In the Spotlight

As part of my Leader Advancement Scholarship Protocol, I was given the opportunity to be on a LEAD Team.  There are a number different LEAD Teams that are available to us through the Leadership Institute, and this year, I had the privilege of working with the Spotlight team.  Spotlight was an exciting opportunity because it was a brand new team for the 2015-16 academic year.  Our team consisted of nine members – two sophomores and seven freshmen – headed by my mentor, Connor Ewald.

Connor and meBecause nothing like this team had ever previously existed on campus, we were given the challenge of building up Spotlight from scratch.  At our first few meetings of the year, the group got together and set a list of goals that we wanted to accomplish as a team before the year was over.  Among these goals were to be able to highlight and recognize specific groups and individuals within the Leadership Institute for their work and achievements in a variety of ways.  Each individual Spotlight was posted on the CMU Leadership Institute’s social media pages with the hashtag “Shine Greatness.”

Two notable accomplishments of our Spotlight team included Appreciation Week and the Mentor of the Year Award.  Appreciation Week actually took place over the duration of two weeks, during which time we set aside a specific day for each person within the Leadership Institute who was to be recognized including staff, volunteers, and students.  The Mentor of the Year Award, which I had the privilege of presenting to the winner at the LAS Grad Ball on April 8th, is a new award created by the Spotlight team to recognize one member of the 2016 LAS Cohort for their outstanding influence as a mentor and involvement in the Leadership Institute.  The Spotlight team collectively created a survey to be taken by the 2015 LAS Cohort which consisted of a series of questions asking for each freshman’s opinion about which of the mentors should receive the award and why.  The 2016 Mentor of the Year Award recipient was Carly Dilbert, mentor of both Rachel Kremm and Hayley Dymond.

Spotlight was such a great opportunity for me, and I believed that it helped me to grow as a leader.  From the members of the team itself to the accomplishments we met, I am blessed to have been a part of this LEAD Team.  It was so rewarding to see all of our work begin to fall into place as we began Spotlighting, and it was a great chance to give back by letting others know that they are recognized and appreciated.


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LDR 200L

This year as a part of both the Leadership Minor and LAS Protocol, my cohort and I took Leadership 200L Introduction to Leadership.  In class, each one of us was placed into two separate groups – one for facilitating an initiative, and the other for presenting a workshop to the class.  This class taught me many things from how to effectively and confidently facilitate activities to a variety of leadership theories that are very practical and applicable in my everyday life.  Through this class, I learned more about myself and my personal style as a leader, as well as how to adapt to the needs of others and put others before myself.

I was a part of the Communication Initiative, along with three of my classmates.  During our initiative, we created a two-part activity for the class to participate in.  For the first part, we informed the class that they were all passengers on the titanic, which was beginning to sink.  The lifeboats needed to be filled according to the passengers’ birthdays, however the alarms were too loud to hear over, so everyone had to line up accordingly without talking before the ship sank.  After this, we jumped right into our second activity which consisted of explaining to the class that they were all committee heads from all over the world for the upcoming Olympics. Everything was going according to plan, until disaster stuck and all of the translators got sick at the last minute, so no replacements were ready to take over.  But the Olympics must still go on, so each person was given the challenge of effectively describing the sport that they wanted to be in the next Olympics and form groups with others who were also communicating that they wanted that sport to be in the Olympics as well.  The activities were then followed by a debriefing session that focused on the challenges that can arise from communication barriers and how to overcome them, as well as the importance of effective communication in just about any situation that we encounter – both verbally and nonverbally.

I also was a part of a workshop group that presented the Path-Goal Leadership Theory to the class.  The Path-Goal Leadership Theory first appeared in leadership literature in the early 1970s in the main works of Robert J. House, and is primarily about how leaders motivate followers to accomplish designated goals.  The goal of this leadership theory is to enhance follower performance and follower satisfaction by focusing on follower motivation through defining goals, clarifying paths, removing obstacles, and providing support.  We also touched on the four different kinds of leadership as mentioned by the theory: Direct, Supportive, Achievement-Oriented, and Participative.  During the workshop, we facilitated an activity for the class called “Pin the Trait on the Leader” which focused on each of these types of leadership styles by dividing the class into groups and providing them with a list of leadership characteristics and asking each group to place the characteristic on a picture hung around the room.  We then followed up with a debriefing session explaining that there was no one style that was better than another, but that depending on the situation it is important to be able to recognize what the needs of the followers are and how to best adapt in that situation in order to accomplish the designated goal by putting the followers first.

This class has helped me to become a more effective leader because it not only made me more aware of my myself and my personal leadership style, but it also helped me to understand that in my everyday life I need to be continuously aware and mindful of what others’ needs are.  This will allow me to adapt my personal style in the future so that I will be better equipped to handle any situation, whether it seems to be something small that is relatively easy to handle, or a situation that may present challenges.  Moving forward, I will use what I have learned about leadership by applying it to my everyday life on both a small and a large scale, because what I have learned is not only very relevant to me and my will be useful within my involvements, but it is also very practical, and I am aware that these skills will benefit me both now and later on in life as I continue to grow as a leader.

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LAS in the D

Before our service trip to Detroit, I had a lot of excitement and anticipation for what was to happen on the trip.  In fact, I wrote an entire pre-service trip blog reflection about it before we went!  LAS in the D was an experience that I will never forget.  This trip lived up to my expectations, and will serve as a future reminder to continue serving and giving back.

We began our service at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, where my group of five facilitators was paired with three JRLA students.  When we first met with our groups, we were given a challenge of coming up with a team chant and participating in ice-breakers to get to know each other.  Following this, our service projects with the students consisted of four separate sessions: Cards for Veterans, the Children’s Hospital, Special Olympics Michigan, and OK2SAY.  I was in charge of facilitating the activity for SOMI, in which we made signs for each athlete who will be participating in the 2016 Special Olympics Summer games that will be held on CMU’s campus.  Since the athletes stay in the residence halls for the duration of the games, the signs that we made will be hung in the halls for the athletes to see.  I began facilitating the activity by asking if any of the students had ever heard of Special Olympics before.  They had not.  So I began explaining what SOMI is and what they do, and while I was explaining I noticed one student’s face light up.  All three of the students were listening to me speak, however this student was wholly attentive, and seemed genuinely excited about what I had to say, though he said nothing.  I then went on to explain the SpRead the WoRd to End the WoRd campaign, which the students were also not familiar with.  At the end of my presentation, I told the students that, if they wished, they had the option of signing the pledge to participate in the campaign to promote respect instead of the use of the “R word” as an insult.  I then sat down and began to work on the signs with the students, when I noticed the same boy that had held my gaze earlier in the presentation.  He had gotten up in silence, signed the pledge, and sat back down, smiling.  The way this student’s face lit up, I will always remember.  I could see that he was genuinely excited, and that he understood that he would be making a difference by making his decision.  That is what service is all about.

Following our visit to the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, we were taken to Pizzapapalis for dinner, which I was looking forward to because I had been there multiple times previously and knew fully well how good the food was going to be.  When we got there, we were surprised with a few LAS Alumni who had come to share dinner with us as well.  I had the opportunity to catch up with some of the alumni that I hadn’t seen in awhile, as well as the privilege to meet and speak with alumni I had never met before.  After dinner, we were then able to spend two hours at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which I was very excited for because I had never been there before.  The only downside to the DIA was that I wish we had more time!  I saw so many beautiful, historic, and unique pieces of work, but there was still so much more that I wish I would have been able to see.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the DIA, and I hope that sometime soon I will be able to go back and spend time to see all I had missed.

LAS in the DAt night, we stayed at the DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center in Downtown Detroit.  The building itself had a very rich history, but was newly renovated in order to better serve its purpose for the DNR bringing “up north” to downtown Detroit.  We were given time to relax and explore the building, which was then followed by and intensive debriefing session.  I think that this was a great opportunity to not only share my experiences from the day, but enrich and expand on my experience by hearing what my group members had to say and by diving into very meaningful conversations that helped me to personally reflect on my day and that allowed me to carry over what I had learned into the following day as well.

The next morning, LAS went to Cass Community Social Services.  I learned a lot about Cass as an organization, but what stood out to me the most was that Cass employs people who are homeless and people who have gotten out of prison, providing each of them with food, jobs, skill training, and places to stay, allowing people to get back on their feet.  I think that that is absolutely awesome.  Among the service that my cohort did at Cass was volunteering at the soup kitchen and shelter, making mats and shoes out of recycled tires, and working at the paper recycling center, which is where my group and I volunteered.  At the paper recycling center, we walked into a room with mounds of documents – both shredded and unshredded – and it was apparent that there was a lot of work to be done.  The majority of us were standing along a conveyor belt, during which time we sorted papers, separating white papers from colorful papers and filling separate bins for each.  The people who were not working on the conveyor belt were operating the massive shredder.  I really enjoyed volunteering at the paper recycling center because my group had a great bonding experience and we made our work a lot of fun.

The key to having a successful service trip is not only going into it with an open mind, but also remembering on a daily basis the service that has been done.  So easily we allow ourselves to slip back into our daily routines and become comfortable with what is familiar to us instead of challenging ourselves to grow and continuing to give back.  We need to remember our challenges, feelings, relationships, actions, and take-aways that have resulted from our service and continue to grow and challenge ourselves through a continuation of service.  A service trip is not meant to be a memory of an experience we have had, but a constant reminder to put others before ourselves and continue to do more by giving back to others.

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Political Science

How did I end up in this class?  This was the first question that I asked myself in regards to PSC 105L, a required class for both the Leadership Minor and LAS Protocol.  You might be wondering, “Kendall, if it’s a required class, why are you wondering why you’re there?”  Here’s why.  Originally, I was scheduled to take HST 110L, which is a History class that is also a requirement for both my minor and protocol, but I was supposed to take this class with my cohort.  Because of the size of our cohort this year however, our scholarship director Dan Gaken asked if a few of us would be willing to switch classes because there were too many people enrolled in that class already.  I was one of these volunteers.  Instead of taking a protocol class with my  own cohort, there were a few members of my class that joined the sophomore cohort in Political Science.

One thing that I really enjoyed as a part of this class was an optional discussion group that we could choose to be a part of for extra credit.  These groups were held on four different Tuesdays during our regularly scheduled class times, however during these classes, our professor, Thomas Stewart, did not attend class.  Instead, four Graduate Assistants took charge of the hour by breaking us into our discussion groups.  In preparation for each meeting time, we were asked to read online articles containing various information about police brutality including current headlining news stories, statistics, and legal actions that have been implemented in attempt to correct the problems.  Our job as a group consisted of discussing the key issues we were presented with, and how we would go about solving the problems.  At the end of each session, each group wrote a resolution outlining all the main topics of that particular discussion and how the group would correct those problems. For example, at one of the discussion sessions, my group wrote an extensive resolution about the implementation of body cameras within the police force in selected areas of the country, and a process for educating the public on their rights and responsibilities as citizens in attempt to bridge the gap between the police force and the public.  I found the discussion groups very beneficial because it showed me that any small number of individuals have the opportunity to make a great impact on the world at any level, which empowers young leaders to become more involved with current social issues that we are faced with in the world today, and through these groups, we were also educated on how to do so.  I found this experience to be a great resource for leaders because the group leaders encouraged us to understand  and pinpoint the source of large problems and target them with action in order to obtain specific solutions.  Leadership is inspiring change in the world, and I believe through these discussion groups, we were inspired to influence social issues by being given the tools and information to do so.

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Before the 313

When most people I know say that they have been to Detroit, they are referring to going to a Tiger’s game, or to a concert at Ford Field, or to a casino.  However, these areas are not all of Detroit, and these things are not all there is to do in Detroit.  As a part of our LAS Protocol for the 2015-16 academic year, each member of my cohort has the opportunity to travel to Detroit, Michigan for a service trip called LAS in the D.  I have so much excitement in anticipation of this trip, and it is because of two main reasons.  For one, every single person that I have spoken with thus far about LAS in the D has told me nothing but positive things.  I have heard that “this trip was the best part of Freshman year at CMU by far” and that “it was a great way to get closer with the cohort while giving back to others.”  So far I have been told that over this two-day trip, we will be volunteering with students from the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy doing community service projects for the first day, and doing other types of service with the cohort as a whole on the second day. And while all of this hype adds to my already sky-high excitement, the main reason that I am looking forward to this trip so much is that I have done something similar before.

In my senior year at St. Patrick High School, my class had taken a retreat day in Detroit.  On this day, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which is a religious community of friars inspired by St. Francis of Assisi that tends to people’s basic needs, especially the need for food.  This experience was not only eye-opening for me, but life changing as well.  At the soup kitchen, my day was divided into two halves.  For the first half of the day, I was working with other volunteers and serving food to everyone who had come to the kitchen.  The second half of my day was the part that had the largest impact on me though.  When my shift serving food was done, I was told that I was needed to go and clear tables, and if I had any down-time, I could go and socialize.  So when all the tables were cleared and the lunch rush was close to done, I sat down at a table with two men.  One of the men seemed rather tired, and kept dozing on and off.  The other man, however, was very talkative.  He began by asking where I was from.  When I told him I was from Ionia County, his face lit up and he started to laugh and replied with, “Me too!”  I asked what city he grew up in, and he laughed even harder.  He then went on to explain to me that what he meant was that he and the man sitting next to him had gone to prison in Ionia County, not that they had grown up there.  I went on to have a nearly hour-long conversation with the man, and it had an amazing impact on me personally.

This day and this conversation gave me a whole new perspective, and from then on, I knew that I wanted to go back.  This is why I cannot wait to be a part of LAS in the D.  I am so excited to have the opportunity for another service trip, and the fact that I will be able to share this experience with some of my closest friends from CMU makes me look forward to it even more.  I hope that through the service we do on this trip, we will not only have an impact on the people whom we meet, but that those people will have an impact on us as well.

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