As the semester comes to a close, it is time to reflect on my experience and organizational role in my favorite extracurricular activity: the Blue Chip Leadership Program. This past semester, I was a team leader and served as a mentor or 14 first year students. I had weekly meetings with my team to engage in leadership development activities that would encourage their own personal growth, but also allow me to grow as a leader. During this experience, I worked with others in my team meetings where I interacted with students, as well as during weekly meetings with fellow team leaders. In both cases, we shared our thoughts and offered advice where necessary. So, what was the experience of being a team leader like? It was definitely both a challenging and rewarding experience. Being a team leader gave me the opportunity to learn about myself as a leader and also really connect with other students to encourage their leadership development.
Let's take a look at some of the experiences I've had as a team leader and what I have gained from the experience and learned about myself...
I got to experience my final opening event with my best blue chip friend by my side! Tianna has been such a positive person in my life and I am thankful to have met her when I was a first year student and we were on the same team!
Our friendship is quite dysfunctional..
There's nothing like waiting for your students to arrive so you can meet them for the first time. Will they be awesome? Or will they be the devil's spawn? This photo documents the excitement...
This photo captures the worry...
I got to experience my last opening event with my favorite team leaders!
Being a team leader is such a rewarding experience because you are able to see the growth in students throughout the semester. This is my second time being a team leader, and I feel that this time around was much more eye opening. Last year, I had a co-team leader, which at first was great, since neither of us had done it before and were able to bounce ideas off of each other. This slowly turned into a burden when each of us wanted to facilitate activities differently. This time, I was alone and had full control over all facilitation, and I believe this led to the greatest learning experience that allowed me to grow as a leader.
As an introvert, it is often difficult for me to really break out of my shell early in a friendship. This was my largest struggle both times I was a team leader. However, I think that this year, I was able to really overcome my introversion and I think this was my greatest area of growth.
I think this experience also helped me grow as a professional because I had to figure everything out myself as far as logistics go with the team. This was really overwhelming at first, but in the end was a really great learning experience. It was nice to be someone who represents a whole team of individuals.
Halfway through the semester and we love our teams! Career services is a second home for many of us, so we are always encouraging people to come check it out.
One of the most challenging parts about being a team leader is getting everyone on your team engaged in all the activities. Personally, this semester I struggled to get my students involved in the team spirit challenges, but managed to get everyone involved in spirit Wednesday before one team meeting!
The same applies to getting people to engage in conversation in team meetings. This year, I was fortunate to have a team that was relatively outgoing, so there was never a time where nobody would answer a question I had. I do think however, that silence allows me to grow as a leader because it requires me to make people engage. Being in this team leader position has allowed me to learn the most effective way to navigate through awkward silences.
~Blue Sync Team 31 Edition~
The past two years of being a team leader have shown me the hard work and dedication involved in Blue Sync. Personally, at this point in the semester, I expect my students to understand basic leadership concepts and be able to make decisions themselves. Therefore, Blue Sync is a great opportunity to test how students are doing. Some team leaders participate with their teams in Blue Sync, but I really feel it is good to take a step back and organize it themselves. This is one of the big take away thoughts from this experience. Sometimes to achieve the best outcome, you need to let others step up and take charge for a change, and guess what? THEY DID GREAT!
All of my team except once student participated in Blue Sync!
One of my students really took initiative in the Blue Sync planning process and decided to choreograph the entire dance for the team. She posted her dance on YouTube so the team members could see the dance before the practice and start learning it. This worked out great for my team because everyone was allowed to practice on their own time when they felt comfortable. I must admit, I was a bit nervous when they told me they would be learning the dance mostly individually, but the end result was great! However, I am very sad they did not win an award...I mean come on...they had glow sticks!!
I was also able to record the whole dance at Blue Sync, which can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9_cqnq715P1bEsyRWNoNFhpS00/view
~The Ropes Course~
I think the ropes course was the most important activity for my team. Since this was our first event, I planned a social to make t-shirts for the event, and as you can see, some shirts turned out better than others.
The ropes course really was the best bonding experience my team had this semester. At our final meeting, I asked my students what their favorite part of the semester was, and and overwhelming majority said the ropes course was their favorite. They liked it because it made them challenge themselves, think and work together to solve problems or make it through obstacles. Following this event, there was a lot more trust throughout the team and everyone was willing to open up more during meetings. I think this is a great example of something to take away from being a team leader; team building activities do work and should always be used to unite a group.
My team participated in Wildcat Service Saturday and had a great time! I was unable to make it to the service project because I had a school field trip I needed to attend. However, it was awesome that I was able to put someone on my team in charge and they were able to have such a great experience. Part of my team helped paint a mural on an elementary school, while a couple of students helped pull buffel grass. I was really happy with how positive they all were through the process and were able to complete the project without me being there.
In conclusion, being a team leader allowed me to learn about myself and how I lead a group. It became very obvious throughout the semester that I am a more relaxed leader than some. This is because I really like to connect with my students, but still be a leadership figure. I also learned a lot about a diverse group of students this year which was really eye opening at our identity circle towards the end of the semester.
If I had to choose the greatest area of growth throughout the semester, I would have to say stepping outside of my comfort zone. There are many times this semester where I felt uncomfortable during meeting when nobody was talking and I really had to put myself out there to get the students engaged. I also became a lot more confident making the curriculum my own and changing the way things are written to facilitate how I want to.
So how does being a team leader connect to my future career? Well, as people who know me already know, my goal is to work for NASA someday, but for now, I have to focus on graduate school.
Some lessons or experiences I can connect to my future include effective communication, working in groups, facilitating activities, and a better expression of my strengths. This opportunity has given me the chance to grow as a young leader and will most definitely be applicable when I present my research in the future, and also when I need to speak up in meeting or work in groups with other researchers.
Since this is my second time being a team leader, I have been able to reflect more on my overall experience and how it has impacted my personal understanding of leadership. This program has meant so much to me through these past three years and after each experience I always feel that I have grown. With each new experience, I feel my understanding of leadership and social justice issues becoming stronger and for that I am thankful.
As a whole, Blue Chip has encouraged me to come out of my shell, question the world around me through social justice issues, and focus on being the best, most effective leader I can be.