Over the last week, I was offered the wonderful opportunity to work for MIT at the first ever MIT-SUTD (Singapore University of Technology and Design) Collaboration Global Leadership Program’s LeaderShape Institute. This was pretty great because it meant I could get some experience with working with a pretty different student population (there were 28 SUTD students and 2 MIT students), earn money over the summer, and have a great time seeing how great this leadership development program really is! I have to say, it was one of the best experiences in terms of leadership development and community building I have ever seen.
A couple of months ago, I saw my program director email us about this opportunity. Within a couple of hours, I applied and a few days later, I was interviewed. I couple days after that, I was offered the position! It was a pretty quick process and I was so excited to spend a week working for this premier leadership development program that has been around for 27 years!
Another added perk was that I would get to work alongside a pretty diverse staff. I got to work with three peers: Justin Miller (PhD students at MIT), Tania Tuchapsky (an experienced educator), and Denisha Robinson (an internationally experienced educator and human resources professional). Added to that, I got to work with Jon and Kate from the MIT-SUTD Collaboration office at MIT and two amazing co leader facilitators from LeaderShape, Mike McRee (works at Delta Upsilon) and Linda J Tompkins (higher education professional at Cornell University).
So, there were so many benefits for me spending a week at LeaderShape as the On-Site Coordinator. I got to learn the behind the scenes work and the logistics of running an institute. Experience is experience in my world, so I know that even though I wasn’t a cluster facilitator working with students all the time, I knew that these skills would serve me in some capacity. I got to spend most of my time with the two co lead facilitators and learn about them and how the LeaderShape curriculum works.
On June 3, 2013, we headed down to Sharon, MA to the Wonderland Conference Center and started off our week!
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about how the SUTD students would take to the curriculum. But, those anxieties were eased instantly when they arrived and seemed so enthusiastic about the experience. Over the 6-day institute, I have to say that I saw students grow so much. A lot of them had trouble with making their vision statement and to think big, but after a couple of days, they truly took hold of the process and saw what positive change they could make in their communities.
LeaderShape is very intentional with the layout of the curriculum and all the activities are timed perfectly to challenge students at the right times. Things may not make sense in the order they are presented, but hings make sense once each day goes by.
Another cool part about my experience working at LeaderShape was seeing how much the cluster facilitators grew in just over a couple of days. Most of them feared they would not be energetic enough or that the students wouldn’t take an interest in the program. Of course, as each day passed by, things improved and they were having a great time!
The days and nights were long, but the week went by quicker than I had anticipated. Some of my favorite parts of the experience was having meals in the dining room. The cooks at Wonderland were pretty amazing. I have to say, I think I got the LeaderShape 15 because I probably over ate at every meal. The students loved the food and especially loved the amount of salad dressings we had! It was kind of hilarious how much they loved the salad bar, which seems like a regular thing to most of us. Some sample meals included lobster, codfish, lasagna, full hot breakfasts, crab cakes, and stuff mushrooms. I didn’t expect us to have such great meals, but we did! With these meals, we got to mix in with students and have conversations about American life and Singaporean life, which was always interesting.
The student “daily inspiration” skits were also pretty hilarious! They ranged from Mario skits to Toms Shoes skits. They made us laugh, but also surprised us with how well done and thought out they were. Super creative!
By the end of the week, I was so happy to see all the students really engage in the curriculum and take it seriously. Knowing we reached the end of the week made me both happy and sad. I felt happy because I knew they learned so much and I needed some sleep, but sad because it was a great week! These SUTD students really embraced everything we threw at them and showed true appreciation for the work we put in to make sure they had a great experience. At graduation, it was so cool to feel the appreciation they had for the entire faculty team. I definitely would like to be involved in another LeaderShape Institute in the future!