Leadership Training: Personal Development at Haverford

 

Bonus visual: My splendid birthday cake – Haverford style!

Bonus visual: My splendid birthday cake – Haverford style!

The college experience is about academic development as well as personal development.  Of course, Haverford has plenty of resources to facilitate academic growth, but it also makes available many opportunities for personal development.  Among our many extracurricular activities is the Rufus M. Jones Leadership Institute.  The Institute has program requirements that are useful in becoming a well-rounded and informed leader; students can also complete different parts of the program as ways to hone their leadership skills.  For the spring semester, I submitted my name to be enrolled in Leadership 101: Foundations, a not-for-credit class that meets six times once a week, after receiving an email advertising it.  (As a side note, always check your college email account – opportunities can abound in the mail you receive.)  Leadership 101: Foundations is designed to introduce key themes in leadership that can be applied to real-world situations from leading a club to running a meeting.  We have had five of our six classes so far this semester, and we will have our final class on March 20 after we return from Spring Break. 

The class is a great opportunity for personal development.  Lilly Lavner (Coordinator of Student Activities and Leadership) and Chloe Tucker (International Programs Coordinator) lead the class.  Fewer than ten students are in the class, and that small class size ensures that we can hear each other’s opinions and break into small discussion groups.  (The class has also been a great way to meet new people and to get to know other people better.)  On the first day of class, we were given The Intentional Leader by Kenneth A. Shaw and Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.  The Intentional Leader is the text on which our class topics are founded.  We used the online component of Strengths Based Leadership to take a diagnostic test to examine what strengths we had and how we could utilize those strengths to lead.  We also used this diagnostic information to learn how to work effectively with people with different strengths.  From these sessions, I have learned that introspection and self-assessment are major components of leadership. 

Group activities feature prominently in the class.  Of course, there are times when Lilly and Chloe provide information or new knowledge, but much of the time is dedicated to having discussions and participating in group tasks which are designed to put leadership skills into practice and demonstrate group dynamics.  We truly participate in learning and developing the concepts featured in the class.  The group activities allow for reflecting on what aspects of leadership worked well and which aspects could be improved.  During our classes, we have set goals, learned how to give constructive criticism, and discussed our own strengths and weaknesses, ways of working with people with different strengths or personal styles, decision-making, meetings, diversity, and identity. 

Maximizing the outcome of a meeting by establishing a purpose for the meeting, setting goals for the meeting, and using an effective meeting style was another a critical topic.  It segued smoothly into a session about effective communication.  For that session, we had a visiting instructor, Michael Webert, from the Office of Academic Resources who described proper communication techniques in addition to traits of effective leaders, values, and accountability.  He also emphasized evaluating others and oneself and creating a reason for others to follow a leader. 

I think the most important style that we discussed in Leadership 101: Foundations was facilitation.  Rather than commanding others, a facilitator can create an environment in which ideas can be bandied about without fear of harsh criticism.  A facilitator focuses on achieving discussion of pros, cons, and compromises.  Facilitating meetings to allow ideas to flourish or for ideas to be born from general themes is a crucial element of leadership.  Facilitation is perhaps an unconventional means of framing leadership, for facilitation is a hands-off approach.  However, it allows for someone to keep the meeting on task and to ensure various opinions are heard from different participants.

So far, my experience with Leadership 101: Foundations has been extremely positive.  I have gained insight into my own practices and reflected on ways to improve and refine them.  I have gained the vocabulary to talk about leadership in a precise and meaningful way.  I have learned what to look for in a group dynamic so that I can focus on giving agency to and including others.  All of the knowledge I have gleaned from the class has been extremely valuable in making me more aware of proper leadership practices that I will employ to make group experiences more effective and beneficial to all of the group’s members.

Let’s hope for warm weather!  Haver happy spring!

A Study in Sibilance: Snowpocalypse, Second Semester Senior Year, and Sappy Sentiments

I am still coming to grips with the fact that my final semester at Haverford is underway. Apparently the weather has had some similar struggles, bringing snow and ice storms and cancelling four days worth of classes. So, my semester has thus far been a combination of hibernation, intense thesis-ing, and making friends with the many snowpeople dotting campus.

Let’s start with a little photographic evidence:

photo 1-2This is Magill, our lovely library, and where I’ve currently been spending a bunch of quality time with my burgeoning thesis. I can now quote you sections from “Moon Tiger” and have a clear sense of the shape of the essay. Good thing, because my rough draft is due in a couple of weeks. Anyone interested in chronotopic/dialogic/kaleidoscopic commentaries on history, memory, and narrative theory should inquire within. I jest. In all seriousness though, yes, I’ve been engulfed in outlining, underlining, and rereading, but I’ve also genuinely enjoyed the process. Thesis is one of the best expressions of academic agency here; I have so enjoyed drawing from learning across my almost four years of study here in crafting my own critical contribution to the English discipline. It is satisfying and energizing.

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Snow Day: Transportation in the Tri-Co

Haverford’s Dining Center as the snow falls in the morning

Haverford’s Dining Center as the snow falls in the morning

Swarthmore after I finished my classes

Swarthmore after I finished my classes

Snow Day: Transportation in the Tri-Co

As I shared my Fall 2013 college stories with friends and family over Winter Break, I came to realize how vital college transportation was to my semester.  Haverford is part of the Tri-College Consortium (Tri-Co), which means that Haverford students are able to take classes at Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr.  Haverford is also part of the Quaker Consortium, which consists of the Tri-Co as well as the University of Pennsylvania (Penn); if a class is not offered within the Tri-Co, Haverford students can take that class at Penn.  This academic cooperation between the schools provides manifold resources and opportunities for students. 

For the Fall 2013 semester, I made extensive use of the Tri-Co.  There was a scheduling conflict at Haverford, so I took my classes at Swarthmore.  To get to Swarthmore, I used the Tri-Co Van, which shuttles students between the three schools. The trip between Haverford and Swarthmore is a reliable 20- or 30-minute drive.  On a related note, the Blue Bus shuttles students between Bryn Mawr and Haverford.  This ride usually takes around 5 or 10 minutes, and I have taken it to work on group projects.  Both the Tri-Co Van and the Blue Bus are complementary services to Tri-Co students.  The van was very punctual and allowed me to arrive at Swarthmore in the morning and leave in the afternoon once my classes had ended.  It also allowed me to go to Swarthmore on other days of the week (including Fridays and weekends) to, for example, complete problem sets with groups or meet with professors.  Without the Tri-Co van, my semester would have been impossible. 

However, on December 10, a snowstorm caused the Tri-Co transportation system to shut down.  Of course, December 10 was the last day of classes before finals at Swarthmore, and I had a group presentation for one of my classes.  I had never missed a class, and I did not intend to start on that day.  An email was sent, informing students that the shuttle was not operating, so I tried calling a taxi company, which was also not operating.  Then, like a shining beacon, an employee of the College appeared and told me that SEPTA, the bus and train system that connects areas in and around Philadelphia, was likely still operating.  (Students who take classes at Penn use SEPTA for transportation, and others use it to experience all that Philadelphia has to offer.)  I had never used SEPTA before, so I knew this day was going to be an interesting experience. 

Conveniently, the Haverford Station stop is near campus, and a train was leaving soon.  Inconveniently, it was still snowing, there were several inches of snow on the ground, and I was worried about arriving on time.  I must have looked ridiculous, laden with a heavy bag and my burdensome backpack, wearing dress shoes, jeans, a button-down shirt, a sweater, a coat, hat, and gloves.  I made my way through the falling and fallen snow in a combination of running, jogging, and walking interspersed with labored breathing, but I made it.  With some help from an extremely kind stranger on the platform, I took the train to 69th Street Transportation Center and boarded the 109 bus, which took me to Swarthmore.  I thought the bus driver would stop at the appropriate place, and I did not know exactly where that place was, so as we were beginning to pass the campus, I asked where the stop was.  It had been a bit before, so the bus driver let me out where we were – I was at the bottom of the hill that leads to the part of Swarthmore’s campus where my classes were, which meant more jogging, running, and panting.  At least I got to see a new part of their campus!  I trekked up to my classroom and made all my classes.  As I walked into my first class (Semantics), my professor said that I did not have to come to class that day.  Triumphant and grinning, though out-of-breath, I responded, “Where would the fun be?” before I sat down and opened my notebook.  It was a satisfying moment to have arrived at the destination of my trek. 

When classes had ended, I bolted to the bus stop and just made it.  I took the 109 to 69th Street, which was rather busy, probably due to the evening rush hour.  I was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the end of the workday as I made it to the right train to take me to the Haverford Station, so I tried to blend in as a commuter student.  As I walked back to campus, exhausted from my classes and transportation adventure, I felt quite accomplished. 

This day was the perfect encapsulation of a hectic but ultimately rewarding semester.  In spite of an obstacle, I persevered to learn.  I view my SEPTA day as an exciting, completely new experience; the obstacle provided an opportunity to prove to myself that I could adapt to a radical change of plan.  For all the stress, I must admit that it was fun.  Instead of dwelling on the rare Tri-Co transportation cancellation, I utilized a wonderful resource (a nearby train station) that Haverford’s location offers.  The Tri-Co transportation system and SEPTA are two resources that facilitate academic activity for Haverford students and are great benefits of attending Haverford.  HAVER happy New Year!

Life as a Senior; The Senior Thesis

Hello friends! This is an exciting time of year for seniors as our senior theses are in full swing. Here at Haverford, seniors are asked to complete a research project in their respective major(s). And following the true nature of Haverford, each thesis is unique and special. Theses vary greatly from major to major.

Quite honestly, working on my thesis is a pretty incredible experience. For biology majors, we work closely with a professor and we each select a question to ask in their field of expertise. My thesis advisor, Justine Melo, focuses on understanding how animals detect invading pathogens and environmental hazards. In our lab we are using the nematode C. elegans to elucidate the inner workings of these surveillance processes. It’s some pretty interesting stuff.

For the past few weeks, biology majors have been giving department-wide presentations proposing our thesis projects. Although it was fairly intimidating to present my project to my peers and professors, it was such a helpful process. Not only did I receive suggestions for potential future experiments, but I also became of aware of some “hiccups” I may come across down the line. Scientists love to question everything. It’s what makes the field so exciting. It was such a pleasure to hear all of my peers talk about their projects as well. It’s funny, we all started off taking the same biology classes together, but our interests in the field have expanded so much!

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Food for Thought

November has been stuffed — with essays, thesis deadlines, and fellowship applications — and it’s been a little crazy (for you all, ED deadlines!). But it’s also been stuffed with some awesome outings.  Last Friday, I led a group of 40 students into Philadelphia for a cooking class at Reading Terminal Market — and oh how satisfying it was!

Before I get to the juicy details, I should explain FAB. FAB stands for Fords Against Boredom and is a student-run club that organizes on and off-campus events for the entire community. We run movies, organize Quizzo nights (this year featured a special “Beat the Librarians” round), provide tickets to Phillies and 76ers games, and most recently, acquired 40 FREE tickets to the Kanye West concert! All of the events are totally free for students, actually. Sweet deal.

I’ve been a member of FAB since my sophomore year, and this semester, this cooking adventure was my brain child. We arrived at Reading Terminal Market to find a pristine kitchen ready for us:

photo 2

 

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Community Housing at Haverford

A portion of our costumed guests at Nerd House's Halloween Party

A portion of our costumed guests at Nerd House’s Halloween Party

Hello, friends!  One thing I love about Haverford is community housing.  After freshman year, a group of interested students can join together and apply to live in an on-campus house (Yarnall) or one of three apartments set aside for community housing.  The agreement is that, in exchange for housing, the Office of Residential Life expects those living in the community house to host events for the community.  Often, the houses have a specific theme.  The house I live in is Nerd House in Yarnall, and we are a group of 13 students dedicated to various fandoms, science, technology, literature, movies (some of us would say “films”), and board games of all stripes.  We do not use the term “nerd” in a disparaging way.  Instead, we use it as a term for motivated students with particular interests that make us interesting members of a sub-community that reaches out to the larger community.  We are all about inclusion.

When my housemates and I were freshmen, we began as several different groups of friends who all had similar interests.  Like nodes on a graph, we gradually became connected.  I was connected to many of my current housemates through my freshman hall and classes such as psychology, Spanish, computer science, and my writing seminar.  Sometimes, friends can come from unexpected places, and what can at first seem like minor events (e.g., sitting next to my current housemates in computer science and my writing seminar and thinking something along the lines of, “These guys seem nice.”) may be far more important upon further reflection.    Several of my friends started thinking about living together, and we decided that a community house would provide us with the space we needed and also be a way for us to reach out into the community.  After all, we are extremely social nerds.  (I prefer “nerdlings.”)  Once we had filled out our application near the end of freshman year and established our mission statement, we had an engaging interview with the Residential Life Committee.  When we had approval, we began to plan for sophomore year and compile an email list that we now use to communicate with numerous students who are interested in our events.  Upon our return to Haverford as sophomores, we were indeed prepared for an exciting year!

This year, we have hosted a variety of events on weekends, allowing students to have fun and “nerdy” evenings.  Some of our events have included an Open House board game night, several movie nights including an anime film night, Film Noir night complete with a jazz sextet, a Victorian Era murder mystery party, a video game tournament, and a Halloween party and costume ball.  Strategy board game night was our latest event.  Anyone on campus is invited to these events; we truly reach out to the community.  One of our crowning achievements was Humans vs. Zombies, a campus-wide game of tag wherein zombies had to infect humans to convert them, and humans had to resist the horde.  Nerd House advertised extensively and signed people up in the Dining Center; it was a phenomenal game with amazing participation.  Students have been responding with great enthusiasm to Nerd House; we have had impressive turnouts for our events, and I personally receive many compliments about those events and the general spirit of our house.  Community housing at Haverford is an excellent embodiment of the agency students have.  If there is not a club or group that suits your interests, you can create one.

Perhaps the most wonderful event that happens at Nerd House is when I walk in late at night to find my friends working in the kitchen.  We talk about our days, muse about our classes, and laugh about what is on the Internet.  I have a marvelous group of friends here whom I have gotten to know even better this year, and I treasure all of the success that we have been having in the community through Nerd House.  Be sure to check out previous and future blog posts.  HAVER great day!

Quakerliness in Motion

Quaker and non-Quaker students at Haverford’s Quaker Community retreat to Snipes Farm, Fall 2013.  The retreat included fellowship, singing around a campfire, sustainable food, and community service.

Part of what drew me to Haverford when I was going through college applications was the school’s long-standing connection to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). A bit of history: Haverford, founded nearly 200 years ago in 1833, was the very first in a long line of colleges started by Quakers.   Continue reading

Bittersweet Autumn

And in one instantaneous motion, fall break has passed and it’s now post-midsemester. I must admit that autumn is my favorite season on Haverford’s campus- the different color and complexion of each leaf is enough to incite a glimpse of happiness during the most stressful days. Plus, autumn is the season where almost every squirrel (black, brown, gray, and hybrids) on campus is active and seemingly elated, as well as the swift chipmunks, rabbits, and the occasional cordial community cat.
Yet, beyond the natural environment, the fall semester thus far has been exciting, especially academically. This semester I opted to continue to fulfill my last lingering major requirements, along with enrolling in the Teaching Learning Institute, a Bi-college education program, where students partner with faculty to enhance and improve learning as well as teaching inside and outside the classroom. I act as a student consultant, a conduit between the students and faculty, bearing the responsibility of expressing students’ concerns that may be a little more arduous to explain to faculty. I also offer my opinion to the faculty to member when they’re developing their various pedagogical strategies for the semester. This is merely one example of the many opportunities here at Haverford. It also highlights the benefits of being at a purely undergraduate institution since undergraduates subsequently fill these positions. While, this semester I’m a student consultant for an Introduction Economics course, which affords me access to an Economics course (since I’ve never taken a course in Economics), I am also learning about Economics in the process, which was one of my goals to do before I graduated.
This brings me to being a senior. Life as a Senior is well different. Besides the fact seniors shape and mold a lot of the culture on campus, there is a heap of work that constantly needs to be completed. In addition, to diving headfirst into the job search, there’s also the senior thesis. And as a double major in Sociology and Religion, my thesis will have to satiate both departments. This is exactly why only about five percent of each class decides to double major- because it often means two theses. As I wait to submit my religion thesis proposal and continue looking for jobs, answering a plethora of questions about the resources on campus for underclassmen, I occasionally remember this is my last autumn at Haverford. The last time where I will observe the leaves ever so peacefully swirl to the ground or the squirrels scurry pass me every morning on my way to class. Being a senior is bittersweet. Yes. Still, it’s great to complete my time here at Haverford, there’s so much to be missed about this campus even the subtle things, such as the leaves, and yet there’s so much to be desired outside of Haverford.

It’s good to be back

Being back at Haverford is such a lovely thing. Because I was abroad last semester (I studied at the University of Melbourne in Australia), coming back to the Ford has been that much more special. As much fun as abroad was (and seriously, I recommend studying abroad to EVERYONE), nothing quite compares to Haverford. It’s good to be back.

The beginning of the academic year is my favorite time because not only does it mean a reunion with old friends, but it also marks the start of soccer. I’m a co-captain of the varsity women’s soccer team here and when I’m in season, I’m having the most fun. Last year we won the Centennial Conference Championship for the first time since 1995!

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Winning the conference last year and going on to the NCAA tournament was such an incredible experience; one we’re hoping to repeat this year! Many of my fondest memories here at Haverford are from playing on this team. One of my favorites was when we hosted the first round of NCAA’s here and so many members of our community came to cheer us on. From students, to professors, to administrators, everyone present supported us and the noise was deafening. Haverford really emphasizes the importance of community; whether it be academics, athletics, or extracurriculars, everyone here supports one another. How many people can say that they can hear their professors cheering them on when they’re dribbling down the field?

Being a student-athlete at Haverford is truly a unique experience. There are no classes scheduled from 4-7, when practices take place, so it’s quite rare that I would ever miss class for an athletic event. When I was looking for schools, I wanted to attend a place where I would, first and foremost, be a student. As much as I love soccer ( I mean I’ve been playing the glorious sport for my entire life) my priority has always been to get the best education possible. If I’m able to play the sport I love while doing so, well that’s just the cherry on top. Haverford is a place where you can be challenged academically in the classroom and the physically on the field. I really feel as though I’ve been living up to my student-athlete potential here.

All in all, I’m super excited for this year. There’s so much to look forward to as you will all learn from the heaps of blogs we’re going to post. I can’t wait to tell you guys more. Until next time, cheers!

Oh! One more thing! This past pre-season, our team hosted a clinic for the Delaware County Special Olympics Chapter Soccer Team. We led the players in a warm-up, various drills, and even cheered them on as they scrimmaged. We’re being recognized by this month’s NCAA Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll. If you would like to learn more about what we did/want to vote for us and help us win $500 to go towards our next clinic please click the following link. Thanks!

Women’s soccer nominated for NCAA Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll

Senior Sentiments

Coming into my final year at Haverford, I anticipated feeling a bit of denial and overwhelming nostalgia. While not an untrue statement, the transition to this transitional year has been smooth and natural. Dare I say it? I’m relishing being a senior and the productive, exciting opportunities it affords.

My thesis proposal is in, approved, and awaiting remarks from my newly minted thesis adviser. I’m going to be working with Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger and exploring construction of character through geographic and mental spaces, as well as time and memory. This thesis topic draws on my established interests in perspectivalism and temporality, and allows me to reflect further on theories of identity in relationship to place, which I cultivated during my extensive travels during my semester abroad. The senior thesis experience is a space for culmination and reflection, as well looking forward within the discipline. Continue reading