Stone Lab Adventure 2017

My STEP Leadership project was a 5-week trip to Ohio State’s field lab on Gibraltar Island in Put-in-Bay, Ohio (Lake Erie). I was enrolled in two, 4-credit-hour courses, Evolution and Ecology, and had class 6 days a week for 8 hours every day (crazy, I know)! There were field trips just about every day which included banding Ohio birds (mark and recapture) and spending hours on field boats.

My main objective of this trip was to work on overcoming the severe social anxiety that has affected me all of my life. Being on a 6-acre island for 5-weeks and living in such close proximity to the same 60 people really forced me to reach out. I went into the first night on the island looking to make as many friends as possible. It was rough at first and being surrounded by people that I didn’t know was definitely stressful, but it helped me grow so so much. I ended up making some of my best friends there, people I hadn’t known 5-weeks prior were now people that I could see being friends with for the rest of my life.

Much of the time spent together was while we were traveling to the different islands around the Western Basin area of Lake Erie. We spent hours on the field boats talking about where we were from, what our future plans were, and why we decided to come to Stone Lab in the first place. These talks allowed me to work on not freaking out in new social situations (which I do pretty often).

Being on such a small island meant that the class sizes were much smaller than those on main campus which was awesome! My Evolution class was 10 people and my Ecology class was 15, much smaller sizes than what you find back in Columbus. These smaller class sizes allowed me to step out of my comfort zone (see what I did there…) and I gained the confidence to ask questions and actively engage in my own learning. I took charge in class discussions and I wasn’t afraid of being wrong anymore because that just meant there was an opportunity to learn.

During much of our time in my Evolution class, we caught and banded birds for mark and recapture studies. We would go to the different islands and set up the pricey bird nets in shaded areas over about a 100-yard area. They consisted of rebar that was pounded into the ground and poles were extended about 15 feet high. We would then stretch bird nets across them and wait… sometimes for hours. The first time we caught a bird, it was magical. I had never been that close to an alive, wild bird. It seems like nothing to get too excited about, but we may very well have been the first people that bird had ever been handled by. Our professor showed us the traditional “banding hold” and when I held my first bird, I realized that I had made the best decision for myself to come to the island. I now know more about birds than I had ever imagined knowing, and I’m not upset about it.

During my stay on the island, I was surrounded by very intelligent people. We all spent hours talking over a bonfire about our research or our favorite bird catch of the day (nerdy, I know). These moments I will cherish forever and have truly transformed me and given me more confidence in myself socially and intellectually than ever before.

This newfound confidence will follow me throughout the rest of my life. Whether it be me staying calm in a new social setting with friends, or even staying relaxed on the first day of classes each semester with new classmates. The realization that I had the ability to take charge of a classroom discussion has given me the confidence needed to be a leader in other academic situations whether it be undergrad, medical school, or in the working world.

This has truly been an eye-opening experience and has given me experiences that I would have never had otherwise. Thank you so much. 


The Great Food Adventure

For my STEP Signature Project, I attended the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) 2017 Annual Food Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. While attending the Expo, I had the opportunity to network with nearly 20,000 food scientists from over 90 countries, attend food science leadership sessions, and even received contacts for several companies who were interested in hiring me as an intern or full time employee in the upcoming years. While out west, I also had to opportunity to travel to, and experience the astonishing sights of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.

It is truly amazing how much your life can change in such a short period of time. My STEP Signature Project lasted only five days, but I came home feeling like completely different person. I discovered the never ending possibilities available to me in the field of food science, earned a deeper appreciation for the life I have lived and the incredible opportunities I have had, and gained a new respect for the simplicity of the nature around me. In just five days, I transformed into an enhanced version of my already existing self – I am confident, grateful, optimistic and more appreciative of the people who opened doors and helped me become the person I am today.

I always heard that the Grand Canyon was a breathtaking site. Sure, it has always been a site that I wanted to see, experience, and learn about, but I never imagined that it would actually take my breath away. Crazy enough, it did. My mom always joked that she could never get more than two words in a conversation if I was in the room; and she was right. I always have something to say – that is, until I went to the Grand Canyon. Upon arrival, my jaw dropped, and I failed to say more than twenty words on the entire three-hour tour. I looked out over the Canyon in awe, silently taking the whole scene in. The river running through the Canyon, the rock walls with indistinguishable ends, the blue sky, and the shadows left by the clouds, somehow making the scene even more beautiful; it was truly incredible.

The beauty of this site had a large impact on the way I view the world. The nature and landscape around us is beautiful, and it is our responsibility to keep it that way. This appreciation made me want to be more sustainable in my everyday endeavors, and it is something I want to carry with me throughout my career. I want to bring sustainability and “zero” waste options into my home and workplace. So many things in our world are far from perfect; even so, if we are able to take care of our planet, we will always be able to find perfection in the nature around us. These magnificent natural landmarks give me a more optimistic view on life; even as I go through this whirlwind of life, I am able to find a calmness in the landscape around me.

My next stop was the Hoover Dam. While this site did not render me speechless, it was tremendously eye opening. I never truly realized the significance of this Dam both in America’s history, and the role it plays today. During the Great Depression, over 20,000 men packed up everything they owned and moved with their families to the site of the Hoover Dam. They moved because they needed work; they needed money to survive. They began a new life style, working a dangerous job where they were lucky to bring home five dollars a day to support themselves and their families. These laborers knew that this threatening job may take their lives, but this daily five-dollar wage kept them going. I truly have a greater appreciation for the opportunities I have had, and the people who helped me get where I am today after seeing this Dam and learning all about the hard work that went into its construction.

My parents did not have to move clear across the country to work a precarious job to support me. I am able to attend college and obtain a degree in a field I love, and this degree will allow me to live comfortably throughout my life. I not only gained this greater appreciation for the ease of my life in comparison to those who lived ninety years ago, but I was also able to physically see how much of an impact someone can have on the generations that come after them. These 21,000 men built a dam that not only helped them to survive, but it brought power and water to the neighboring land for generations to come. People can now live in the desert of Arizona and Nevada because there is water to drink, and the treacherous flooding of the Colorado River is no longer a life threatening concern. It is now a habitable area that serves as a home for many Americans, all thanks to the sacrifices and hard work of these men. These brave men inspired me. I want to make a difference in the lives of many, just as they have. I want to help fight hunger, create new foods that are easier on our bodies, or even produce foods that help to prevent or treat cancer. I know that with the help of others, I will be able to make a difference that has a lasting effect on many generations to come.

These first two sites were truly amazing and had a wonderful impact on me, but the insight I gained on behalf of my future career at the IFT 2017 Annual Food Expo was just as – if not more – extraordinary. I knew that the food industry was an ever growing field – because of course, everyone has to eat – but I never apprehended how many opportunities were open to me as a food scientist. New areas of food – like natural – are emerging, and the opportunities do not stop on the research side. I do have the ability to conduct research and produce new products, but I also have to capability to become a quality or plant manager in any food facility, an auditor, a sensory specialist, travel as supply quality personnel, the list of careers in the food industry goes on and on. Not only can I work in the food industry, but with the ever growing importance of feeding the increasing population, I learned that I could have the opportunity to teach food science in a middle school, or high school setting. Doors are continuing to open, and the excitement of trying something new fills me each and everyday.

Speaking with food professionals from around the world was staggering. In the three days I was there for the Expo, I had many people in the industry collecting my contact information, hoping that I will become potential intern or full time employee in the upcoming years. Whether or not I will work for these companies in the future is up in the air, but one thing is for sure: I am excited to stay in contact with each of them. I am anxious to continue learning about what each of them do in their specific position in the company, as well as share with them my experiences at Ohio State, and what I begin do in the workplace.

These five days had a life changing impact on me. I learned that I can do anything. I can make a difference today that will have a lasting effect on those who live one-hundred years from now. I can be the reason that our earth remains healthy and beautiful. I can be the reason that future generations are able to beat cancer. I can be the one who gives the opportunity of a lifetime to a fifteen-year-old. Over the course of just five days, I was transformed. I became a person who whole-heartedly believes that she has the ability to do anything; something I never thought possible before. Everyone deserves to have an eye-opening experience that opens many doors to their future. I am proud to say that thanks to STEP, I have had that experience, and thousands of doors opened right before my eyes.

Grand Canyon West Rim. June 24, 2017

Inside the walls of the Hoover Dam. June 24, 2017

IFT 2017 Annual Food Expo. Ohio State Alumni and Friends Event. June 26, 2017

The Challenges of Adventure

For my STEP leadership project, two budding outdoorsmen and myself toured the natural splendor of the Western United States for over a month. I took full responsibility of the trip itinerary and pre-departure research, maximizing time spent rock climbing and hiking in some of the most famous natural areas in the world. The purpose of this trip was to develop my ability to safely and enjoyably lead other adventure-based trips with organizations like Mountaineers at OSU and the OAC.

The months leading up to the trip were full of trepidation, as I had never done anything so ambitious. I was nervous about unforeseen delays, inclement weather, and emergency situations. At the same time, however, I understood that inherent in a trip of this magnitude is the acceptance of all that you cannot control. The inability to fully prepare for such challenges put our trio in positions where, dazed by unfortunate circumstances, we needed to come together as a team and decide how we might deal with these situations positively and effectively, as well as learn from them so similar situations might be avoided. While I may have been vaguely aware of the situation-specific decision making that would be required of me while on the trip, I now understand the critical thinking, emotional maturity, and self-confidence required of a leader when faced with the kinds of challenges that are inevitable in adventure-based excursions.

There were many moments over the 38 days in which we were called upon to think quickly and face challenges, but there are three that strike me as the most impactful in my development as a leader. The first occurred 3 days into the trip, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Following our arrival, we drove through a well-manicured residential neighborhood, parked the car in a nearly-full lot at the trailhead to the bouldering area, applied copious amounts of sunscreen, and shouldered our crash pads, all while runners, mountain bikers, and hikers came on and off the trailhead nearly every 5 minutes. We climbed for about 2.5 hours, returned to the car, and were met with two smashed car windows and nearly $1,000 of gear stolen. There were no window repair shops willing to replace the windows that evening, so we had to book a motel, unload all our gear into the room, load it back up the next morning, and get the windows replaced. The break-in was an immediate test of our mental fortitude, and despite the difficulty it presented, we maintained our optimism and looked forward to a brighter tomorrow.

The second difficulty we faced was an unfortunate injury suffered by one of our team members, Victor. We were bouldering in Leavenworth, Washington, helping Victor work on some of his first outdoor boulder problems. As he was working the moves on “Tree Crack V2”, his foot slipped and he took an uncontrolled fall that seemed innocuous, but in fact left him with a moderately sprained ankle. Immediately after it happened, I began evaluating what had gone wrong and if I could have done anything differently to prevent the situation. All three crash pads were in use, both Justus and I were spotting him attentively (I managed to catch his torso as he was falling), and he was not even 5 feet above the ground when it happened. The fall happened too quick, and his foot came down in just the right place as to cause an injury despite all our safety measures. After taking him to an urgent care where his injury was diagnosed, we began thinking about how we might continue the trip with one of us nearly unable to walk. We decided to only spend one more day in Leavenworth, and then drive to Montana to stay on Justus’ grandparents’ ranch where we would spend a few days enjoying some much-needed R&R. Due to Victor’s immobility, we had to get clever with how we passed the time. We spent our days playing Scrabble, bird watching and doing the recommended physical therapy for an ankle sprain, while our nights were spent building fires, stargazing, and dreaming about the last few sections of the trip. Dealing with the injury showed me how important the bonds of friendship are within a team, as that is what we relied on over those three days in Montana to maintain a positive atmosphere.

Lastly, there was the constant challenge of overuse injuries. This was particularly difficult for Justus and I, having struggled with climbing-related tendinitis and finger injuries. Before we left we talked about the importance of rest days due to the length of the trip and the concentration of climbing, but once we were on the road, climbing on real rock in some of the world’s toughest climbing areas, we realized how we had overestimated our ability to remain strong and healthy while on the trip. This was an important wake up call, and we adjusted our climbing schedule to fit our bodies’ needs. It also gave us more time to hike, enjoy natural attractions like hot springs, and explore cities and towns. I now feel more able to assess the skill level of the group and accurately know how much climbing to plan, and how many rest days to schedule for future climbing-based trips.

I have learned that despite the most meticulous trip planning, there will always be hiccups, difficulties, and unforeseen circumstances that force you to think critically about what decision is best for the team at that moment. I believe I have honed my ability to stay calm under this pressure and think clearly despite the risks involved in adventure-based excursions. The ability to address challenges with quick thinking and calm optimism is something that will prove invaluable when leading trips for organizations like Mountaineers at OSU and the OAC, and in the future when working as a wilderness therapy guide or wildland firefighter.

Australia/New Zealand Leadership Adventure

Aliyyah Jackson


This past May, I went to Australia and New Zealand for three weeks to learn more about leadership and further develop my leadership style. During these three weeks, I participated in outdoor adventure activities such a hiking, biking, kayaking whitewater rafting and other activities with 21 other students.

Before this trip, I did not have much experience with outdoor adventure activities and I never really thought about leadership. I definitely did not see how the two could be related at all. Coming in the trip, I had my expectations for what the trip would be like. I thought the trip would be an easy way to see another country, but there’s no way that I could have prepared for how this trip transformed me and my perspective.

During this trip, I believed I changed a lot and that’s because I learned a lot about myself, the outdoors and leadership and how all those things are related. This trip helped me gain a better appreciation for nature. I saw such gorgeous sights and was able to such amazing things that so many other people never get to experience in a lifetime. It helped put in perspective for me all the things that my body is able to do right now when I’m able enough to do them. It also helped me realize how absolutely beautiful our earth and how it is our job as humans to take care of that. I learned that leadership doesn’t have just come from a position in a job or school. You can be a leadership and demonstrate effect leadership everyday and that leadership can help preserve our nature’s beauty.

One of the things that really helped shaped my transformation was the views for our our hiking trips. We hiked probably over 30 miles over the course of three weeks and the sights that we saw were incredible. Before the trip, I had seen pictures of pretty views but nothing compares to seeing them live in person. It really helps you gain a sense of appreciation for everything nature has to offer. I’ve never felt more tranquil and at peace than I was when I standing in the Blue Mountains in Australia or when I was hiking the mountains in the Doubtful Sound in New Zealand. It encouraged me to implement some of the leadership theories that we learned throughout the trip to help preserve these views for other people. I would say that the trip has definitely impacted that way I think about environmental conservation. I am much more aware about the footprint that I’m leaving on the earth and I make it a point now to not litter, pick up litter and recycle so that the Earth is healthy and persevered long after I’m gone.

Another thing that helped shape my transformation were the people that I went on the trip with. There was a total of 24 of us, which means that there were 24 completely different personalities. Most of us came onto the trip knowing only one or two people but by the end of the trip we all got to know each and could call each other good friends. I know now that I am walking away with a lifelong group of friends that I didn’t have before. We went through so much in our time together that I know that our friendships will last long after we go our separate ways after Ohio State. I think that I am walking away from this experience with friends that will continue to shape who I become, which means a lot to me. I know going forward I can always have these friendships to lean on and explore new things. It was so interested to see each and everyone’s different leadership styles come out during the trip, and it taught how to adjust my leadership with different types of people.

The last thing that helped shape my transformation was the leadership component of the trip. The leadership component consisted of two parts: a presentation of a leadership style and being the Leader of the Day. Through the presentations of different leadership styles, I learned a lot more about leadership and how to apply to different situations that I may encounter. As the Leader of the Day I was responsible for making sure the entire group made it through the set itinerary including being responsible for how we would eat during the day. During my Leader of the Dat experience, I had to lead both the group through a bike trail and a hike. Through this experience, I learned a lot about myself and my leadership style. For one, I know that a strength of my leadership is my attentiveness to people. I know that I can give attention to smaller groups of people while still being in charge of a larger group. I also learned that my body is much more capable than what I previously thought my limits were. I was nervous to lead the hiking portion of the day because I had struggled in previous hikes during the trip. I overcame that doubt and now I realize that my body is capable of doing amazing things and I have a greater appreciation of that since the trip.

These changes are significant in my life because of the roles that I currently hold at Ohio State. I am involved in many activities as a part of the Ohio State community including Block “O” and the Student-Alumni Council. As a member of these organizations, I not only represent them but I also represent Ohio State as a whole which is why it is important for me to be an effective leader. I am a much better leader because of the trip and I now that even when I’m not in an appointed leadership role that I can still make an impact and have good leadership by leading through example. By understanding that I can persevere past my preconceived limits and understanding the impact that I can have on environment, I will apply these things in more roles in my student organization to help make Ohio State better for everyone. The advancement of Ohio State has always been a personal goal of mine and through the experiences of this trip, I can do that a much better level than before.

Kauai May 2017

  1. My STEP signature project consisted of backpacking and camping along the Kalalau Trail, known as one of the world’s most physically and mentally challenging journeys. I also took scuba diving classes in Columbus and became certified directly after the hike in Hawaii.
  2. The 30-mile hike along with scuba diving enabled me to further my leadership skills of perseverance, determination, self-discipline, and patience. In order to effectively travel up and down in altitude as well as distance, a constant calm, high work ethic was required. Breaks only delayed the hike, making it longer and harder. My determination and self-discipline were tested by fighting through all of the high heat and humidity to hike with ~40 pounds on my back. There were many times that I wished to stop, but I persisted through the struggle and it was worth it. The obstacles faced above and below the water were unlike any other, death just one little slip or panic away. I had to be patient when crossing a thin cliff or while ascending out of the ocean with low air in my scuba tank. I learned that remaining calm and patient in a dangerous situation resulted in a better result than panicking or rushing through something. I believe that this can be applied in absolutely any situation where even a minute amount of stress is present.

    Before the hike began, I believed that the sheer difficulty of the trail along with all of the obstacles would prove the most transformative aspect of the trip. Although it was transformative towards my leadership and perseverance skills, the most prominent thing that transformed throughout the journey was how I viewed the world and success through hard-work. After completing the first stretch of the trail, a whopping 15 miles in under 20 hours, I was engulfed with the hidden gem of the Kalalau Beach, which marks the end of the Kalalau Trail. Not only did my body rejoice at reaching the end and resting, but my mind was thrilled with the trophy that was the most beautiful and secluded place in the world.

    Personally, I have always found bodies of water to be the most relaxing and beautiful thing in the world and reaching this beach after the strenuous hike and exploring the ocean after hours and hours of class gave me a sense of pride and success unlike any other (e.g. money). This trip thought me that rather than measuring success in monetary value or a high salary, success is an individualized goal tethered to what matters most to someone. When I first began college at Ohio State, my main goal was to get my degree, continue through school, and eventually make as much money as I could. However, I can confidently say that after hiking the Kalalau Trail and becoming a PADI certified scuba diver, my goal of success has shifted towards having a great life, enjoying what I do, and living somewhere that makes me happy with people that make me happy, even if that means I won’t be making millions of dollars.

  3. Hiking across thin cliffs from elevations of 0 ft. to 1000 ft. then back down to 0 ft. over and over again posed threats, dangers, and obstacles previously unknown proved to be quite the challenge for me upon arrival at the Kalalau Trail. After tripping and stumbling over a rock during the first mile of the hike (thank God I caught myself), I quickly realized that taking my eyes off of where my feet were stepping could easily end in me falling hundreds of feet to rocky water below. Looking back on this experience, I translated this lesson to real life in regards to following goals; if you remained focused solely on your goals and don’t let anything take that focus and steer you off your path, then reaching those goals becomes easier than first perceived.


    I worked hard every step of the trail, dripping in sweat from the burning sun and humidity, not knowing whether a steep incline was ahead of me or if I would have to tiptoe across a foot-wide cliff with an 800-foot drop-off next to me. After the first few of these unseen, unpredictable obstacles, I quickly gained confidence with myself and how I was dealing with them. The obstacles became easier and easier to pass, even though I had no idea what was coming or when it was coming. This confidence came from remaining calm, focused, and patient with whatever may be in front of me.


    I also experienced a problem during scuba diving that required the exact same three values. Twenty-three minutes into the first boat dive, I looked down at my pressure gauge at it was dwindling at 100psi. If you do not know scuba terms, 100 psi at depth is like driving a car with the gas meter on E. Currently at 60 feet below the surface, I couldn’t simply shoot up or I would risk blowing my lungs up or getting the bends from excess nitrogen. Instead, I signaled to my buddy and my dive master that I was out of air. I remained calm and slowly ascended, at this point my gauge read 0 psi, even though I could still breath fine on the regulator. Once I arrived at 15 feet below the surface, my dive master handed me his octo (spare regulator) to breath off of while taking a 3-minute safety stop (to off-gas nitrogen) before surfacing. After the 3 minutes were up, I went back to my own regulator and performed a CESA (controlled emergency ascent) from 15 feet to the surface. Dealing with this obstacle seemed easy during the entire ordeal, and it wasn’t until I was out of the water when I realized how serious the issue could have been. If I did not exercise patience and self-discipline, I easily could have panicked (which would have burned my air even faster) and ended up seriously injured.

  4. The transformation that I experienced in Kauai was unlike any other. I accomplished things that I never intended of encountering, challenged myself physically and mentally, and learned how to overcome real obstacles that meant life or death. Throughout the experiences that took place, I became more aware that my life and goals are only my own to fulfill, and they are completely up to me. I believe that I am much more calm and patient throughout all of my decisions after this project and in turn, believe that I am better capable to not only achieve my own personal goals, but to help others reach theirs. I am sure that most people, students and faculty, at Ohio State do not possess the skills that I first handedly learned and exhibited through the various activities that I took part in. I feel as though I can effectively lead others and solve problems with unrivaled poise, patience, and determination. I am ready to take on any problem that may surface at any time.


    These skills that I have earned will propel my academic career (and later on, full time career) into exactly what I am good at and what I enjoy. The intangibles that I now possess will allow me to push myself to be the best that I can be in society and the work force. I now know from experience that hard work always pays off, focusing on a goal will prove the most efficient way to achieve it, and remaining patient through any scenario will avoid negative consequences along with bringing unforeseen benefits that might not have ever been considered.


Leadership, Relationships, and a Healthy Disregard for the Impossible (LeaderShape Reflection)

Name: Adam Othman

Type of Project: Leadership Conference (LeaderShape Institute)

It’s important to recognize in life that while memories should be cherished, they are seemingly infinite. We find that at times we are blessed enough to be granted moments that are finite in their frequency, but invaluable given their very nature. This past May, I attended a national leadership conference based in Massachusetts called The LeaderShape Institute. During my six-day leadership journey, I was given the opportunity to engage in activities and dialogue in order to critically reflect upon my personal leadership style as well as the leadership styles of others.

Going into LeaderShape, I held the belief that I had a strong understanding of myself. I felt I had a strong grasp on my beliefs, society, people, and how my everyday leadership affects others. I walked away feeling what was inherently paradoxical; my assumptions were so right yet so wrong. Through my experiences in my life thus far, I have been blessed with the opportunity to really dig into who I am, how I fit into society, and how who I am impacts others. Through LeaderShape, I was reminded of how far I have come with my own development. Through many of the activities and conversations I had, I was finding that I was provided with many reminders as opposed to revelations. I was reminded of how far I have come as a leader and as a citizen of my community. Yet, I also found that I understood so little. I found that each activity I took part in and every person I interacted with helped reshape the way I look at others and myself. I was able to dig into topics that I was so passionate about as well as topics that made me immensely uncomfortable. I found that the more uncomfortable I became, the more I felt I was learning. On a deeper level than the one I entered on, I was able to see how much power such different leaders could have. I saw how unique each and every person’s perspective could be while being equally profound. While I maintain an open, inclusive mind to the ideas and perspectives of others, my view on how refined such different opinions can be was fundamentally transformative.

As I continue to reflect on my experience, I find that there were countless moments that served as tremendous catalysts for my transformative growth. However, each aspect of my STEP signature project that helped lead to my growth shared some underlying qualities. Each of the experiences were centered around increasing one’s awareness of their values, their awareness of other’s values, vulnerability, connection, and the development of meaningful relationships. For instance, a few of our activities centered on identifying and discussing our personal core values. Being able to critically reflect on my core values allowed me to analyze whether or not I was acting with integrity; whether or not my actions aligned with my values. While this seems like a basic concept, it is fascinating how rarely we actively consider this. Furthermore, as we dug into what our core values were, it was eye opening to look around and see what other people valued. Many shared a few of my core values; this gave me a sense of security. Few people shared some of my core values; this initially shocked me. How humbling it was to be surrounded by so many self-aware leaders who saw value in completely different things. Moreover, we had begun to discuss ethical dilemmas and how our values influenced our ethical (or unethical) decision-making. I begun to more actively realize that while I felt confident in my own perspectives of situations, everyone around me held equally valid perspectives, as intrinsically different as they may be.

Another activity I took part in was a DISC assessment. DISC is used to identify an individual’s behavioral tendencies. While this was my second time taking this assessment, I gained tremendous insight. The interesting thing about DISC is each time you take it, you take it from the lens of whatever aspect of your life that you desire. For example, you can look at it from the lens of a leader of an organization, intern at your workplace, or a friend, just to name a few examples. Taking part in the DISC assessment had two primary purposes. First, we used it to identify our own behavioral tendencies. This was eye opening for me even though I have taken part in DISC before. The first time I took a DISC assessment I took it as an intern at my place of employment last summer. This time, at LeaderShape, I took it from the lens as a student leader at OSU, as I am serving as the President for the Men’s Glee Club this upcoming academic year. It was interesting to examine and reflect upon my behavioral tendencies within that role in contrast to other roles in my life. I found that I became increasingly aware of my strengths and areas where I could grow. Second, taking part in the DISC assessment helped me see not only what behavioral tendencies other people had but how my behavior relates to and affects other people’s tendencies. This has helped me understand how to work more effectively with people, as I can more clearly see how to bridge gaps between others and myself now. Being increasingly aware of these different tendencies has allowed me to connect more with others and learn more about how our similarities and differences intertwine.

Without question, the most impactful and transformative aspect of my signature project were the relationships I was able to develop. Don’t get me wrong: there were a variety of impactful activities we took part in. On a fundamental level, however, these experiences were made so impactful, memorable, and inspiring because of the people. During my LeaderShape experience, I met people who fundamentally altered the way I perceive leadership. I learned that leaders could be introverted and reserved yet equally effective in their application of leadership. I was exposed to a plethora of perspectives about societal issues, class structure, societal privilege, ethical decision-making, goal setting, the attainment of visions within our lives, and so much more. The dialogue I took part in was incredible; the people were beyond remarkable. Whether the conversation was one over lunch, after a session, or at 3am after a long day of personal development, I was able to learn so much about people and their experiences. I did not anticipate how transformative in nature the people during my experience would be. I gained lessons and friends that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.

Just as we have the potential to impact individuals through our experiences with them, we equally have the opportunity to be impacted. It is without a doubt that my experience was transformative. I would contend that every bit of the LeaderShape Institute is in some way applicable to my academic, personal, and professional goals. In terms of my academic goals, I have decided to begin taking leadership classes, potentially even picking up a leadership studies minor, as a result of being exposed to leadership theory in a greater sense during LeaderShape and the programs prior to LeaderShape at OSU. In relation to my personal goals, the relationships I built left me with meaningful and genuine connections with people who are willing to push-back and engage in dialogue that pushes me to be not just be a better leader but a better person. In addition, the lessons I garnered relate to my professional endeavors in multiple ways. Digging into how to better work with different types of people via the DISC assessment and analyzing the benefits of inclusive leadership will allow me to work and lead more effectively within whatever industry I end up in. Furthermore, being able to network with people allowed me to expand my network and open doors for potential career opportunities down the line.

Every person we meet, every moment we experience has the ability to alter the way we perceive situations. As long as we maintain an open mind and open heart, the lessons that can be learned from the people we develop relationships with are endless. STEP provided me with an opportunity I thought I would never have, with people I am so grateful to have gotten to know. I am eager to continue taking the lessons I learned from LeaderShape and to live and lead with a “healthy disregard for the impossible.”













Kauai Exploration Reflection

Victor Amesoeder



  1. My STEP signature project entailed 5 days of backpacking on the Kalalau trail in Kauai, Hawaii. I also obtaining an open-water certification in scuba diving while on the island by completing the necessary check out dives. Initially, I took the required coursework for the certification in Columbus prior to leaving for Hawaii.


2. Before going on the trip, I already knew that I loved being outdoors and had been avidly seeking a trip of this nature for some time. Over 5 days, I covered about 30 miles of hiking in and out of valleys and consistently changing elevation. It was the hardest hike I have been on thus far and was quite enduring and at times and difficult after long days and fatigue set in. However, the shear beauty and remoteness of the part of the island was like nothing I had ever seen and truly enjoyed experiencing. Having lived in metropolitan and suburban areas my whole live, this was a very different way to live during our time on the trail.


3.  While hiking, we met many locals and many travelers from all over the United States. One man in particular had told me that he was from Oregon, but has not left the Kalalau trail for almost a few months. He fell in love with the beauty of the island and the Kalalau beach (the trails destination) as many other locals have as well. He now spends his time living in the valleys with his dog and could not seem happier even with much less than most people within the Untied States have. The attitude, respect and love for nature and perspective on life really transcended with me and I hope to keep this in mind always. This man was very important in my realization that happiness is a reflection of what I do in life and how you can use your attitude to express that happiness to others.

Additionally, I became much closer with the three individuals that I embarked on this trip with. While on our hike, it was apparent that each of us had different paces, different habits and ways of preparing for the trip. I love the diversity within groups, especially while camping because there is always a new skill to learn or someone that can show you an easy, valuable trick. I am lucky enough to say that these people are three of my best friends and even though we may be different, we all would agree that the trip was the chance of a lifetime and none of us have experienced anything like this.

One of my favorite moments of the trip was the second night we stayed on the Kalalau beach and the cloudless sky allowed a perfectly clear sunset along the horizon opposite of the beach. The sun’s light was weak enough so that you could peer at it closely and watch the pastel colors of the sky change as the sun slowly subsided into the horizon of the Pacific. The four of us sat as waves rushed up the beach and crashed on the rocks below us. I have never experienced a beauty quite like that beach. An equally exciting moment for me, was the first few minutes of diving in the open ocean. Being able to clearly see and breathe underwater was incredibly euphoric and relieving. However, I could not help but notice that the sea life, such as coral reefs and other aquatic animals were not as vibrant and thriving as I would’ve thought. While diving I saw a few eels, many different fish, lobsters, urchins, an octopus and even an endangered Monk Seal. Being able to scuba dive opened up an entirely new environment to me, and also is an environment that needs much attention and care if it to flourish once again.

4. At Ohio State, I am on track for a B.S. in Environmental Engineering. However, I now know that I want to dedicate my career to the preservation and development of a sustainable and viable environment, including the preservation of the worlds oceans. We are at a point in history where the world’s human population not only may surpass the amount of resources available, but also is deteriorating our planet. The Hawaiian Island chain is the most secluded in the world, and yet the effects of pollution and waste are still apparent. The island of Kauai is lucky enough to have natural preservations so breath taking but still have some trash and litter lying around the camp sites and out houses of the Kalalau. I believe that we have the ability to return the planet to a healthy state and allow us to thrive by achieving sustainable living. I would like to be part of the initiative to rebuild our environments by obtaining my degree at OSU and continuing my outdoor journeys.

Australia and New Zealand Leadership Adventure May 2017

Kelsey McCaffrey

Leadership Project


My project was an Australia and New Zealand Leadership Adventure through Ohio State’s Outdoor Adventure Center. The three-week trip consisted of immersing in the South Pacific culture while participating in outdoor leadership activities and bonding with a group of 24 OSU students and staff. We hiked, biked, rode horseback, snorkeled, scuba dived, whitewater rafted kayaked, and surfed- we did it all. It was the experience of a lifetime which leaves me with memories I will cherish forever.

The trip opened my eyes to not only the world, but also myself. The main takeaway from this experience is that I am a leader. In the past, I questioned my leadership abilities because at times I can be on the quieter side, but given these three weeks I learned I am a successful leader. I realized my leadership abilities through this trip for a few reasons. Before embarking on my journey I researched a certain leadership style which I then presented on the trip to my peers. After we all presented our styles I realized that through the multiple styles anyone could be a leader based on people’s specific personalities and approaches. This realization increased my confidence in my abilities. I was also assigned a day to be “leader of the day” with another member of the trip. That specific day, my partner Alli and I were challenged to lead the group in a number of activities including- discuss the plan for the day, make breakfast and lunches, clean the entire lodge we stayed in that we were leaving, make sure everyone was back for our boat cruise back to mainland, help grocery shop, and eventually make sure everyone was settled down for dinner. I was very nervous leading up to this big day, but as the day progressed I calmed down and noticed how efficient of a job Alli and I were doing. We received great compliments and helpful criticism which I will definitely remember for the future. There were also other times throughout the trip where leadership opportunities arose, so now I am more aware of all the times I can take action and be leader instead of waiting until I was assigned a leadership duty. I volunteered for certain chores and duties multiple days on the trip. The planned activities were even ways to personally challenge myself to be a better leader. Our hikes through the Blue Mountains were our most difficult on our trip and they allowed me to lead by example by staying positive and encouraging others to continue to our finishing point.

The view of the world even changed for me. I saw a modern New Zealand culture respecting the native Maori culture and with the help of our two guides I learned more about this. I also realized how other countries treasure their environment and how I can be conscientious of the environment in my own life. Both Australia and New Zealand have limited paper towel use and focus on their waste. New Zealand is very particular on what things can go into their country. We waited in customs for over an hour because all of our hiking boots needed to be cleaned, but it is something I can respect because they want to keep their beautiful country just that. Now back in the United States, I pay closer attention to what kind of environmental waste I am generating and ways I can cut back.

My personal transformation from my trip with OSU to Australia and New Zealand will forever have a positive impact on my life. I am a more confident leader which will be helpful no matter where my life takes me. My main goal for myself right now is to graduate from Ohio State and then move on to my Master’s degree where I will eventually start my career as a Physician Assistant. I will need to take charge and lead in my future career and life, so I will continue to remember what I gained from this trip. I have always had a passion for people which is why I know the healthcare field is the right place for me. My leadership trip also extended my knack for people. Without my 24 new friends, this trip would’ve been just a trip across the globe. It would not have been the same incredible experience. Some of my favorite memories from the trip are the ones where we weren’t even doing a crazy activity, we just enjoying the views at the top of Rocky Mountain or in the van on the way home from dinner, these little moments were true bonding experiences. They’re my favorite memories because of the people and that is why this trip was once in a lifetime. I now have new friendly faces to look forward to seeing on campus which helps make our large campus just a little more like home.

Before this adventure I had never been out of the country and I had never been presented the opportunity to do certain activities. I pushed myself to try new activities while exploring two new countries 10,000 miles away from home. I have always loved the outdoors and exploring, but after this trip my love for nature only grows. I have been bitten by the travel bug and hope to continue planning new adventures whether they be in the USA or another long plane ride across the world. I can’t wait to see what else the world has to offer me and the places I’ll go. My belief of the importance of experience as grown even stronger and the idea of material items has lessened.

This trip would have never been possible without Ohio State and the STEP program, so I am forever grateful for such an amazing experience. I experienced two countries most people only dream of seeing and did activities there that others have on their bucket lists. I learned anything I set my mind to I can achieve, even if at first it may be a little frightening. I now live my life with less regret and take the leap whenever something is presented to me.

Cheers and Go Bucks!

Kauai Reflection

My STEP project included a 5 day backpacking trip along with scuba diving instruction and demonstration. We left the project with the certification of Open Water Divers.

This project opened up many new possibilities in my life. I would like to first explain how scuba diving has changed me. I knew that I would love the sport, as I typically enjoy anything in the water; however I never knew how much there was to learn about the activity. Upon completing our class, we were encouraged to keep learning and keep continuing to dive so that we could enhance our skills. Since my STEP project, I have dove three additional times in my hometown. It has really shaped my summer, and has influenced me to obtain my Advanced Open Water Certification. The explorative part of my personality really grew during this aspect of the trip. I am now able to see and explore the majority (60%) of the Earth. The backpacking that we completed has allowed me to continue travelling by foot during this summer. I now feel confident wherever I go because of what we completed in Hawaii.

The scuba diving during the trip led to my transformation that inspired me to becoming an advanced diver. I never thought that upon completing the trip, that I would be continuing my education within the sport. I knew, when taking the classes in Columbus, that I would love the sport. What I didn’t know was how much advancement was possible. I now have the aspiration to become a rescue diver- something that connects to my academic focus. I have been hearing about more and more stories on the news in the CT/NYC area that include rescue dive teams coming into the scene to help solve any problems or search for missing bodies etc. There is a shortage in scuba divers in the nation- and becoming a rescue diver would allow me to help out in the sector.

The backpacking portion of the project changed my view on life. It changed my perspective on travel. I now know how to survive outdoors for 5 days, including how to prepare for the at is necessary for a trip like this. My view on the world changed in that I now value and believe that everyone should go out in nature and experience the outdoors. The hike encouraged me to treat myself better. The hike was tough- but it inspired me to keep hiking and working out so that I can go on longer trips and climb even taller mountains one day. Since the trip, I have gone hiking at least once a week while at home- even if I am by myself- just because I found it to be such a relaxing and self-fulfilling workout.

Furthermore, the trip itself allowed me to practice organizational and planning skills. The trip required a tremendous amount of planning prior to the start. We had to write out each meal we would bring. We also had to make sure we had anything that could be necessary while outside for 5 days in the wilderness. We also had to obtain permits for the hike over 6 months in advance due to the popularity of the trail.


The change that occurred relates to my academic goals in the fact that my leadership skills have grown. I am on the track to attend dental school, and this trip helped inspire me to continue this aspiration. In regards to my personal goals, I want to live an outdoor focused lifestyle full of new adventures. This trip allowed me to explore somewhere new, while gaining a new valuable skill. Scuba diving is something that I have already been utilizing since the trip ended; and it is something I see myself valuing for the rest of my life.

Crucial Conversations– Post-training Reflection

My STEP project consisted of attending Crucial Conversations, a leadership and collaboration training seminar. During my project, I learned skills to approach problems, conflicts, and necessary topics in a constructive way. The learning was a combination of lecture, lecture videos, classroom discussion, role playing, skits, and short response writing. The primary teaching technique was experiential learning. I was in a class with around 20 other people, all of which were working professionals.

Before taking Crucial Conversations, I often ignored issues or problems because I felt that discussing them would lead to conflict. Through my training I was able to learn a process for starting and having these conversations that allows solutions and understanding to be reached. It taught me that being able to discuss difficult topics produced a far better result than ignoring the issues.
One of the most valuable things that I learned that if you conduct crucial conversations in accordance with the training, people on all sides of the discussion will benefit from your leadership. It produces win-win outcomes for all parties involved.

Several events, interactions, and activities contributed to this transformation.
First, meeting my classmates deeply encouraged me on my pursuit of self-betterment. When we first introduced ourselves, everyone shared their role or professional job. Many of them had very impressive jobs and titles. When I said, “Hi, I’m Haley and I’m a business student at The Ohio State University.” I was surprised by how much support they offered me for being there. Many of them said things like “I wish I could have done this in college!”. That alone set the tone for my experience. It was a huge gift to be there.

Second, we did an activity in which we paired up with someone and discussed with them a crucial conversation that we needed to have in our lives. We gave feedback, roleplayed, and discussed how to most effectively have the conversation. Throughout the training, we continued to check back with our partners as we learned new tools. This was a very significant part of the training for me because it not only allowed me to see MY crucial conversation in action, but it also put me on the other side of a crucial conversation.

Third, through the lecture videos we were shown two different scenarios: the wrong way and the right way. In watching both versions of a conversation I was able to see the areas in which I typically get stuck. We also worked to identify which tools the actor was using in each part of the video. Seeing the contrasting conversation further highlighted how vital learning these tools now will be in my future success in my career and in managing relationships in other aspects of my life.

This transformation is so significant in my life because it gives me the skills to manage these high stakes conversations in a way that results in the best outcome for the parties involved. Crucial Conversations gave me confidence that high stakes and emotional topics do not have to result in an argument. Usually less than 6 percent of the population has the skill set and mental discipline to conduct a crucial conversation. Typically, they are significantly more successful than their peers based on the multiple definitions of success. This reality was reinforced by several high-level HR professionals attending the class. Through Crucial Conversations, I have grown greatly as an individual. I feel that I am armed with the skills that I need to be successful in having the tough conversations that life presents me with in the many roles life may bring—a student, an entry-level employee, a wife, a mother, a manager, a teacher, a civic leader, a board member, a patron, an executive, a CEO, and a global citizen.

The authors of Crucial Conversations training set out to research the keys to organizational achievement and overall success. Most of the researchers’ preliminary hypotheses were along the lines of strategy, structure, and systems. What they found was that the successful companies’ high performance was not a result of forms, procedures, and performance management policies, but rather a result of the way people in the companies handled crucial conversations. In the highest performing companies, people held each other accountable at all levels. They focused on solving pressing problems, having the tough conversations face-to-face and in a productive manner. For example, one of the learnings that we role played was a boss that promised seniors management a very unrealistic timeline. When he presented the project to the team, it became clear that it was undeliverable. His reaction was to become hostile and aggressive. The team in turn had various reactions. As a class, we role played how each participant in the meeting could convert the encounter to a crucial conversation. The class was very practical and applicable to all aspects of life.

Myself with two of my classmates, a COO of a business and an ICU doctor.Beautiful flower outside the hotel in Jacksonville, FL.