Mentor/Mentee Retreat

As an LAS tradition, each year the Sophomore mentors and Freshman mentees travel to Eagle Village in Hersey, Michigan. This trip was meant to unite the 2014 and 2015 cohorts as well as allow the mentor/mentee couples to get to know each other and enjoy a fun weekend. The first activity we were almost immediately thrown into an indoor ropes course. I normally don’t shy away from challenges or heights, but once I ascended the ladder and stepped onto the first platform, I lost all my confidence. Luckily I had my mentor, Emma, right behind me to cheer me on. One of the first elements we encountered was wobbly, wood beam ladder. Emma went first and I followed. One of the facilitators challenged us to do it again but while only holding onto each others hands. Though we were hesitant, we decided to try it. It was honestly one of the scariest things I’ve ever attempted, but also extremely satisfying when we successfully completed it. It is these moments that make the mentor/mentee retreat to valuable. We made a connection on that course by only having each other to rely on.

Me and my mentor bonding at Eagle Village!

Me and my mentor bonding at Eagle Village!

Besides encouraging each other, we also encouraged other mentor/mentee pairs to complete obstacles as well. My roommates mentor, Natalie, was extremely terrified during the whole experience so at one point Emma and I stopped to coach/cheer her on past her obstacle. The amazing thing, watching Riley and Natalie complete the course, was Riley’s strength through the obstacles challenged Natalie to complete them as well. I think Natalie gained a lot by relying on her mentee, even though we assume it should be the other way around. This moment truly shows the power of friendship, leadership, and the impact the LAS program has.

Looking forward to the time when I return to Eagle Village with my own mentee, I hope we share the bonding experience Emma and I did. I hope she feels she can lean on me as much I as can lean on her. I not only want my mentee to feel connected to me, but connected to their cohort as well as mine. College is a wild experience and having 80+ people you know will always have your back is an amazing feelings, a feeling I hope they realize while on this retreat.

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Connections Conference 2015

Connections Conference is a 2 day leadership seminar hosted at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City by the Leadership Institute at Central Michigan University. Though it is an LAS protocol requirement, it is also open to all members of the university. This year we bussed 200 Central Michigan students and staff to participate in leadership development.Because this conference was meant as professional development, we were required to dress up. This was particularly fun for me because I love dressing up and you don’t have many excuses to in college! I would also like to thank the catering staff for the amazing food. My friends told me it was going to warm ham sandwiches all weekend and I was delightfully pleased with the 3 course meals.

Right off the bat, we were all randomly assigned into Institutes that would act as home base for the conference. This group and leaders focused on the asset/goals plan for us as leaders in our organizations on campus. They showed us how to set goals for our RSO at CMU, how to determine the assets we have to take advantage of, and the factors that have hindered our progress. This process is meant to create goals that we could take back to campus and implement and teach others.

The first educational session I attended was “It’s Not Me, It’s You” in which the topic was how to deal with difficult individuals in leadership, jobs, and life. I personally found this beneficial because there is never a time where you get to choose who you work with. Often times you have to bite your tongue and just survive. One of the things I took from this session was the process of addressing a conflict. My presenter stated, If something bothers you for more that 24 hours, you have 24 hours to then address it. If this time elapses, you must let it go. I never thought of frustration or annoyance as having an expiration date, but it completely makes sense. As leaders, we have to be able to continue to have meaningful and beneficial relationships with the people we work with so I believe this is a great philosophy for everyone to adopt.

One of the other sessions I enjoyed was presented by the one and only, Erin Gaken. First of all, her baby bump was absolutely adorable! Her presentation was “Men can Cry, Women Don’t Have To”, which was focused on gender stereotypes in the workplace. Typically, women are stereotyped as being emotionally driven, where as men are expected to be manly and less emotional. While Erin spoke, I realized how often I’ve accepted these stereotypes. But even so, I am an emotional woman and I enjoy men who can express emotion. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like it would relate to leadership, but on a deeper level, leaders must be accepting, understanding, and thoughtful. If we as leaders refuse to accept each individual for their character and personality, whether it be emotional or unemotional, weak or strong, feminine or manly, we cannot be effective. I found this to be most benefitial to me because I realized a stereotype I’ve been accepting and hope to adjust my mindset to accommodate all individuals as I am a leader of today.

To be honest, I didn’t anticipate making many strong bonds with anyone other than my cohort at Connections. But to my surprise, I met a man named Jack. To this day we talk on a daily basis and get lunch together or go to SAC together often. I really value Jack as a person, and I think he makes me a better person. Out of the whole weekend he is definitely my favorite part (yes, even over the water park), because I believe we will be long time friends. I think we were meant to meet each other to challenge each other, which is what the LI and the Connections Conference intended for us to experience.

Connections Conference 2015

Connections Conference 2015

PSY 100L: Humans and the Mind

One of the Leadership Advancement Scholarship required courses was Introduction to Psychology. This class was taken as a cohort, which are my personal favorites. On top of the fact that lectures are basically a none stop party, it’s great to have 40 other people to turn to for help. The ability to understand humans and what drives them is a huge part of leadership, as well as constantly seeking to further our knowledge of one another.

Though I enjoy the topic of Psychology, I didn’t particularly like this course. The first thing I learned is that it is extremely difficult to follow a lecture solely recited from a PowerPoint. The subject is so interesting I think my professor should have found a way to make it more engaging. As the semester came to a close, less and less people showed up for lecture because the course we majority self taught. The homework, however, was extremely effective as a study tool. I really liked the online program the course was run under. It had an online textbook, a dictionary for the course, and highlighting tools for the e-book. The homework also gives feedback on both the incorrect and correct responses. Of all the courses I’ve taken this semester I think I’ve retained the most in psychology.

Psychology plays into leadership more than most people might realize. Positive and negative reinforcers are used by leaders to encourage actions from their group members or to inhibit actions. We also have to take each persons sense of identity and personal characteristics like, race, religion, and demographic when leading because all these factors can affect how a person perceives your leadership and how receptive they will be to you. I think it is important for leaders to be knowledgeable in the study of human behavior because leadership in a way goes against that nature. We are all made to be independent beings, with free will and our own thoughts, so being a follower is often times difficult. Understanding the proper way to relate to others and communicate based on psychological theory and behavior is important to the success of any leader.

“Man can alter this life by altering his thinking.” -William James (American Psychologist)

Leadership Safari

2015 Leadership Safari

Leadership Safari is every CMU freshman’s dream. You get to move in early, roam around campus, and basically be independent from parents and responsibility for a whole week. I personally didn’t have the great safari experience I was told would have, though I did appreciate some of the events and also made a good friend.

Move in day went great! I got all settled in, met my roommates, met the neighbors, and was ready for safari to begin. Each year, Leadership Safari gets bigger and bigger each year and this year they had record breaking numbers. 2500 college freshman were coming to CMU for safari. I don’t think I had seen 2500 people at one time until I got here. I give credit to the facilitators of this event because I was unaware that most of the animals they used even existed. Some of them were even hard to pronounce! Throughout the week, they kept us busy with dance music; if I hadn’t already known all the words to “The Wobble” I definitely would have after the week of hearing it 6 times a day. *Please expand the playlist for next years participates for the sake of their sanity*

I was on team Polar Bear, and it was in this team I met my now good friend, Jessika. We immediately clicked because of our laid back, sarcastic humor. I give her most of the credit in helping me survive the long week that was Leadership Safari. My team really didn’t bond like I saw many of the other groups, so having Jessika to lean on was a God sent. My safari leader wasn’t the typical rainbows and sunshine you picture being at safari. Most of the week we sat around during down time because no one really wanted to play the pointless games he was required to suggest. Though we didn’t click on a real personal level, we were able to share some laughs. This particularly stood out to me because of how different we all were. But I guess that is the point, accepting others as they are and adapting to the awkward moments we are involuntarily thrown into. Leadership!! Besides Jessika I haven’t spoken to any of my group member since safari. I will wave or smile if I pass them on my way to class but that’s about it. My safari leader even avoids eye contact with me when I run into him.

Though everyone tells you how fun Leadership Safari is, they don’t tell you how exhausted you are going to be during and afterwards. Early mornings and late nights for five days definitely gives you a taste of the college life. They have you busy from sun up to sun down listening to speakers, doing team building activities, etc. I was slightly disappointed in the facilitation of the events, however. We were often times sitting around for hours on end with nothing to do after an event was let out early or if we were waiting for lunch. It was also extremely cold during safari and they didn’t have the proper accommodations for everyone, so we were forced to sit outside in the wind, rain, and cold. And because we are new college students they wanted to “keep us busy” for as long as possible to limit the amount of time we had to get into trouble. Because of this, I personally, and multiple other people, felt babied, not treated like adults, but as risky teenagers.

My favorite part of Leadership Safari was the acapella group on night one and the slam poets on the last night. This generation is that of acapella given the break out of the Pitch Perfect movies. It was super relevant and extremely entertaining. I was very impressed with all the entertainments acts provided at 2015 safari and would definitely suggest some returns. The Asia Project, one of the slam poetry acts, actually made me cry. Because I’m horrible at poetry I have a great respect for their craft first of all, and utter disbelief in the power of their craft and their words. As a future leader, I hope I have the power to affect people the way their 45 minute act affected me. Along, with these performers, there were also many speakers that had great messages. One man gave me a blow pop and told me to give it to the person I value most and appreciate without telling them why. Though my sucker didn’t make it to my person, it prompted me to tell her what she meant to me and that’s actually one of the nicest things you can do for someone, I learned.

A few major issues I had with Leadership Safari was the topic of a lot of the speakers. Many talked about sex and relationships and I don’t see the relevance to leadership. It was very frustrating to me because I couldn’t relate and it often became a joke to many of the participants, obviously, because what 18 year old doesn’t laugh at sex jokes, distracting from the message. Another problem I had was with safari was the volunteering activity. I take great pride in volunteering and was extremely offended by the effort put into this part of the week. We packed meals for the less fortunate in assembly line style. We spent more time learning how to package the food than we did actually doing it. I was in there for probably 5 minutes before I was corralled out. Many participates didn’t even get the opportunity. I would have preferred to spend my whole day doing the volunteering instead of the pointless games I was forced to play afterward. I think the safari coordinators need to revaluate what their message for the week is and how they plan to format leadership safari to fulfill that message.

 

COM 267L: Leadership Protocol Course in Debate

Communications 267L was a cohort class in debate. As leaders of today it is important that we know how to lead effectively and respectfully and part of that is being able to properly communicate our feelings and opinions. To be frank, I really disliked this course. It is not the essence of the course that I had an issue with, because I actually find debating and research to be interesting, it was the execution of the teaching.

I will leave the name of this professor out by calling him K. K was the professor for my specific class and we immediately got off to a rough start. He often times hindered learning by speaking to me and other as if we were unintelligent and was very argumentative in the opposite way you would expect a debate professor to communicate. We didn’t have our first debate until mid November, 12 weeks into the semester, with little background knowledge of debate and how to debate. We were thrown into research we had absolutely no knowledge of and when we asked questions in regards to the debate I often times found myself dosing off because K’s relies were completely irrelevant to the topics and questions and his tone towards his students made me cringe. All tests were open book, open note so I really didn’t learn anything, and even though I’m not planning on majoring in debate, it is extremely frustrating to sit in a class twice a week that you are getting absolutely nothing out of besides constant mocking and disrespect.

If there is anything I learned from the class it was internal. I realized, as my frustration for K increased, I had to learn how to bite my tongue, and understand that though I wish I could tell him exactly how I feel, it would do me no good. I learned how to not let my face reflect my emotions and consider myself slightly more in control of my frustrations. I also was very impressed with my fellow classmates in our ability to not let the debates and varying opinions affect our relationships outside of the class. I believe this shows what true leaders we all are because of our ability to leave class as good of friends as we had entered.