Washtenaw Housing Alliance ginsberg community engagement leadership fellowship Winter 2017

Hi! My name's Caitlin (Katie) Doolittle and I'm a senior studying Political Science and History. I was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan and I hope to pursue a career in public policy. I firmly believe in, and strive to embody, the values of authenticity, learning, and service in my everyday life. When asked to give my personal philosophy of leadership, I would say that it is best defined as guiding others when guidance is wanted or needed while listening to all input and ultimately trusting in those that I work with to achieve a common goal. I joined the Fellows program because I strongly identified with its commitment to addressing community-identified needs. I was also interested in receiving the mentorship and training that it offered.

Over the course of the semester I worked with the Washtenaw Housing Alliance to aid in its mission to end homelessness in the community. I was eager to work with WHA because I believe adequate and affordable housing is a fundamental right for all and I am interested in pursuing a career related to housing policy. WHA seemed like a good place to learn new skills and information relevant to my interests.
During this experience, I learned that I am capable of more than I let myself believe. I'm able to educate myself on a topic and then create materials containing important information that will then be distributed widely. I also learned that when working with others, particularly with those you may not see everyday, communication is key.
My experience with the Fellows program and WHA challenged my conceptualization of service and community engagement by making me look at both from a different angle. Prior experiences had me face-to-face with community members as we worked together to address an issue. In my role at WHA, I was further removed from the individuals we were advocating on behalf of, putting me in unfamiliar territory and giving me new insight into what it means to serve.

My experience with the Fellows program and WHA challenged my conceptualization of leadership by requiring me to reflect on my actions, expectations, and behavior. At WHA I didn't necessarily feel as if I was a leader, because I was working at the direction of someone else. Given time, however, it became clear that my role as a 'leader' was just different than what I had experienced previously. I was a leader on a larger, less-visible scale; not necessarily a leader in action but a leader in information.

My experience with the Fellows program and WHA challenged both the prior knowledge and prior skills I had gained in other spaces of campus by giving me tasks with weight and importance that encouraged me to do my best work. This experience also reinforced my knowledge and skills by allowing me to see another side of community service and engagement, making me more well-rounded.

During my time with WHA I put together a quarterly briefing for the Washtenaw Coordinated Funders, which required research into new legislation and policy related to affordable housing at the local, state, and national levels and entrusted me with relaying to the Coordinated Funders any relevant information and important developments in Washtenaw County. This was something completely new to me but I now know how to summarize important information for funding purposes.
I also created a PowerPoint outlining proposals for a housing development on Platt Road while at WHA. I was responsible for pulling out pertinent information from the proposals and organizing it into a brief and comprehensive presentation to be used at meetings. Various classes I've taken have had me use PowerPoint but this was actually the first time I had to use it for something outside of school and it was a nice real-world application.
I plan to use what I've gained through the Fellows program in the future by continuing to reflect on my beliefs and behaviors, helping me to better understand myself and those around me and therefore be a more effective leader in the community. I would also like to continue working with WHA.
As a result of this program, I will continue to actively engage in whatever community I live in, as the Fellows programs has reinforced in me that responsible citizenship includes a commitment to community service.
Finally, I'd like to thank Danyelle, Rhea, and Erkina for all they've taught me every other Tuesday for the past four months. I'd also like to thank Amanda and Heather at Washtenaw Housing Alliance for welcoming me into the office and making this a wonderful learning experience for me.

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