Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Book Review: Community

Wow, what a month.

March was a blur. Not because of the nasty weather – ok, a little bit because of that – but of all the traveling, activities, and events that occurred in my life. From Tampa, to Chicago, to Arizona, to New Orleans, and back to Champaign, there were many nights when I didn’t know where I was when I woke up (no wise cracks).

Anyway, in the middle of it all, we held the Co-Lead Facilitator Retreat for the Institute program. What an amazing, talented, and challenging group we have the privilege to work with. I have never used the phrase “herding cats” before until I started with working with this crew. They give so much to the program and we try hard to provide them with an experience each spring to help them improve their abilities to deliver the curriculum and be present while doing so. 

In preparing for the retreat, I re-read a classic on my shelf, Peter Block’s “Community" because we were focusing on how to infuse the concept of community throughout the six days of the Institute. Simple task on the surface, but not so easy in practice. Block speaks about community in ways that I hadn’t thought about previously and one simple quote hit me and the staff hard - “How are we going to be when we gather together?” Such a simple question and yet amazingly profound. 

How many times have you asked that question before a meeting, before joining a team or organization, before choosing your friends? See what I’m getting at? Being intentional about how we enter community, how we enter the lives of others when we are the outsiders, how we create a space that can be safe and challenging at the same time. How we learn from each other. 

We started some hard and worthy conversations at the retreat, but didn’t get to finish them. Do we ever really finish those conversations that matter? The ones that have a huge impact on the our lives and the world? My thought is no. Once we think we have it all figured out, be careful. Being open to community, being a member of community, is not easy. It is very hard at times. My good friends in fraternity and sorority work are dealing with these questions about community now. Our colleagues who do business in Indiana and other states where threats to our community exist or could exist are dealing with these questions. 

They never escape us. We never solve them. That is the beauty of them. The work. 

I encourage you to pick up Block’s book, read it, think about it, and have a conversation about it with the communities you find yourself connected to. Stay engaged. Stay together. Make time to argue. Make time to be messy. Build a community that includes everyone and lives in possibility. 



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Making an Impact, Not Just an Impression

While at ACPA, we had the chance to catch up with Taylor Phoumivong, 2012 LeaderShape graduate. After hearing about his LeaderShape experience and the start of his graduate work, we wanted to share his story with the rest of our community. 

“Lead with integrity. Disregard the impossible.” Who would have ever guessed that after three summers, these words would still be guiding principles that drive the work that I have the pleasure of doing each and every day? I am product of the Summer 2012 ATO/DG LeaderShape session held at Camp Sumatanga in Gallant, AL. When I left the state of Arkansas that summer with an open mind and stomach full of nerves, I wondered what this program would offer me that others before it did not.  

After attending the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Annual Convention in Tampa, FL this past month I realized how much of an impact the LeaderShape program has made on me over the past few years since I left the hallowed camp grounds of Camp Sumatanga. It is the connections that were made during team building activities, the very vulnerable state of emotions that were brought out through critical cluster group conversations that I remember so vividly three summers ago. This program is a true testament to challenging students to think outside of themselves and really figuring out what it means to lead in a way that aligns with the values and beliefs that each person holds within oneself. 

After LeaderShape I began to think about my role in creating positive change in the world. Who do I want to become as a professional? What jobs are out there that align with how I want to help people in the future? What job would challenge me in a way that would continue to shape me and motivate me to become a better person than who I was the previous day? 

I currently serve as a graduate assistant in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and am pursuing a Master’s in Higher Education Administration. I believe that this path was heavily impacted by the people, the brothers, and the mentorship that I was able to gain through my involvement in LeaderShape. The idea of leading with integrity is something that I strive to do in my everyday interactions with my peers, students, and coworkers. I realize the amount of work that needs and has to be done in the world of Fraternity & Sorority Life and have dedicated myself to become a catalyst for the elevation of Greek Life on our college campuses across the nation. 

In short to those reading this, I challenge you to make an impact not just an impression. How will you impact someone today? 

Taylor Phoumivong is a 2014 graduate of Arkansas Tech University. He is now at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, pursuing a Master’s in Higher Education Administration. His interest areas within student affairs includes Greek Life, Orientation, and Multicultural Affairs. His ultimate career goals include creating more opportunities for access to higher education and working towards the development of Asian American and Pacific Islander students on college campuses. He currently holds membership with the Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors (AFA), National Orientation Directors Association (NODA), and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) where he is one of the Coordinators for the ACPA Ambassadors program (under the Standing Committee for Graduate Students & New Professionals).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Imagine a World Where…

Earlier this month we partnered with ACPA on a project for their national convention in Tampa, FL. In the marketplace of the convention we set up a booth and invited people to reflect on and respond to this statement: “Imagine a World Where…”.

And this is what happened.

At the Institute we talk about "embracing a healthy disregard for the impossible." The responses to this prompt truly brought this idea to life. Each person who contributed can see potential in the world. Our campuses, communities, and countries can be better when we embrace the possibility that contributing to the causes and people we care about will indeed create the world we imagine. And through the variety of lenses and experiences that others in our community give voice to, we become open to possibilities that we didn't even consider individually. 

Our challenge to the LeaderShape community is to remember each day how we want to see the world. To make decisions that support the creation of the world we imagine. This is how we build a just, caring, and thriving world.

To our friends who weren’t able to join us at ACPA… what is your response to this prompt? How are you helping to create that world? Tell us in the comment section.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

#Day7 Inspiration

Keeping the spirit of the Institute alive and continuing the work that was started during those six days can be both exhilarating and demanding. There are times when we need a little inspiration to keep going! Check out the seven quotes that we selected with the hope that they will be something you can come back to whenever you need an extra push to keep going. Because we need you to keep going! To keep living with integrity, to keep believing in possibility, and to continue making a difference in our communities and in the world.

Live with integrity, respect the rights of other people, and follow your own bliss.
Nathaniel Branden

There is no paycheck that can equal the feeling of contentment that comes from being the person you are meant to be.
Oprah Winfrey

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps - we much step up the stairs.
Vance Havner

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
Anne Frank

Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.
Paulo Coelho

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.
Lin Yutang

In response to those who say stop dreaming and face reality, I saw keep dreaming and make reality. 
Kristian Kan

And did you know that each day LeaderShape sends out a quote through the Daily Inspiration? If inspiration through quotes is your thing, you can subscribe here!