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!”

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