Thursday, May 21, 2015

"New World": A Song Reflecting on College

Towson University recently celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary partnering with LeaderShape to offer the Institute at their institution. We are excited to highlight some history and personal experiences from administrators, participants, and facilitators in this blog series. 

This post is from Elliot Glotfelty, a native of Garrett County, Maryland, currently residing in Baltimore working as a laboratory technician in a government neuroscience lab. Over the past several years Elliot has been a vocal advocate for vulnerable populations in Honduras and South East Asia while volunteering with organizations that promote increased educational infrastructure, anti-human trafficking policy, and access to social services. Elliot will be returning to Thailand in Fall of 2015 through June of 2016 to continue working with various non-profit groups, teach yoga, and perform music professionally. Upon return to the States, Elliot will continue working in neuroscience with plans to pursue a PhD in the field.   Follow his travels and other experiences at

This past fall I was asked to write a song reflecting on my 2009 LeaderShape Institute experience, and at first, I had no clue where to start.  From meeting some of my best friends to encouraging me to change my undergraduate trajectory, LeaderShape has indeed played a role in the path I’ve followed over the past few years.  The balance and confusion of figuring out my “career calling” and following a path that would not disappoint my personal and family’s perceived potential of me, drove my decisions early in undergrad. Before I attended LeaderShape my sophomore year of college, I planned on leaving Towson University after three years, move on to pharmacy school, and start a career. The path was set, and I wasn’t deviating. It wasn’t until this transformative weeklong experience gave me space to reflect on life more deeply and surrounded me with so many unique perspectives that I knew there was way more to get out of college than a degree. I got involved—SGA, service trips abroad to Honduras, residence life--- so many opportunities to learn from and connect with people. This is what college is about.

Two years following my LeaderShape 2009 experience, I earned degrees in Chemistry and Biology, and the path ever since has been an adventure to say the least. I worked for about two years working in various government medical labs and then made the move to Thailand for eight months to volunteer with the non-profit Urban Light, an organization whose mission is to end the exploitation of boys and young men in Chiang Mai and throughout the country.

I always dreamed about traveling the world and having a big adventure and the dream came true. My twin brother (also a LeaderShape graduate) and I had never experienced extended separation prior to me moving to Thailand and he to Tanzania with the Peace Corps. Twenty- four years and we would be on our own. Leaving our family was tough for us both and I know even tougher for them. My Uncle Scott served in the Peace Corps in Togo during the late eighties and died after suffering thousands of bee stings while on a hike with friends. The drums, tapestries, and carvings from his stay, though reminders of his tragic death, were adorned throughout mine and family members’ homes as symbols of the importance of service and the possibility to engage the world. I never met my Uncle Scott, but his love for life, the world, and his family is engrained into my cousins and me through all of the stories told by our parents and family friends. This incredible man left the world so early, and he continues to impact my family and my life. LeaderShape was the bellow to the embers of this idealism that yes, I could make a tangible impact on the world.

“New World” reflects my journey through college up until this past year. In times of insecurity during self-discovery, keeping an open mind and connecting with a diverse group of people led me to where I am today. I am currently continuing as research technician at a government neuroscience lab and teach yoga at Sid Yoga Center in Towson, MD, in my free time. This fall I will be returning to Thailand to play music, teach yoga, and continue working with Urban Light and other non-profits in Chiang Mai.  Travel and living in a new country has opened up my perspectives so much and I look forward to what another nine months in South East Asia will do for my future outlook.

I cannot thank my parents and siblings enough for all of their love and support over the past couple of years as I’ve navigated my place in the world. My mother and father always inspired in me the importance of service to the local community and world and cultivated in me a deep curiosity for that world. Whether through my music, scientific aspirations, or travels, my family has always been by my side, and for that I am forever grateful.  

Everyday on my Facebook newsfeed I see so many LeaderShape graduates doing amazing things all over the world---- from Peace Corps to leading non-profits in Guatemala and Honduras to organizing and advocating for communities in Baltimore following the unrest in the city surrounding police brutality. People are standing up for what they believe and leading the way for a better local, national, and world community. The world needs these leaders, and from what I can see, I know it’s in good hands.

“New World”

I’ve always known love and so have you
Feeling’s hard to hide got a front row view
Let your heart shine, let your love flow free
To yourself, to your fellow man, to society

I traded the mountains for the concrete
New beginnings living life full of expectations of me
Life informed through way too many “shoulds”
But what should be never is never will you may never know you could

You never know what you’re looking for
Until it’s standing right in front of you like an open door
And you walk right in make yourself at home
What you find is the knowing you’re not alone

Twenty years old I thought life was on track
But the meaning wasn’t there until I took a step back
Travel the world, take it all in
Let more to see, let more to do, be my only sin

Pennies and dimes may be all that fill your pockets
But the change you carry will take you further than you ever thought it
The ideas you hold can change the world
Could you ever dream of more?

Welcome to your new world
Held on to old ways for too long
Welcome to your new world
Age of fire in your heart
Welcome to your new world
Cherish all that you’ve got
Welcome to your new world

Twenty five now look how far we’ve all come
Passion inside burns for more, keeps me on the run
Maps the only place borders are drawn
The world is yours, your home let’s treat it that way before its beauty’s all gone

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hope of Guinea at Towson University

Towson University recently celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary partnering with LeaderShape to offer the Institute at their institution. We are excited to highlight some history and personal experiences from administrators, participants, and facilitators in this blog series. 

The second post in the series is from Oumou Diallo, a current Sophomore Business Major at Towson University. Aside from founding Hope of Guinea at the young age of 19, Oumou is also an active member on campus, promoting collaboration and encouraging students to lead and have their voices heard. She hopes to pursue higher studies in International Affairs and is returning home to Guinea this summer to complete an internship local to her native home.

How was your LeaderShape experience and how did it affect your life?

I was a freshman who was confused and had so many ideas and yet no idea on how to carry them out. I spent my first semester trying to figure out what I liked and what I enjoyed doing.  I was taken on this journey of 6 days called The LeaderShape Institute, where the facilitators, participants, and staff helped me find and create myself. Through this journey, I realized that I had a purpose in this world and a vision. I learned how to step out of my comfort zone and how to make the world a better place. The experience did not only make me grow as an individual but I also made lifetime connections. After the Institute, I had the chance to meet the president of Towson University, the dean of my college, and many other great individuals who have been mentoring and supporting me through my journey. I always tell people that I live to serve and that I want to leave a positive mark on this world. I was born here but I grew up in Guinea. Being privileged enough to attend a good school there and then coming back to the United States to pursue my goals, I realized the importance of education and how much it can contribute to maximizing one’s potential. My vision at the Institute was to give underprivileged kids in Guinea opportunities to get an education, a chance to shine, empower them and offer them hope.  My goal is to make education a right instead of a privilege not only in Guinea but globally. Hence, why I realized my vision by founding Hope of Guinea at Towson. Hope of Guinea at Towson is the first chapter of the international organization Hope of Guinea Inc. Our pillars are Education, Scholarship and Service. We strive to provide aid to underprivileged kids in Guinea as well as give back to the Towson community.

For more information about HOG @ TU please visit

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Towson University Milestone

Towson University recently celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary partnering with LeaderShape to offer the Institute at their institution. We are excited to highlight some history and personal experiences from administrators, participants, and facilitators in this blog series. 

This first post is from Deb Moriarty, Vice President for Student Affairs at Towson and Co-Lead Facilitator for LeaderShape's Institute program. 

My relationship with LeaderShape began back in 1993 as a new staff member at the University of Michigan. Michigan was the first school to launch a campus based program and some (including LeaderShape staff) were skeptical that it would work. As a leadership educator, I was skeptical about the program in general and participated in my first session as a Cluster Facilitator with relatively low expectations. Imagine my surprise when I was able to experience the full impact of the program that can only come from being part of it for 7 days as a faculty member. So while I learned that this program was, in fact, powerful and impactful, I still had concerns about its limited reach given that we were trying to keep our cohorts to around 60 students.

Let me pause to provide some context. I was hired at the University of Michigan to create a campus-wide program to welcome new students. I was surprised to learn how decentralized the institution was and that even our student organizations operated pretty much in silos at that time. What I watched happen during my time there, was the ripple effect that LeaderShape had on changing the campus culture for students and student groups to one that was much more connected and collaborative. I was by then, completely sold on the LeaderShape model.

Since that time I have worked at two different institutions and brought LeaderShape to both of the campuses. When I was hired in my current role, as Vice President for Student Affairs at Towson University, our Campus Life staff greeted me with “Yeah….now we can finally do LeaderShape!” I started my new position in August 2004 and in January 2005 TU held its first campus based session. Bravo to staff for pulling that off!! Part of my charge in coming to Towson University was to help form campus traditions, to strengthen student engagement and school spirit and to help move us from what was seen as a commuter/suitcase campus to a more residential feeling and experience. From my past experiences, I knew that LeaderShape was going to be an important part of the strategy to change campus culture.

The campus community embraced the program from the very start. We recruited our first class largely be asking faculty and staff to nominate first and second year students who they felt had something special to contribute to campus. That first year, very few of the participants knew each other going into the week but by the time they returned to campus, there was clearly a different story! Students came back to campus fired up, connected, and armed with great ideas about ways to improve the campus culture and student life. Faculty, in particular, were amazed at the transformation and energy and enthusiasm with which students returned to campus. The buzz was fast and contagious.

At that time in our history, when the first session was held, students didn’t know the TU Fight Song, few students wore TU gear, student organization leaders didn’t know each other, and we struggled to provide the kinds of programs and activities to keep students on campus for a weekend. We built on the energy created through our first LeaderShape session to enlist students in changing campus culture. And, they embraced both the challenge and the opportunity.

This year marked our 11th year of offering LeaderShape to TU students. We were fortunate to find additional funding to add a second session so that we could better meet the growing demand (typically 150+ applications). We held our 10 year TU LeaderShape Reunion in the Fall of 2014 and it was clear from the activities and alumni involvement that their LeaderShape experience was a big part of their TU experience. Throughout these years, our LeaderShape graduate have gone on to become Student Body Presidents, Residence Hall Presidents, resident advisors, orientation leaders, and leaders of all of the major campus events (Homecoming, TigerThon, Tigerfest, etc.). As a result, student life is very different today than it was just 11 years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that student’s experience through LeaderShape has been a significant part of this campus transformation.

I consider myself one of LeaderShape’s biggest “cheerleaders” because I can attest to the power of the program not only for the individuals involved but for the positive ripple effect it can create within a campus community. 

“I am LeaderShape!”

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#Day7: Encouragement

At the Institute and in our other LeaderShape programs, we talk about the power of community. We approach this concept in a multitude of ways because there are so many facets to building, forming, contributing to, and growing with and as a community. Beyond our programs, we as an organization have been engaging in a lot of conversations over the past year about the LeaderShape community in particular. Community is on our minds. Community is everywhere. 

Communities go through stages, ups and downs, times of struggle, times of togetherness. There are times when community members benefit from challenge and there are times when they benefit from encouragement. 

Enter Doug the Pug. In this video he spreads happiness by surprising strangers with notes of kindness. He is about encouraging a sense of community. 

Yes, it's an animal video. And still, a reminder that a short note or a few words can encourage, inspire, support, cheer, and share love. A reminder that a few words can make someone feel important, feel seen, and feel valued. Actively participating in and perpetuating a strong community in this way keeps the spirit of the Institute's Day 1 theme of Building Community alive and in action. It is a way to live in #Day7.

Who can you encourage today? What words of kindness and encouragement can you offer to someone in your community? Have your answer? Now go tell them. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April: Book Review

My morning ritual is sacred to me. 

Ever since I can remember, I have always been drawn to the morning and I have never really thought about it much. Something about getting up with a routine that makes the morning go smoothly and the rest of the day fall in place. Unfortunately, I am in no way a “morning person.” Not even close. My bed is pretty much my best friend and he tells me that mostly every night. So, what do you do when you wish you were a morning person, like the idea of a thoughtful, paced morning, but struggle to make it work? Well, if you are me, you pick up a new book.

While I was scanning the other day, I came across The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Usually, anything with the word “miracle” in it when it comes to advertising immediately throws up my skeptical face, but I read a few of the excerpts and really liked the approach. In fact, one chapter caught my eye in particular as it relates to LeaderShape and my work. The chapter is titled “Why did you wake up this morning?” What an interesting question, huh? I have seen lots of self-help books and programs that connect questions to your frame of mind, but in all that time, I have never come across that question, “Why did you wake up this morning?” I could have been a smart-ass and said because my alarm went off, but I really thought about it. What is the reason for me being in the world? What is the purpose I am going to pursue? What am I truly looking forward to today? All of these questions came to me as I was reading the very short and useful book. 

Made me think of a number of questions which then made me smile. Maybe the purpose of our mornings can be to ask good questions that get us focused on the work to do that day or the difference I want to make in the world. The ability to focus the start of the day with some space to get clear about our purpose, spend time with your inner most thoughts, and connect to the larger picture of your life. Great stuff to be wrapping our heads around in the morning. There are so many of these books around, but never forget that inspiration and motivation is some times like throwing velcro darts up against a wall…you never know when one of them will actually stick. 

Maybe that is why I do love the idea of mornings. Of course, after a cup of coffee. Let’s be real.