walks??? Okay I’m not that crazy but really like what does a mentor do? My mentor was literally everything for me. She was my best friend, my mom, my academic advisor, my personal counselor, etc. etc. I don’t really know how to be that.

After going through the mentor workshop, I realized one thing: you just have to be what your mentee needs. I was a disaster; I needed Morgan to be my lifeline. My mentee may need me to be their lifeline or they may just need me to be a cheerleader. Whatever it is that your mentee needs, that’s what your role as a mentor is. It doesn’t matter if you want to be best friends and take them everywhere and do everything with them, it is up to your mentee whether that is the relationship that they want. The catch is, you have to be the one to figure out what they want. You have to reach out to them and give them all of the tools to have access to the mentor they need and want. Really and truly, what I took away from the Mentor Workshop in LDR200L is that it is not about you anymore; it is about them.

Another realization that I had is that you can still get the mentor experience that you want even if it is not the mentee experience that your mentee wants. You can be a mentor to everyone. Maybe your mentee does not need you in the way that you want them to need you, but another mentee may need you the way that you want to be needed. You can be a mentor to everyone, not just your mentee. I think this is important to remember because you can get the experience that you want while also being the mentor that your mentee needs.

Community

Children with Hair Loss

I donated my hair for the third time in my life. It was scarier than the second time and the second time was scarier than the first, so I’ll guess that the fourth time will be even more scary than this time which oddly comforted me when on this long train of thought before the hair dresser chopped twelve inches off of my head. But now a little girl has a pretty wig and I hope she loves those twelve inches as much as I did.

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This doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is to me. I know how sad I was when I chose to cut those twelve inches off of my hair and still have another 8, so I can’t imagine how a little girl who has no choice but to not have any hair feels. My entire life my hair has made me feel pretty. When my hair looks good, I feel good. When my hair looks bad, I feel bad. That’s how my mind has always worked. This makes me so sad to think that maybe another girl out there feels that same way about her hair but she doesn’t have the choice to wake up tomorrow and curl it to feel pretty. Long-er hair is the most feminine part of a girl and the fact that there are girls who wake up and do not have the option to feel like a girl (which is damn-near the most empowering thing today, am I right ladies??) makes me want to cut off the other eight inches I have so that I can make another gal feel good again.

I would like to clarify that I am not trying to make the assumption or stereotype that girls are only pretty if they have long hair or that long hair is prettier, I just know that hair makes ME feel pretty, and I know I am not the only girl who feels that way. I just hope that in the case that if another little girl who feels this way about her hair has hair loss, she has the opportunity to get a wig and feel good about herself again.

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

“…Exit a Leader”

LAS in the D was an experience that I wish everyone had the opportunity to do. LAS in the D is considered a service trip. We are supposed to go and do things that service those in Detroit. I really and truly did not feel like this was a service trip. I felt like Detroit was doing things for us. Detroit was changing me more than I was changing it.

img_1557In Detroit our first stop was at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. At Jalen Rose we were split into groups and asked to help facilitate ice breakers with the high school students. Ultimately I thought that this was going to be cheesy and awkward but it actually turned out to be some of our students’ favorite parts. We were able to learn more about the students and make connections before we even began doing any real activities. After we spent some time getting to know our students we helped facilitate and participate in some activities working on teamwork and communication. These activities were actually a challenge for me because I found myself over participating in some of the activities. I had to keep reminding myself to let the students have their turn to lead. We then did some debriefing and after just a short time with the students we said our goodbyes and hit the bus.

We then were headed off to Quicken Loans in Detroit. The difference between Jalen Rose and Quicken Loans was outrageous to me. Quicken Loans was a very big expensive building with high security and such nice facilities where just 10 minutes before at Jalen Rose there weren’t very many nice buildings and things. At Quicken Loans we had the opportunity to hear a presentation from the Vice President  of Quicken Loans. He told us of the history and what Quicken Loans stands for and all of the different things that Quicken Loans is doing for Detroit. This was an absolutely amazing and eye opening experience. For the rest of the night we had the opportunity to hangout at the Detroit Institute of the Arts and spend the night and learn about the history of the Detroit Outdoor Adventure Center.

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In the morning, we woke up and packed out bags for Cass. Cass is a community organization which helps the homeless get back on their feet. They have kitchens to feed the homeless; donation centers of food, clothes, and housing items, for the homeless; and have a shop where they make rugs out of tires that have been dumped on the street that they sell to make money for the organization. The really cool thing about Cass is that they hire mostly the homeless people that they serve. They give the homeless  that second chance because most other companies won’t. Cass also has apartments that they rent out to their employees once they get enough money from working. Ultimately Cass takes people from the lowest of lows and slowly helps them to rebuild their own lives. Nothing is just handed to them but they are given the chance to earn the job and earn the apartment. Cass has many employees that are able to build a resume from working at Cass to help them get out into the workforce and get better paying jobs. This really touched me because nobody ever talks about all of these organizations that are doing amazing things and doing so much to rebuild Detroit and help the people become functioning members of the community. Bringing light to these organizations is so important in making Detroit the city that it deserves to be. LAS volunteered at Cass with these workers who were able to tell us their own stories of what Cass has done for them and I think that if everyone had that opportunity, Detroit would be so different in the eyes of those who have no idea what it really is.

In Detroit we had the opportunity to facilitate leadership activities at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, tour and learn about Quicken Loans, roam through the Detroit Institute of the Arts, stay at the Detroit Outdoor Adventure Center, and then spend our morning volunteering for Cass. With so many different opportunities to learn and grow, I find myself stuck on one moment of our trip.

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Ya know those moments in chick-flicks where the girl has the realization that she loves the boy and the world starts spinning and music starts playing? Yeah I had one of those moments except mine was while I was sitting on a dusty Detroit high school classroom floor and I just realized what I had known all along. In class the week before our trip we had to discuss why we did what we did. What we were passionate about. Ultimately what gets us out of bed in the morning. We then turned this into a why statement. Everyone had a different why statement because they were personal to your passions. My why statement is “Inspire others to find the beauty in everything and seek the things that make them the happiest”. The moment that I had my ‘moment’ was when I realized that I was living and preaching this all along and didn’t even realize it.

img_1598While debriefing about the activities that we had done at Jalen Rose with the students we all got to put in our advice and thoughts. I raised my hand and pointed out the fact that the thing that continuously kept the group going was their positivity. I told them that they just kept trying and having fun with it instead of getting frustrated and angry. I reminded that them we could relate this back to situations in real life and try to find the good in bad situations and have fun with the things that could frustrate us. After I was finished talking I had my moment. I realized that I was teaching students about the things that are most important to me. As someone who is so passionate about education and learning and wants to be a teacher to realize that I am sitting there teaching students about being positive and happy and all of the other things that I’m passionate about and that are important to me was so crazy. I realized that in that exact moment I was doing the things that are the most important to me.

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After the fact I realized that maybe I’d been actually instilling these thoughts and ideas in the people around me all along and didn’t even realize it. Maybe I had been living my passions this whole time before I really knew that those were the things that wake me up in the morning. Being in Detroit gave us so many opportunities to give, and while I think that I did do my part in giving back to Detroit, I think that I took so much more.

I hope to now be more aware of leaving my mark and the things that are important to me anywhere I go. Leaving a lasting mark and impact with the things that matter the most to me on the things that matter most to me was such an inspiring act and I hope to continue doing this from now on wherever I go.

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Leadership Development

Leadership is a Personal Definition

The question “does leadership start with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no'” is something that confuses me. What in the heck does that even mean? Well after about 30 minutes of pondering this I decided to just make of it whatever I felt made sense and then I realized that this was my answer to my question..

Leadership starts with a yes. Leadership starts with someone just deciding that they are going to do something. The first step to leadership and making a difference is to decide to do something; to say “yes”.

Saying that leadership starts with a “no” is not wrong. I don’t think this question really has a wrong answer I think it’s based solely on your perspective and personality. Those who say that leadership starts with a “no” are probably those driven by being told no. They are driven by being told that they cannot do something. That ultimately is not me and that is why FOR ME, leadership starts with yes. FOR ME leadership starts with positivity and encouragement. For me, others shooting positivity my way is the best way for leadership to shine. The word no shuts me down, but the word no motivates others and I think that this is such an important thing to remember when working with others.

Essentially I just think that this question is a personal question. I think that the answer truly should be different for everyone because not everyone is motivated and inspired by the same things. For me, leadership begins with “yes”.

Leadership is about the decisions you make, and the actions that you take each day. The world is waiting. Leadership is a choice-and it starts with you.” -Alyse Nelson