Great Commission Leadership Training

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Nora Ofei

Leadership

In my experience   with Great Commissions Leadership Training, I learned how to be a servant leader through faith based interactions with my community and city. In Leadership Training, I engaged with this city through service and discovering different parts of the city.  I learned how to be more outspoken about my faith and thoughts.

Prior to this experience, I had trouble communicating with others, I have grown bolder in my communication skills. My ideas of a leader consisted of someone who tells everyone what to do and is rarely wrong. I learned a different form of leadership, servant leadership. Leading by putting others before myself, taking the time to understand those around me, their strengths weaknesses and personality quirks. I was taught how to resolve conflict with others.

Through large, medium, small group and one on one positive interactions, my communication skills have been bettered. In group settings I was challenged to share my personal experiences. Through sharing more personal information about myself, simpler conversations are now easier for me to engage in. My connection with people has improved my quality of life.

The biggest impact of Leadership Training, was learning about Jesus, his form of leadership and how I can live that out in my personal and professional life. I gained a deeper understanding of every person’s inherent worth, including my own. I also learned how to incorporate positivity into difficult, overwhelming tasks.

Reciprocally through many meals and activities together, I learned to engage in simple and in depth conversations with my peers. I’m thankful for this experience and my willingness to connect with my peers because I have gained deep friendships and bonds. When doing community engagement activities, I was challenged to start up a conversations with people I did not know.  Though I have been in Columbus for a few years, talking to people in this community has made this city more familiar to me because I have witnessed it through other’s experiences.

All the qualities I gained from this experience such as my improved communication skills have allowed me to work in group settings academically and professionally.  I am better equipped to form strong connections with people in different aspects of my life. My goal is to be a leader by providing an atmosphere of understanding between myself and my peers. In my professional aspirations my prayer is that I can use the tools that Leadership Training has given me to be a better team member, to understand the skills of my coworkers and people I manage. I want to be someone that people can trust.

Bennet Stuffel-STEP-Camp Starlight

Bennet Stuffel

STEP Reflection

December 9, 2015

My STEP Experiment

My STEP experiment, was one in the area of leadership. I set off to Camp Starlight, a summer camp in Starlight Pennsylvania. I spent my first few weeks working as part of a crew to prepare the camp grounds doing everything from simply mowing a lawn to building brand new decks for lodging. After a few weeks, the kids arrived and my second job as camo counselor began. For that job, I spent my days going activity to activity, personally in charge of 10 kids in my bunk. We spent our days doing anything from swimming, waterskiing, to rock-climbing.

My time at Starlight transformed me in many ways I was not anticipating before the start of this project. I arrived at camp, fully prepared to meet some counselors that were like me, however, what I found was something completely different. I met over 120 other camp counselors from places such as Australia, England, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, and many other places all across the world. I gained insight about others that I didn’t have before my time at camp. I had the idea that people in other countries were not like me at all. However what I encountered was mothing like I expected. Although we were different in many ways, we were more alike than I thought; that people all across the world are just the same as us. I made friends in so many countries that I feel as though I can travel the world and always have a place to stay and friends to show me around. The most important piece of information I gained is that the world, no matter what you do or where you go, is about people and about the relationships we form.

My time at Starlight and the transformations that have affected me cannot be narrowed down to a single moment rather, the experience as a whole is what changed me. Much the same, it was not simply one person who changed my life, but the multitudes of people that I met and worked with throughout the summer. The first people that changed my life were the ones that I spent the most time with, my bunk. We were Bunk 12, a bunk of 10 sixth graders and 3 counselors crammed together in a very tight, very hot wooden bunk in the middle of the woods. The kids that I met were some of the most amazing people that I have ever been lucky enough to spend time with. As a sibling, I am both a big and little brother, so I know what kind of affect these roles can have on the other. As I entered the summer, I didn’t quite think that I would form such an attachment to a group of kids from some area and circumstances much different from myself. However, as the summer went by, and I spend every day with these children, they grew to be like little brothers to me and I was a big brother to them. After only a week or so I found myself ecstatic for each and every accomplishments my kids made and I was devastated after some shortfall they would have. We became so close that saying goodbye was something that was so emotional not only for me, but for every camper and counselor that there were tears in the eyes of almost every camper and counselors.

The second most important people that made an impact in my life, were my “bosses” also known as the Division Leaders, Head Counselors, and the owners of the camp. At this point in my life, I’m not quite sure that I know exactly what I want to do with my life. My immediate bosses at camp all come from different backgrounds, having different jobs, at different stages of their lives. It was really enlightening and reassuring that all of these people, in different places can find their way in life. What I liked most about what the stories of how my bosses came to be where they are is that they were not much different from myself. What I realized is that I don’t really have to be certain about my future right now, it’s okay if I’m still finding my way and its okay that there is a lot still unknown. The only thing that matters is that while I’m trying to find my way, I keep in mind that it’s not all about where I end up, but how I do things along the way, and take every opportunity to live a life I’ll be proud of in the end.

The last and most important part of what makes Camp Starlight such a magical place, is the staff members. I met so many people that have changes my life completely. I went into camp with the expectation of making one or two good pals for the summer to make it a fun time. But, what I left with, is friendships that will last a lifetime. I can’t really put it into words the impact of the relationships I created. These people I met, gave me the push I needed to be myself fully and completely. While at camp, I was pulled out of my shell by my co-counselors, to just let myself loose and have fun. This is something that I feel has creeped into my everyday life. After coming back, I found myself more free than ever, more myself than I have ever been and that is something I will be forever grateful for. I feel so strongly that people in our everyday world do so much to fit in and to conform to the normal that they hide who they truly are.  Getting to spend day after day with friends that pull out the best in me, is something that I cannot be thankful enough for and is something that I will try to bring into my everyday life.

The changes that I have made in my life since this last summer at starlight are something extremely valuable to me on a day to day basis. To say it bluntly, I worry a lot less and have a much more stress free life. Without having to worry about what exactly I’m going to do in the future, or who am I trying to pretend to be for other people, I don’t have half the anxiety I had before this last summer. Also, I know now that people in my life can have an impact on my life, no matter what they look like, can surprise me and change my life. Just the same, I know that I have the ability to change the lives of others just as equally. Life is all about people. That is the biggest thing that I could have ever taken away from any experience.  No matter where I am and life, I will always have the relationships that I forged over my life. And nothing should ever come before those relationships.

STEP 2015 Leadership Reflection: Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership

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Name: Charles Jacob Perry

Type of Project: Leadership

In June of 2015, I took part in the 2015 College Leaders Program through the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. This is a nationally recognized and highly competitive program on public service and leadership for college students, and is held each summer for two weeks on grounds at U.Va. in Charlottesville, Virginia. The College Leaders Program is based on a Virginia-focused, multidisciplinary curriculum oriented around ethical and responsible citizenship and public service in the Commonwealth.

My view of sound policy making changed dramatically as a result of being a member of the College Leaders Program Class of 2015. I came into the program expecting to learn only about the nuts and bolts behind governance in the Commonwealth of Virginia, my home state, and to gain a better understanding of the technicalities behind writing and pitching legislation. I came into the experience with a hypersensitivity to partisanship, doing my best to detect the political views of my fellow students despite the program’s emphasis on keeping party affiliation private until graduation. I initially saw the policy process in only a game theoretic light, and saw the program as an opportunity to learn how to build on and remain true to my own political philosophy. While I certainly learned a great deal about Virginia public policy, modern issue advocacy, and the underpinnings of partisanship in lawmaking, I came to view the entire policy making process from a new angle. Rather than viewing my fellow students as members of Party X or Party Y, I got to know them as individuals first. The program was intentionally relational, and I spent time learning about leadership and getting to know the other students as we spent virtually every minute of our time together. We came to trust one another as sincere friends, and as the program progressed we were asked to apply our knowledge in legislative simulations or debates. Discussions were so much more productive when they were grounded in mutual understanding and respect without any preconceived notions rather than a bitter clash of arguments and political jockeying. Although I had assumed that the most successful politicians and policies were those grounded only in firm conviction and unshakable on their issue stances, I learned that truly good governance is born out of problem solving from a place of shared commitment to broader ideals and deep respect amongst policy makers. While conviction is an admirable quality in a lawmaker, so too is the ability to wholeheartedly consider the viewpoints of others and incorporate them into one’s own way of thinking.

Connecting personally with my colleagues was the central factor behind my transformation. All 16 of us lived together throughout the intensive two week program, and spent time sharing our diverse perspectives and philosophies with one another late into the night on numerous occasions. By structuring the program in a way that emphasized personal connection with one another, the program staff facilitated the development of relationships grounded in common ground and shared experience as well as the appreciation of a plethora of viewpoints and past experiences. From overtly relational activities like our day at a ropes course together to more subtle opportunities for bonding like suite-hosted meals, the program fostered new friendship and understanding that underscored all other aspects of our time together.
In addition to interpersonal relationships, the opportunity to learn about Virginia government and politics, public policy, and issue advocacy in a relevant way was particularly impactful. We learned about the core functions of state and local governments and related policy issues from seasoned faculty and guest lecturers based on our Commonwealth’s unique history, making what might have otherwise been merely a dull study of textbooks become a practical and incredibly engaging way to understand our political system. From here, we partook in in-depth study of the major public policy issues facing the Commonwealth and learned how legislation is written, advocated, and debated with a focus on student discussions, simulations, and debates. I was elected “Senate Minority Leader” as we worked through legislative committees to promote our parties’ agendas in a mock General Assembly session, and served as “House Committee Chair” in a mock hearing to resolve a fictitious billion dollar budget shortfall in the infamous “Budget Game”. Having learned about functions of Virginia’s government and the challenges facing it, we turned to practical advocacy skills including op-ed writing, lobbying legislators, and employing grassroots campaign techniques. We engaged in workshops with relevant experts to better understand our personal leadership styles and the issues faced throughout the Commonwealth.
With a strong knowledge base, we traveled around the Commonwealth to learn more about policy issues. We studied economic development in Danville, criminal justice policy at Greenrock Correctional Facility, the inter-workings of the General Assembly in Richmond, and best practices in law enforcement at the Virginia State Police Academy. Perhaps one of the most important applications of my experience with the program that influenced my transformation was the opportunity to present a concrete policy proposal to a panel of experienced government and business leaders. Three colleagues and I worked together to research and write a full report with recommendations for our proposed legislation to promote economic development in Southwest and Southside Virginia. We received invaluable critique from a panel that included a prominent state senator, a well-regarded academic specializing in Virginia politics, a vice president from Rolls Royce North America, and the executive director of the Sorensen Institute. Writing and presenting legislation served as a fitting capstone project to apply my skills acquired and honed throughout the program. I was nominated and elected Class President by my peers, and was one of two recipients of the Spirit of Citizenship Award given by the program staff at the conclusion of the CLP as well.

This change in the way that I view the legislative process will undoubtedly shape the way that I approach my career. After graduation I hope to work in a political field that ties together my interest in government finance and public policy- this may include working on campaigns, as a staffer on Capitol Hill, as a liaison for a private company or advocacy group in their governmental affairs division, or in a policy think-tank to advise policy makers and executives. After gaining more real world experience in this sphere, I hope to learn more about what field I would like to specialize in and pursue a relevant Master’s degree in Business Administration or Public Policy. Ultimately, my goal is to one day serve as an elected official. I am confident that in any of these capacities, I will be a more effective advocate after learning just how valuable the appreciation of decision makers’ diverse experiences and backgrounds is to any organization tasked with complex decision making.

Photo Credits:

Panel Presentation, University of Virginia. Personal photograph by author. 2015.Photo taken by Ms. Sarah Lewis (fellow CLP 2015graduate).

CLP 2015: Day 12-Wednesday, June 24. 2015. Newsroom, Richmond, VA.Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. By Sorensen Institute. Web. 8 Sept. 2015.

CLP 2015: Day 3-Monday, June 15. 2015. Newsroom, University of Virginia.Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. By Sorensen Institute. Web. 8 Sept. 2015.

CLP 2015: Day 5-Wednesday, June 17. 2015. Newsroom, Danville, VA.Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. By Sorensen Institute. Web. 8 Sept. 2015.

CLP 2015: Day 6-Thursday, June 18. 2015. Newsroom, University of Virginia.Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. By Sorensen Institute. Web. 8 Sept. 2015.

Leadership Academy

A year ago, I started to think about how I would use my STEP money. After much thought, I decided to attend Leadership Academy during the Summer of 2015. Leadership Academy is a week long camp for college kids around the world who are in Circle K. Circle K is an international service organization for college students across the world. This camp took place in the middle of nowhere Indiana where for the whole week I had no cell service or WiFi. Leadership Academy only accepted 60 applications and I was one of the 60 to be selected to attend. The trip started with a fun four hour car ride where I got to know two of my fellow friends more.whole group

While talking about servant leadership for the week, I realized that I am still not the best leader. As a servant leader, you need to step back and allow others to lead. You can not do everything on your own but ask for help. Also opening up to others is really important and creates the strong bonds in whatever group and/or club that you belong to. We also spent many hours writing in our journals. It started with our definition of leadership in 6 words. I have learned that everyone has a different definition and needs to be accepting of all.

All of our thoughts were written in our journal. In this journal was my life during the week. This helped me to learn how important it is to reflect. Everyone is so busy, that we never stop to think about our actions. One writing prompt was picking 5 of our favorite quotes from great leaders. These quotes helped me to think deeply about what I believed in. Another was to write about a hero you have; here it made me realize how much I love my dad and do not show it enough to him.

Everyday, I spent the morning in the Great Hall with all of the other 59 Leadership Academy members. We had long discussions and mini lessons about servant leadership. One whole day we had a guest speaker come who talked about staying positive as a leader. One game we played with him was not to say the word “no”. For many, this was hard to do. We also played a trust game  to help us learn that everyone is a leader. With the guest speaker, we played the game cross the line. In this game, it made us think deeply about what we value in and what our beliefs really are. It also helped me to realize that I am not alone.

We also were in our neighborhoods where we got more personal with each other. In my neighborhood, we were called the Lightning Strike. One day we talked about a game we all played where other teams were mad at us for worrying about ourselves first. During this time, we reflected how we were right to do what we did despite the negative attitudes from everyone else. Sometimes, you have to go against the norm. We also talked about action plans to improve our own campus about one issue. This gave me ideas to take back to my own Circle K Club such as making everyone feel welcomed.ls

In the middle of the week, we all did different service projects. Circle K focuses on the tenets of service, leadership, and fellowship. During my service project I was with one friend who I had met from Washington State. She and I stained picnic benches for the camp that we were staying at. Here I learned that everyone is different and comes from different places. Another fellowship activity that helped me connect with other and how to work as a team was the Amazing Race. We had to earn the most points doing different activities. Here you had to be supportive of each other.

Now six months later, I am busy with classes but what I have learned from the seven days at Leadership Academy I will never forget. Life is all about the little moments, showing people that you care. I am a district secretary for the Ohio District for Circle K. This week showed me how important it is to be accepting of others. It is okay not to always be in charge of something. I am becoming a teacher and during the first year, it will be rough; the week reminded me how important it is to journal and to stay true to yourself. I am now part of the 2015 graduating class of Leadership Academy and now have 59 close friends around the world I can talk to anytime,

High Sierra Leadership

The High Sierra Expedition was an intense 21-day backpacking trip through California’s High Sierra Mountains. The group traversed over 100 miles of trail across Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks including sections of the John Muir trail, culminating with the summiting of Mount Whitney.

I usually do not consider myself an outdoorsy person. I like having my cell phone at all times and shower at least twice a day, but living in the backcountry helped change that. It is truly amazing what a little bit of time removed from the rest of the world can do for you and I was able to really take a deeper look at myself and the things I needed to change in my day-to-day life. Having to medically evacuate from the trip due to achilles tendinitis was honestly devastating and it took me a good amount of time before I stopped feeling like I was a failure. That experience taught me that I have limits, psychically, mentally, and emotionally, some which can be overcome while others cannot. I am not someone who quits at anything and I pride myself on being so stubborn, but I learned that I am someone who is able to mentally break very quickly. This experience also taught me to enjoy life and the things I am able to do. Even though I was only able to backpack for a little under two weeks I have no regrets. My time in the High Sierras was amazing and something I hope to do again later in life.

The main leadership curriculum on the trip came in the form of Leader of the Day, where each person in the group was in charge of the mileage, wake up time, food, tasks, etc. for a whole day. A few of the group members decided to enact silent time on the trail, which could range from 10 mins to and hour where no one was to speak unless it was imperative to the success to the group. I loved this time during our hikes because it forced me to reflect on the previous day and take in my surroundings. Being on the trail it is easy to forget to admire where you are and the beautiful things you are seeing because you are exhausted and just trying to keep going. Another activity I found relaxing was writing in my journal throughout the day and in camp at night. I had never journaled before and at first struggled to come up with anything to say. I think my first entry went something like ” Didn’t die today so thats good. The weather is nice.”, but over time it became my own personal space to unwind and reflect on how I was doing physically and mentally.

Surviving in the backcountry requires you to place your life in the hands of those around you and demands that you give 100% for the success of the team. The hardest day for me on the trip was when we went over Avalanche Pass. Waking up something in my leg did not feel quite right but I chalked it up to just being sore from the previous few days, however I was very wrong and upon reaching the top of the first set of switchbacks I collapsed in pain. Nothing will ever compare to continuing to hike 11 miles over a pass while crying but I did it and learned that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought. It was genuinely the hardest thing I have ever done but setting up camp that night was amazing even though it poured and we ate dinner huddled under a tree.

Surprisingly the most memorable part of my trip happened off the trail. I needed to hitchhike from Cedar Grove to the bus station that could take me to the airport, but after an hour no one had picked me up and I had missed the bus. With no other way home my anxiety set in and I got extremely negative, however a woman we had met earlier in the lodge told me she was going to Fresno and offered me a ride. In that moment I would never guess that she would change me forever. She and her son gave me snacks and told me about their lives in Phoenix as we drove out of the park. We stopped by a waterfall and she took my picture, visited the gift shop, and went on a small easy hike to see a special tree. I spent over four hours with them in their minivan and learned so much like how her father used to pick up hikers and that her best friend owned an almond farm. Once we arrived to the airport I got out crying and we hugged for what seemed like forever before I had to leave. To this day I still think about them and how they went out of their way by three hours to pick up a random girl on the side of the road just because they felt like it was the right thing to do.

Going on this backpacking trip with a bunch of OSU students I didn’t know was something that pushed me far beyond my comfort zone. Relying on others is not something I was comfortable with but I notice this has changed and I am quick to focus on working as a team whether at work, home, or in class. I plan on continuing to improve my leadership skills in order to better myself academically and professionally. Before I left I was quite superficial, always having to wear makeup, do my hair, and snapchat everything I did. Since coming home I find myself slipping back into some of the habits I developed on the trail. Existing with no mirrors or phones and two pairs of underwear can really change a person and your perspective on what is most important in life.

STEP 5

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STEP: Leadership, World University Games 2015

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My STEP signature project was to compete with Team USA in the World University games in Gwangju, South Korea this past summer. I am currently on the Ohio State Pistol Team and have been training for several years to have this opportunity, to not only compete for the United States but also to broaden my leadership skills.

 

There were several changes that occurred while completing my STEP signature project. I realized many things about who I was as a leader, who I want to be as a leader, and who I want to be as a person. The largest transformation that occurred was with what I see as a leader and consequently what I want to be as a leader. I have been in several leadership positions before, but often they are very controlled in what I could do. This led me to become very stagnant in what I viewed as a leader.

 

There are many things that I learned about being a leader that has transformed how I see leaders, and want to be as a leader. The first is that a leader is not a part-time job; it is something you are constantly doing. The second is that as a leader you have to ignore some of your own feelings in order to better support those around you. Finally, I learned that a leader can never be perfect, even given years of training and practice you will always make a mistake.

My first experience that led to me recognizing that a leader is not a part-time job; it is something you are constantly doing happened in the beginning of my trip. After my parents dropped me off in the Washington International Airport, and several hours of arguing, I found out that the airline was not going to let me on my flight for a list of reasons revolving around lack of understanding from the employees. I realized that my team would be competing in only a few days and I needed to be there. After several phone calls with my coach, airline companies, and the head director of Team USA travel for this event, I was able to get on a flight. Aside from this event I witnessed my coach and the director work together with me to find me a last minute way to get to my competition. I saw my coach answering emails and calls between his own flights, the director was on vacation at a funeral taking my calls and making connections to get on other flights. I had never seen two leaders completely disregard what they were doing to help me; this made me realize that leaders are constantly working—even on their vacations and breaks.

 

Another experience I had that showed me that as a leader you have to ignore some of your own feelings to better support those around you happened on my fourth day in South Korea. I entered my competition alongside many of the best competitors in the world—many of which had already been to the Olympics. I ended my day far below my average, it had taken me years to get to this competition and in the matter of two hours it was over and I felt that I had not performed to my abilities. My immediate reaction, and one I had often done before, was to take personal time to feel better and then come back to my team. The problem with this was that there were other competitions occurring shortly after my event. I recognized that as a leader you can’t let your personal issues compromise the support for those around you. I decided that I had to change my previous reaction, walking away from my team for several hours was not an option. I forced myself to go encourage my teammates, which ended up being an amazing decision. This decision and situation showed me that even though I can be upset, a leader will always be there for others.

 

The last experience that I had that made me realize that even after practice, training, and experience you can always make a mistake or encounter unexpected events occurred on my flight home. Our team arrived very early to the airport, due to unknown timings for when gates would open our team had a very short time between gates opening and boarding our flight. Our coach had planned for the potential problems with the gates, but did not account for security holding our weapons from us until they were checked several times. I had to stay with my coach as our time slowly diminished from when our flight would take off. The main problem became with the work our coach had delegated was done incorrectly causing the security to stop and try to validate our paperwork. In the end my coach and I barely made our flight, but more importantly I learned that perfection is unattainable. Had my coach not delegated the responsibility he may have avoided this problem, but I realized at what cost would this have happened? He may have missed another issue, or supporting a teammate about to take her last shot. Leaders cannot be perfect, all they can do is try their best and when something goes wrong do everything in their power to fix it.

 

This change in how I view leadership is something that will hopefully be carried with me for the rest of my life. My personal and professional goals are to one day own a consulting business for Industrial Engineering. In order to own and run my own business it is crucial that I am able to be a proficient leader. This trip has given me knowledge about being a leader, and what it means to be a leader, that has transformed how I view leadership. I plan to be able to capitalize on this when I eventually am in charge of other people in my future. Leadership is something that cannot be found overnight, but instead grows and STEP has offered me an opportunity for personal growth that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

My STEP Experience- Reporting Back

This past summer, I was able to focus my time on my role as Chief of Staff for USG. I was able to meet with the President, Deputy Chief of Staff, and other members of USG. We were able to collaborate and work together to prepare for our upcoming school year.
During this summer, I had the opportunity through STEP and my position as Chief of Staff to work on policy points USG wanted to see enacted during our time in office. Serving as the student voice, USG must have a clear idea of the changes necessary. Coming up with a detailed, well thought out plan of how to enact policy and project ideas into the university is essential to be effective during the year I hold office. The STEP Program assisted me in completing this goal last summer and this school year, we have been able to focus on working with administrators at the university on the policy we discussed this past summer. Running Cabinet, which consists of around 200 members, and a portion of that number being new members who are unfamiliar of what policy changes are plausible and needed, I must have a firm idea of what policy should be prioritized to give the members a better understanding of how to make a difference. With the STEP program, I did not worry about the financial burden of paying for housing and was able to focus my attention on gaining a strong sense of the policy that we would be working on this school year and so far, Cabinet has been running very smoothly as a result. My role as Chief of Staff has allowed me to oversee all policy and project ideas. This has allowed me to have a real life experience that I can apply to my future career. Having a clear understanding of how to enact policy changes at the collegiate level will assist me in my dreams of enacting health care policy at a much higher level.
This summer, I also restructured Cabinet, focusing on changing the organization from within, and coming up with the schedule for the year. As mentioned previously, I am responsible for Cabinet, which consists of around 200 members as well as Senior Staff, which consists of 14 members appointed by the executive branch. Having such a large responsibility, any changes or plans for the internal structure of USG must be planned well in advance to the beginning of the school year. Staying on campus this summer allowed me to collaborate with the USG advisor and the USG President to carefully work out the details of the structural change. I also came up with weekly plans to hold Directors of committees within Cabinet and members of Senior Staff accountable to make sure they are fulfilling their roles to the best of their abilities once the school year begins. I communicated with members on Senior Staff and Cabinet directors to come up with a blueprint that catered to the needs of the organization and the leaders of USG. We installed a system that streamlined the communication system of our leadership. Not only was this communication system well thought out and created, but I was able to implement it during the summer. Members of Senior Staff submitted their updates well into the summer and we saw the effectiveness of the system, made minor adjustments to improve the flow of information, and made sure it was efficiently running before the school year began. The strategy and planning needed to accomplish the goals I set for last summer really advanced my leadership qualities that were needed to be a successful Chief of Staff.
The STEP Program truly helped me throughout my sophomore year. Every other week, I met with my Cohort and we would discuss different things pertaining to what we planned to do and make of our STEP Program. I was able to discuss the different options of what we could do with our STEP program with other sophomores in the same program. Our cohort leader allowed us to lead the conversations and cultivated an open atmosphere. I also really enjoyed the other requirements of the program as well. The different co-curricular programs were inspiring and educational. After each co-curricular, I was able to walk away happy and educated. I heard about interesting topics and also learned about the different programs and services available to students at The Ohio State University. One of the programs I enjoyed the most was the financial literacy program. The financial literacy program prepared me for following years as an undergraduate student and also after graduation. They told me about several scholarship websites that I could take advantage of and ways to apply for financial aid for graduate schooling. This semester, my family and I have been using the resources given to me by the financial literacy program to research scholarship opportunities for me and my younger brother who is planning to attend OSU next year.
I have learned several concepts and skills in the academic setting such as organization and self-discipline. These are needed qualities in a leader as well. As I went through the leadership development program, I was able to apply my academically learned skills to my leadership roles. Although I developed these qualities in the academic setting, I knew they could easily be applied and advanced in my leadership role. My role as Chief of Staff will continue to challenge these concepts and skills and improve them as they have this past summer. With my role thus far, I have learned that a leader must holds values of unselfish leadership, the talent to remove personal interests to make clear decisions, and communication skills. In order to be an effective leader, you must be leading for the right reasons. Obtaining leadership roles solely for the purpose of personal gain severely impacts decision-making. Removing personal interests to make clear decisions is also essential to be a successful leader. Although you may not personally agree with decisions being made, you must make the decision that is best for an organization or your constituents. Lastly, communication is key to success. Communicating with all facets of the organization you are leading is necessary. If you are unable to affectively communicate, your role as a leader will greatly suffer. As Chief of Staff, all of these necessary and effective leadership qualities will be tested and further developed through hands on experience.
Not only have I been able to translate the skills I’ve gained in an academic setting to my leadership role, but I plan to do the same with the skills I’ve obtained through my role as Chief of Staff to my future career.
As I am quickly approaching my final year of undergraduate studies, I have heavily considered what I plan to do after graduation. Talking with different Public Health professionals, I decided that I want to go into health administration and work on health policy. My position as Chief of Staff provides me with valuable experience that can be translated to experience for my future career. My position requires strong leadership qualities and has taught me how to lie out an effective plan on how to advocate for policy changes. I look forward to build the strengths and knowledge I obtained from the STEP program and continue to grow as a leader.

Athletes in Action: The Puerto Rico Project

STEP Reporting Back

Kelsey Krenwinkel

Puerto Rico Project: Leadership and Internship

My STEP experience was a blend of three different pillars, Leadership, Internship, and Study Abroad, with Athletes in Action in San German, Puerto Rico for two weeks this past summer. Athletes in Action is a nonprofit organization that allows student athletes to become passionate and effective leaders by becoming part of something greater than themselves.  I was able to develop leadership skills by leading small groups and individuals about how to combine faith and a sport while immersed in Puerto Rican culture.

Before this trip, leadership was something that I struggled with.  I never quite saw myself as much of a leader before this trip and I had a very narrow view of what leadership is.  I thought leadership was being the outspoken, loud, take-charge person who stands in front of people and directs people.  Certainly leadership can look like that, and we do need people who are confident enough to do this, but I’ve learned from this experience that leadership is so much more than that.  At times, leadership may not even require words. I found myself as a leader by leading by example.  I led by doing little things that others may not think to do or want to do.  I found my place in serving others: clinging up after dinner and setting up food.  I found my leadership by being there for people when they need someone just to listen.  Of course I did other things that are more conventional of leadership, such as planning and leading a study, but my biggest take away was finally seeing myself as a leader and finding my place in leadership.

I had a role in Puerto Rico where I got to work one on one with two other girls, much like I do on campus now.  This was huge in learning my leadership abilities because I was able to connect with these girls and help them through what they were learning about themselves on the trip and trying to apply to their lives.  I was a leader by listening to them and sharing wisdom with them, as well as guiding them in different ways to take what they were learning home with them.  I mostly just learned through the relationships with these other women that good leadership needs to be flexible and depends on what the people you’re leading need.  One of the girls needed a lot of wisdom and wanted to hear my input on her experiences, but the other girl needed me to just be present and listen to her.  Leadership does not fit in a box. You need to be aware of the people around you and their emotional and physical states to lead them efficiently.  In the end, you are serving them.  It’s not about you, it’s about the people you are working with.

Additionally, this particular experience was helpful for my own personal growth because I had someone else pouring into me the way that I was pouring into the two other women. They not only did for me what I was doing for the other girls, listening and providing thoughtful feedback, but they were also a great example for me of how to better serve them.  Macy was a great example of how to love people and how to help them overcome their struggles of the rigorousness of the Puerto Rico Project.  In education, this is called modeling, so it was pretty cool to be able to apply what I’m learning in class to life ousted of just education.

My favorite part of the STEP experience was getting to meet people on a very personal and intimate level.  Friendships were made in Puerto Rico that are stronger than those of some friends I have in Columbus.  It’s on trips like these that you get so close to people in such a short amount of time.  People shape the experience and the experience wouldn’t be anything without the people.  I have made friends with these people that have stayed in tact since we returned.  It’s so rewarding to be able to keep in touch with the students from other universities and the Puerto Rican students and continue supporting them from so far away.  It’s a beautiful picture of community and how people so different can come together for the same purpose.

As an education major, this experience was incredibly helpful for me because I had an opportunity to work with students and plan out lessons.  I got a taste for what it like to see a student’s particular need and design a lesson or meeting to those needs.  I also lead studies here on campus with me team and it was helpful to get practice leading and planning for the studies.  I love helping people grow and being a source of wisdom and this experience was exactly that for me.  It has certainly strengthened my desire to teach and has also given me a new passion for traveling.  I plan to possibly return to Puerto Rico next year and intern there again.

My blog written while I was in Puerto Rico: http://kelseykrenwinkel.blogspot.com

 

 

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Backpacking in the High Sierra Mountains

For nearly a month I backpacked with a group of other OSU students in the High Sierra Mountains of California. Covering over 130 miles, I learned how to survive in the backcountry trails and how to lead a group completely out of their comfort zone to achieve a common goal.

Despite having limitless information at our disposal in the forms of phones and computers, the amount you can learn by completely removing yourself from them is staggering. Backpacking for such a long time so removed from civilization causes every weakness you have to be laid bare. And every strength you possess is stretched to their max. I personally found out that I will break mentally before I break physically. I found out that I fixate over small details and can quickly become on edge. But I also discovered an unwavering perseverance, an intense desire to experience the outdoors, and previously unknown emotional levels. There are societies constructed by man and there is wild nature, and I won’t say one is more the “real world” than the other. What the wild nature part of the world shows you however, is that despite our reliance on our own artificial creations one is still able to survive and even thrive out in the backcountry.

A backcountry trip such as this requires organization and leadership. That leadership came from one of the students in the group each day. When appointed leader of the day that person decided when to get up, what to cook, when to get water, who was assigned what tasks, how many miles we went and nearly every other conceivable task that had to be completed that day. When I was leader of the day it rained. A lot. It rained, and briefly stormed, for the entire morning and part of the afternoon. We even had to do what is called a lightning drill, where you essentially near a tall tree ad wait for the storm to pass. Despite what the label says, nothing is completely waterproof. Eventually you will get wet, and we were soaked and cold. So wet to the point where we considered stopping and finding shelter off the trail. It was pretty miserable, especially since one would expect clear sunny skies in California. It had rained a number of days before this as well, and I was beginning to lose it. I was able to push through and get through that day but the next time storm clouds came rolling in I had a full on panic attack.

I had been fixating all day about the weather, how fast we were moving, setting up camp that I finally couldn’t take it anymore. But once it was over I learned that I was still there, I was still breathing. I found solace in my fellow backpackers as well as my own self-assurance I began developing. Leading the group was challenging and even when not leading some days dragged on. No matter how you adjust the straps on your backpack you will get sore, and the relief of taking your pack off in camp is incredible. Every time I made it to camp the problems of the day seemed almost trivial. Backpacking is a huge confidence builder, it just has to break you down first. But one you’re broken down you can build yourself back up.

One of my favorite days on the trip was our stay at a place called Granite Basin. As one would expect it a large basin. It is filled with shallow streams, a meadow, and many large rock outcroppings. This particular day we didn’t hike, we just relaxed in camp. I climbed halfway up a large rock face and sat on a ledge overlooking the entire basin. I hadn’t bathed in over a week, had been eating the same bland food on repeat, hadn’t changed clothes for a week and had no contact with civilization. It was the best feeling ever. I was looking at the most beautiful and grand sites I’d ever seen and felt pure, absolute joy. Everything you think you need becomes irrelevant. We met a park ranger named Rick. We talked for a while and he told us about how nature reflects what you feel inside and that this is the kind of place humans are made to be in. While I certainly enjoy bathing and indoor plumbing, lack thereof is by no means a boundary to incredible experiences.

What was perhaps the most incredible experience was getting to the top of Mt. Whitney. At 14,508 ft. in elevation Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States. The day started early as they usually did and we set out up a switchback for a few thousand feet of elevation change. Once at the top of that switchback, there is another two mile trail up to the actual summit. It is nothing but bare rock, mostly along an enormous mountain ridge and at times through narrow, precarious paths that drop completely off to the side. The elevation makes it hard to breathe as well. Throughout the trip I became more and more acclimated, but the air was as thin as it was going to get up there. Once you reach the top there are dozens of other hikers all celebrating and taking pictures. Some guy was playing music on a portable stereo, it was the first time I had heard music in nearly a month. Unfortunately it was Bon Jovi, and  I hate Bon Jovi. But that couldn’t ruin being on the top of a mountain, knowing that right now in the US no one is higher than you are right now. It was the true culmination of weeks of purifying water, sore feet, digging catholes and everything else in between.

All of these emotional experiences were wrapped up in the daily tasks of leadership and team work. While they may seem opposing concepts, the personal mental and emotional state you had affected your interactions with the group. Overall the main task was to ensure the success of the group when you were in charge. To effectively lead a group one must be able to physically and mentally push themselves more than the group since they look to you. You learn how to mentally connect with and help your group members, as well as analyze what you yourself are doing. I find that I am far more comfortable interacting with people and asking for help, since that is what I was forced to do to survive essentially. The extreme setting of this trip will not be found in the average 21st century job, but the theories and practices of leadership will be. Being able to stay calm in stressful situations , and then being able to analyze yourself and the input of your teammates to find and implement a solution.  After this trip tasks that seemed like mountains are now mole hills, especially after climbing actual mountains.

 

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The Whole John Muir Trail and Then Some

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Jennings Rengel

Step Reflection

 

For my step project, I spent time planning and budgeting, organizing, and then leading a through hike of the John Muir Trail. We spent 28 days in California and took 21 days to hike all 220 miles of the trail.

This was truly a transformational experience for me and I won’t soon forget this. I am very proud of what I have done. At the end of the trail upon completion, I felt physically exhausted, but yet hungry for more. I didn’t want to be done because I was enjoying myself so much. I was relaxed, fit, at peace, and settled into a rhythm. Every morning was an adventure on the trail. I woke up and started hiking, all the while wondering what beautiful scenery was going to come next. I never had to worry about responsibilities, or entertaining myself. Hiking was life.

When I started the trail, I looked at it as a personal challenge and not an experience. I didn’t expect to make friends along the way. I didn’t expect to discover a new culture (sort of an old-school hippy counter-culture). I didn’t anticipate how hard the trail would be. The first day on the trail I started out by eating a big piece of humble-pie.

I definitely noticed some changes coming over me on the trail. I have always been a relatively solitary person. I never stand out in a crowd, am always shy, quiet, but on the trail everything came so easy to me. I made many friends along the way. When you only encounter another human once a day or so you realize how important those interactions are. Normally when I am going about my daily routine I never talk too much to people around me except for my friends. On the trail, I looked forward to those interactions. You take people for granted in the world. On the trail you realize how important people are. The tranquility of nature is amazing, but after a while you really want someone to share it with; someone who appreciates it as much as you. Its ironic how getting away from society brings people together.

We did meet some amazing people along the way. One particular gentleman seemed to have traveled the whole world over. I inquired about a patch that he had sewn onto his light brown lightweight leather jacket that looked like something an old wild west cowboy might wear. I learned that he got that particular patch on one of his trips to Nepal. As he recounted the story of his trip to us, he reminisced about how next time he goes back he won’t recognize some of his favorite places because they were destroyed in the earthquake this summer. It has been a dream of mine to visit Nepal and someday and see Mt. Everest with my own eyes. It was incredible to meet someone who has actually been there. That’s not something you get to do every day. This particular gentleman went on to tell us that he is retired and typically spends all summer just hiking around the Sierra-Nevada and then goes home to Hawaii for the winter. He pretty much just summed up my retirement goals. I would love to be an accomplished world traveler. There aren’t very many things that stoke my fire like exploring. It really makes me feel alive. I refuse to let the saying “no body ever dies wishing they had worked more” describe my life.

On the second half of the trail we met Chris who happened to be a master outdoorsman who was very willing to share his knowledge. This guy was like the MacGyver of the woods. He made his own stove system out of a couple of beer cans and nails, he packaged all of his food in a way that allowed him to carry a full 10 days in a pack that weighed 30lbs fully loaded and about 15lbs with just his clothes, tent, and gear, found a ripped Patagonia puffy in the trash, superglued the shell back together and wore it, used his bear canister as a washing machine, et cetera. He taught me how to catch, kill, clean, and cook a trout over an open fire (grill them on a blazing hot slab of granite). I’ve eaten fish before but never any that tasted as good as those trout. This had a profound impact on me. For one, now I feel like I can call myself an outdoorsman.

Secondly It made me realize how wasteful we are on a regular basis. When I was eating that fish, I felt obligated to eat every last scrap of meat. I felt like I owed it to the fish. The girls that we were with were vegetarians and when I asked them why they explained that its not that they object to eating animals necessarily, but rather they object to the way we raise animals to be eaten. They didn’t have much of an issue with us catching fish out of a wild untamed river and cooking them. I don’t plan on becoming a vegetarian anytime soon because I like meat, but it made me stop to think about where my food comes from. I decided that cutting back on the amount of meat that I eat and making sure that I don’t waste anything would in a small way pay homage to those animals that gave their lives and be a responsible thing to do.

The trip was a good experience for me because I got out of my comfort zone, met a lot of new people, and experienced a sort of enlightenment. Additionally, from an academic perspective, I got to put my research and planning skills to work. It was good for me to be totally in the driver’s seat and have complete control over a project that I wanted to complete on order to make myself a stronger, more well traveled person.

I think the changes that I experienced on my trip will continue to shape that way that I think about life. I now have a clearer understanding of who I am, what my values, goals, and where I want to go in life. Life should be more about the journey and not the destination. I know that I have to work to live, but I don’t want my life to be about working because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. Society doesn’t matter and there will be a day when it ceases to exist. What will be left is the physical world. I want my life to be about exploring. I want to see as much of the world as I can. You only get one opportunity to live.

I took many pictures on the trail. After my camera battery died I switched on my iPhone and had a go of it with the built in camera. The resulting stunningly beautiful photos can be seen on my google photos page https://goo.gl/photos/PAkGJtmBptT3wLLG9.

Finally, one of the last experiences that I had along the way was one of the side trips that my climbing partner Jesse and I took. In Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, Jesse and I decided to climb Lembert Dome. The western side of this dome is a vertical face with about 400 feet of climbing above another 200 feet of exposure. This is where we decided to try our first multi-pitch climb. What that means is that one person climbs while the other belays from below. Then, the second person climbs while the first person belays them from above. I found myself looking down at about 400 feet of air hanging from an anchor in the wall belaying Jesse (who at this point was 200 feet above me) and at that point I asked myself, how terrified am I right now? How do the professional climbers do this? Is this worth the scare? Everything worked out fine, and I am proud that I kept myself together and finished the climb, but from now on anytime I get into a scary situation, I just have to remember how scared I was then and suddenly things won’t seem so bad.

I wish that I had the time to talk about every one of the challenges and experiences that I dealt with along the way, but as of right now, I don’t feel like writing a novel. I hope that I can have many more experiences like this in my lifetime, but until next summer I’ll have to enjoy reminiscing about this trip and hopefully inspire others to experience the world in a different way. The world is awesome. Take a chance. Get out there.