STEP Leadership: The National Conference on Student Leadership (NCSL)

The Project

For my STEP signature project I traveled to Denver, Colorado and attended the National Conference on Student Leadership (NCSL). This conference is designed for student leaders to grow in their leadership skills, share our experiences with hundreds of students from across the Unites States and the world, and to help prepare us for our careers after college. The NCSL conference featured numerous keynote sessions, breakout workshops, and tons of time for networking. This conference had a uniquely dynamic educational program, which committed itself to the personal and professional growth of the student leaders in attendance.

NCSL!

National Conference on Student Leadership!

The Transformation

Going into this conference, I had no idea what to expect and wanted to keep an open mind about the entire trip. This experience had a lot of “new” aspects to it that I had never encountered before. This trip was the first time I had flown on an airplane by myself, the first time I had attended a professional conference, and the farthest West I have ever traveled before in the United States. My view of what traveling and embracing new experiences has to offer me, has been positively shifted to new light. This conference not only enhanced my leadership skills and abilities, but it taught me that I need to push myself outside my comfort zone more often. The unknown is a scary thing, but sometimes the best experiences are the ones that aren’t planned or known. The NCSL was one of those experiences for me.

The Experience 

My flight left out of Cincinnati, OH for Denver, CO at 5:45 AM on March 31, 2016. Due to the time change, I landed in Denver around 7:00 AM that morning. My flight’s descent into Denver International Airport could not have been more picturesque and beautiful. The morning fog was beginning to clear, the pink rays of the rising sun were illuminating the sky, and the Rocky Mountains were looming in the distance. As previously stated, this was the furthest West in the United States I had ever traveled. When I got off the airplane and was picked up by my hotels shuttle, I was absolutely speechless on my ride into downtown Denver. The Rocky Mountains were unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life. This car ride into the city is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Seeing those immense mountains opened my eyes to the untapped magnificence of this world that I was missing out on. Travel will become a larger priority in my life because of this natural encounter.

Flight into Denver International Airport

Flight into Denver International Airport

Landing in Denver

Landing in Denver

Another experience that impacted my transformation, was getting to listen to James T. Robilotta as a keynote speaker, and then during his breakout workshop as well. Going into this conference, I knew that I wanted to come out of it a better leader and mentor. This year, I am serving as the President of The Ohio State University Men’s Glee Club. I am the primary leader, outside of the conductor, for 80 collegiate singers and I oversee the development and roles of four different Vice-Presidents. I knew I was going to need to be a role model, mentor, and leader to all of these guys and I wanted my time at NCSL to assist me in that process. Hearing the humorous testimonial that James presented enlightened me to a new perspective that my leadership style could undertake. James is the author of a book entitled “Leading Imperfectly,” which focuses on the value of authenticity that can be found in leadership. As an executive board, we all read this book together and discussed the importance of understanding that we could, and would not be perfect leaders in our roles this year. Utilizing the resources that James provided have effectively created a dynamic team focused environment that will continue to set my executive board up for success throughout the school year.

The man himself, James T. Robilotta!

The man himself, James T. Robilotta!

Finally, the relationships that I built during this three day conference made a significant impact on my transformation. I was the only Ohio State student who attended the NCSL, which I will not lie, definitely surprised me. As all Ohio State students know, we are EVERYWHERE and can never go anywhere without running into a fellow Buckeye! However, on this trip, that was not the case this time, which honestly turned out to be a good thing. During the conference, I had the privilege of meeting students from all across the country, and specifically met a group of student leaders from Baylor University who “adopted” me for the weekend! They were extremely welcoming and opened my eyes to another University and student organization that I would have never gotten to learn about if I hadn’t met them at this conference. Getting to hear their perspectives on different leadership styles was truly eye opening and reminded me again of the importance of not being tied to the outcome of situations.

Baylor University friends!

Baylor University friends!

The Significance

The transformation and development that I experienced at the National Conference on Student Leadership is one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This trip was one of the more “adult” things that I have ever done, outside of going to college at one of the biggest public schools in the country, and I wouldn’t want to change it for anything. In terms of my professional goals, I not only wanted to hone in on my leadership skills for my executive position with the Men’s Glee Club, I also wanted to develop my skills for my Store Management Internship that I had with Macy’s this summer. This position allowed me to gain hands on experience on the front line of the business this summer, and allowed me to manage a team of sales associates on the selling floor. Following graduation, I will be going into the Store Management Executive Development Program with Macy’s, where I will be continuing to learn the role of a sales manager in the retail business. The leadership knowledge that I gained from the NCSL will be applicable for my professional career with Macy’s, and beyond. These skills are very versatile and are applicable on a personal level and a professional level. I look forward to continuing to apply what I learned at this conference to my life for many years to come.

TEDSummit 2016

The Project

This summer I attended TEDSummit to fulfill my STEP Signature Project in the Leadership Category. TEDSummit is a conference put on by the non-profit TED which strives to bring together the best and brightest minds to one place. Through an integration of talks, interactive sessions, outdoor activities, and opportunities to network, this week long conference made me rethink the ways I viewed leadership and knowledge and how I apply that to my life.

TEDSummit-2

The Transformation

The conference brought together people from all over the world with the mission of sharing new ideas. Though a series of workshops and lecture sessions I was able to meet incredible people with backgrounds and viewpoints incredibly different from mine. These people had amazing stories and advice and were able to share their knowledge with me.

My view of the world changed because I realized the power of knowledge in our society. More importantly, I left with the confidence that no one should have the right to hold knowledge over me. In every aspect of our life, we should become informed consumers. From asking tough questions about the products and services we buy to investigating truth when it comes to politics and science, it is our right to know what we are buying into and the implications of those decisions.

The Experience

My experience as a college student paled in comparison to other people at the conference. I met people who started their own successful business or non-profits or made it their mission to improve the world in some measurable way. Going into the conference, I was very much still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. After talking with people that had been in my shoes before I realized that it okay to still be figuring out my life and that my life trajectory will take many interesting turns along the way. The one thing that must remain constant is a passion for helping others and a passion for understanding problems from all perspectives.

While the conference was an incredible experience, I found the conversations during break times to be even more interesting. I would ask others how they began their careers or became interested in their passions. They would recount stories of influential role models in their life or incidents and events that eventually led them to be invested in their passion. Over dinner one night I met a social worker who became passionate about HIV education and prevention after one of her close friends was diagnosed. I met another individual who invested his life in studying nuclear energy and how to make nuclear energy a safe alternative energy source which could power our world. Even though each and every person had an entirely different story, they all still developed their passion and were able to act on it at some point in their life.

One common denominator in all of these people is that they valued knowledge and sought it out when they were uncovering their passions. They weren’t afraid to ask for help or advice from peers and mentors, who ended up becoming their greatest champions. When they exhausted their personal resources, they took a risk and reached out to other people who were experts in their respective field. Even though those experts were not obliged to help, in most cases they gave insights or a framework for how to proceed.

I have stayed in touch with many people from the conference which has reinforced my experience. I see the growth of their passions which has made me more willing to pursue mine. Even further, I have begun to develop a network of individuals who support me no matter what. I can ask them for their advice and their knowledge without fear of rejection. The community the TED has created is really unmatched from any other group I have seen. No matter if I had deep conversations with a person from TEDSummit or not, I know they would be willing to assist me because I am a part of their TED Family.

The Significance

This experience mattered a lot for me. It broke down the barrier in my mind that prevented me from asking for advice or for information. In fact, I realized that no one should have the power of information over me. Even though I am a student, I am still a human being. By asking for knowledge or information I should be treated with the same respect that they would treat anyone else. At the end of the day, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst thing that can happen is that the other person says “No” and you will have learned a lesson for the next time. I think this is the most significant discovery I made through my experience at TEDSummit.

TEDSummit-1

Activism & Organizing: Strengthening Individuals, Building Movements

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Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

For my STEP Signature Project I was able to learn and network with diverse activist groups on and off campus here in Columbus, Ohio. During my transformational experience this past summer, I got the opportunity to learn from environmental and social justice related organizations such as Next Gen Climate , Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and Ohio Student Association (OSA), while keeping in touch and organizing with other known social justice related groups such as United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).

I learned many things this past summer. In regards to my already existing involvement with USAS, I was able to be part of trainings that not only taught me about our own members, but also about myself. In many of the trainings one of the objectives was to go back to our roots and reflect on past experiences that have made us who we are and have brought us into organizing  and activism. I was able to understand that I’ve had a very privileged life and have not really experienced real life struggles as others. However, I realized the importance of intersectionality and how my own self has been oppressed due to some aspects of my social identity. All in all, I made the realization that my purpose in activism and organizing is to not only utilize my privilege in order to support those that have been silenced and oppressed, but also bring some diversity of thought into such political and social sphere.

This past summer, I was able to be part of trainings, meetings, and actions that contributed to my understanding about different issues and how I, as an individual, can push for some change in this world. My relationships with these organizations have enabled me to believe in the power of political education and mobilizing people to create a more conscious and just world.

In the beginnings of my summer, I was part of a building- a-movement training hosted by Kevin O’Donnell from OSA. This For-Liberation-and-Movement-Escalation (FLAME) Training really helped us, USAS’s members, understand the basis of building a movement. With our current campaign against OSU selling our public assets to a for-profit corporation,  it was wonderful strategizing and grasping the essential elements to develop a movement. From learning on how to transform neutral people to active supporters and show they have a stake on important issues to discovering our individual meanings and purposes of being part of a movement, I learn how much power the people have in order to further agendas that support equality and justice.

In the other hand, meetings and actions with RAN helped me understand diverse environmental and social issues I was not aware before. Over the summer and this fall semester, I had the opportunity of learning about RAN and their current national campaign, #OutOfFashion. RAN is an environmental justice organization that is currently holding a national campaign against companies that are complacent of environmental and human rights violations. One those companies that has been targeted here in Ohio and across the nation is Abercrombie & Fitch. A&F has been completely irresponsible by mistreating both rainforests in Indonesia and human rights of indigenous people. Through RAN, I joined other activists and helped organize protests at A&F headquarters, shopping malls, and A&F sponsored events. We were able get media attention, talk with the general public, and use our resources to educate people about these issues that are both barely known and extremely important.

Also, I was able to learn a bit about Next Gen Climate. This organization pushes for ecological and sustainable practices through political education and activism. However, they have been focusing on the current presidential elections, encouraging people to register to vote. Even though being politically present is important, I was not able to learn about their main sustainability purpose this past summer.

Cultivating these relationships have made my experience one that’s valuable due to the people I’ve met in the process, the issues I’ve learned about, and the progress I’ve seen about myself. I was able to reflect on the goals I wish to reach with activism both in the  short and long term. I was able to learn more about what it takes to organize and the power that we, the people, hold in political spheres. Finally, activism has introduced me to diverse  people and organizations that have opened many doors and see myself organizing with in the near future.

STEP Leadership : National Society of Black Engineers National Conference

Name: Jasmine Jones

My Project.

The main purpose of partaking in this project was to grow and develop as a leader by pursuing professional and leadership skills, and putting them into action at the National Conference of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Transforming Myself

Thanks to this opportunity that I was afforded from the STEP program I’ve come to understand that I can grow from and past the barriers in my life. One of my goals in attending the conference was to gain experience and insight on how to be an effective leader. That includes learning about my leading style, how does that affect the members of my group, and how I can grow myself into a better person for myself as well as my peers. Though I have always been very determined I tend to be quite timid in unknown territory, which brings forth my slight speech impediment and anxiety. The problem wasn’t so much about my speech itself, but rather that I let fear get in the way of my goals.

Now I know that nothing, internal or external, can stop me from achieving my goals personally and as a leader to better serve my community. I’m not saying that the fear is completely gone or that worry is no more, but what matters is that from this experience I’ve gained the knowledge and tools to not let it stop me. Because of that I’ve gained an enhancement in my leadership style that cannot be taught.

How did this project do that?

The national conference gave my various opportunities that encouraged the change I saw. A first would be networking with companies in various scales.  We’ve all been to the Engineering Expo held in our Ohio Union but that is quite a formal setting. At National conference I got a chance to do large scale networking, in addition to a medium setting where each company had invited a group of maybe 30 students to speak with in a business casual setting. After that there were casual medium sized settings that were actually quite casual, which was then followed by semi-formal one- on –ones. This experience taught me how to loosen up. In this vast ever changing world, there is no way to predict everything that could ever happen and every outcome. From this I learned flexibility and how to match my environment with ease.

Another situation could include the Telecommunications meeting session which housed the telecommunications chairs, such as myself, from all of the chapters nationwide. There we expressed our successes and our down falls, problems, trials, and solutions. From that I experience I learned that as a leader you might fail sometimes. Actually that all good leaders do fail sometimes, but Its about being able to admit it, analyze it, and grow with grace.

Also at conference there were various workshops dedicated to networking in leadership. I learned about other leadership styles and how collaboration with other leaders isn’t a show of weakness, but a signal of strength. Different people bring different experiences which can really shape and change the way that you view the world. A good leader knows what would be beneficial to add to the group. These are just a few of the instances that really let me experience and practice new leadership techniques and have personal growth.

Why does it matter?

Gaining this leadership experience is so important because with the life path I want to follow, it is necessary for everyday life. As an engineer and as a member of an organization I often work in groups. Sometimes I need to follow someone else’s plan, and other times I need to be the trail blazer and set out what is the plan for the group. I’ve always had the determination and organization to do so but was never really capable of relaying it to my peers in a way that it is accepted, that is open to suggestion, and that is understandable. It now gives me immense pleasure to be able to say that I can effectively lead the way I’ve always wanted to.