UTC students YOU KNOW will change the world
–the first of two stories by Cindy Carroll
Justin Pohl in UTC Student Development offered me a challenging proposal: take a week away from UTC University Relations and join several faculty members to facilitate a LeaderShape Institute at Camp Lookout. Sleep in a cabin, grab food from the chow line, and help a group of UTC students figure out who they are, where they want to go, and how to get there from here.
The first step toward being “all in” for LeaderShape was to cut ties with technology, and I’ll admit, that wasn’t easy for me. I left my laptop at home (horrors!) and I only checked my phone in the morning and late at night because of our busy schedule. As a result, my job responsibilities at the University quickly became compartmentalized, my family and friends had to live without my witty texts, and LeaderShape became my priority.
Students at LeaderShape were also encouraged to pocket their cells. Instead of watching their thumbs flying over their phone keyboards, we saw them engage in conversation. And they did it in a beautiful, natural setting. It was wonderful to hear young women squealing when a little toad hopped into the restroom. Or to hear a tale about one student who slept beneath the stars, just because.
Our 48 participants arrived at Camp Lookout on a school bus, so they had no wheels to go anywhere else. Many of them only knew a few of the other students. One student I met knew one person, kind of. I watched him branch out all week. He sat with different people at meals. He started conversations with new friends. He stretched outside his comfort zone and he learned a lot about others and more importantly, about himself.
LeaderShape’s mantra is to transform the world, and to do that we must “lead with integrity” and have a “healthy disregard for the impossible.” All of the UTC students selected to be part of the Learning Community would repeatedly be challenged to do both.
That was especially true in the small groups of 8-10 students. My group of fabulous individuals ultimately decided on the name “The Iron Ten” because when we all came together, it was solid. Early in the week, each student was challenged to decide what they were passionate about. With each thought-provoking group exercise, sometimes they were a little uncomfortable, sometimes they quickly and confidently made decisions, sometimes they fell apart and then put the pieces back together, but gradually, they bonded with each other and developed a personal vision.
This wasn’t about making a 4.0 GPA or becoming Student Government President. This is a big, bold vision that will make the world a better place.
I want the entire world to have access to quality health care. One way I am hoping to do this is by asking people to donate first aid kits to send to a country in need. I feel that this is a good start because this could prevent many from dying from very simple and preventable infections without costing a great deal of money.
My vision is to rebuild and continue to develop urban cites. But also to make sure they are promoting energy efficient materials such as solar panels on new homes. As long as a city improves I will know I am doing something right.
There is a large disconnect in today’s world between childhood and adulthood. Adolescence seems to stretch on from the early teens all the way up to the late twenties. My vision is to find a way to bridge that gap and find a way for young adults to live up to the latter half of that designation.
My vision is for Historically Black Greek organizations (NPHC) to work together with IFC and Panhellenic organizations to create a stronger Greek community at UTC.
My vision is that everyone in the world be more knowledgeable and have the tools to make practical decisions to reach a totally sustainable planet. I want all the waste and destruction of our planet eliminated. If we teach children in elementary, middle, and high school how each decision, from littering to buying a car, impacts the environment they live in and share with other creatures, they would have the necessary tools to create positive changes together.
My vision is to wipe out obesity and rid the world of preventable disease. To achieve this vision, I will write a policy proposal to include nutrition and cooking in the core curriculum of all schools as well as set a standardized physical education curriculum. I also plan to write a grant proposal to implement a program similar to the USDA’s Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program that will provide free fruits and vegetables to children in the schools.
My vision is to create environments where people of different cultural backgrounds can express themselves through music, uniting various worldviews and resolving conflicts.
My vision is to help individuals find religion, whether it is something I believe or not. I want to make those changes that help people find any religion that fits them best. Through my vision I hope to decrease the decline in religion that is seen and make it better for others to believe in a religion as well.
My vision is to create a curriculum for schools that sheds light on the inherent discrimination our culture teaches. This curriculum is intended to educate young people on this taught discrimination.
My vision is to build strong girls throughout the nation. With the help of my sorority and personal experiences I want to make girls more confident and have strong self-esteem.
UTC has offered the LeaderShape Institute for five years—we are one of 80 colleges, universities and corporations to become a partner, along with MIT, Georgia Tech, and Clemson, among others.
Our institution is committed to this process, which was developed in 1986 and was formed as a not-for-profit corporation in 1988. It is a challenge to find funding for LeaderShape each year. Frankly, it could use the help of a benefactor. If anyone needs to be convinced, student participation says a lot about the good word of mouth the institute has among our students. During the first week after exams, they could be going to a job, beginning an internship, or hanging out at the pool. But so many UTC students apply we have to turn some away.
“LeaderShape made a difference in my life by not only making me a better leader but a better person. I found ways to make a difference in the community and I met some of the most amazing people. I know each one of us will bond together and we will make a difference at UTC,” said Haley, student participant.
Paul Pyrz, President of LeaderShape, says a lot with few words. “It is so very easy not to ‘show up’ even if we are sitting in the seat. Attendance doesn’t mean a thing. Participating is everything….”
“LeaderShape was the most intense, powerful six days I have been through. I have been in a lot of different workshops, training, retreats, etc., but LeaderShape wasn’t about learning things. It really was about changing lives and giving the participants the tools to see their visions come to life. While we had one specific vision that we worked on through the week, the program really focused on teaching us how to see something through to make a seemingly impossible idea into reality. Not only did it give me the tools to make changes, it taught me a lot about myself and how I work with others,” said Andi, student participant.
Two phenomenal individuals who strongly believe in LeaderShape led our faculty and students: Wendy Fraser came to us from Washington and Bobby Borgmann flew in from Florida. They set the tone with high energy, thoughtful introspection, a thorough knowledge of the curriculum and best of all, they provided me and my fellow faculty members with a sounding board when we needed coaching.
My new faculty friends included Jermaine Taylor (J.T.) from UTC Housing; Eddrick Brooks, UTC Intramurals; Donald Abels (our favorite ringer) from Middle Tennessee State University, where he is Coordinator in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life; and Cassie Nice, Assistant Director of the Women’s Center at UTC and well as our two amazing onsite student coordinators, Lidiya Lavrinovich and Joshua Locke. Everyone’s unique personality was supportive.
We were a diverse bunch, in all possible ways. I was by far the oldest member of the faculty team, but I never felt alienated by the faculty or the students. In fact, I felt inspired and valued by each one.
It was wonderful to watch as the students began to realize what they could accomplish and to also understand that they had a whole group of fellow students to help them realize their vision when they return to campus in the fall. This shared experience will clearly have a positive effect on them as leaders on campus, and moving forward, in their professional lives.