This semester I took the class Social Problems, at Central Michigan University, and had no idea what to expect. Six months ago, I did not even know about half the social problems that I do now. Each day I attended class, I was shocked and I always left feeling sad because I found out about issues I was not fully unaware of, such as violence and crime. I also learned more about issues I thought I was well versed in, such as gender inequality. However, even though being sad is not viewed as a good thing, there can be positives to it. The first step in fixing an issue is to know it exists. Now that I know about so many more issues in the world, I can start to take action and notify other people. For example, over the course of the semester I found out that I really want to become more sustainable and reach out to others and educate them. SOC 221 has a semester long project where each student selects a social issue, researches it, writes a paper on what institutions are causing the social problem and what can be done as a society to fix the issue, and then to take action themselves. For my topic, I chose plastic water bottles in the ocean. This class allowed me to fully educate myself on a social issue and take action to make a positive change. I gave a persuasive speech on the harms of disposable plastic water bottles in my Public Speaking class and encouraged everyone to start using reusable water bottles and reject plastic water bottles when they are offered them. I then typed my speech out, posted it on my blog, and shared the link on Facebook. I really do believe that as humans, we need to take better care of the Earth. This class has allowed me to speak out and create a positive change for the environment. I also plan on taking the information I have learned about other social problems in class, and sharing that knowledge with my peers..
Banner from the Art Reach promotional event in the Bovee University Center
At the beginning of second semester, I was brought aboard the Street Squad team, which does marketing for the student-run newspaper, Central Michigan Life. My duties include brainstorming promotional ideas and events for CM Life’s clients, run tabling and promotional events, attend weekly meetings, create presentations to pitch ideas for clients, distribute newspapers around CMU’s campus, and represent a positive face for CM Life. My first pitch I created was for Buffalo Wild Wings with a partner. We came up with ideas to increase awareness of vegetarian options and discount wing nights at the restaurant. The ideas were then put into an organized and professional presentation that I pitched by myself in front of other Street Squad members, my manager, and the Assistant Director of Student Publications. The pitch went really well, and the Assistant Director was interested in the ideas my partner and I came up with. Our ideas might even be possibly implemented in the future.
Street Squad is giving me hands-on experience outside the classroom. I am gaining real world marketing and public relations experience through trial and error right here on campus. Through advertising and promoting companies in Mount Pleasant, I am expanding my comfort zone and challenging myself with every tabling event. I am so thankful for all of the opportunities CM Life is providing me, and I plan on moving up in the office and advancing my skills as I move forward with this organization.
Introduction to Leadership was taken my second semester at CMU with Jesi Ekonen as the professor. This class was my first 3 hour class and my first night class in college, but it was still enjoyable to attend every week because the energy of my professor, the teacher’s assistants, and the rest of my cohort was infectious. In this class, I learned about the different leadership theories and styles and how different ones evolve over time. My class was split up into groups and we taught each other the different leadership theories and styles through workshops. My workshop group covered Servant Leadership and made sure we taught it to our classmates with the best of our abilities. The class was split into groups again so everyone could facilitate a leadership activity. Towards the end of the semester, my class also took a service trip to Detroit to volunteer with the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy and CASS Community Social Services.
From LDR 200L, my facilitating skills increased immensely. Before, I never knew what facilitating was, let alone that effective facilitators debrief at the end of their sessions. That term was completely foreign to me. I would just jump right into an activity and jump right out, but now I know how to properly introduce an activity and bring meaning to it at the end by tying it all together. I also learned about different leadership theories and styles, for example the Trait Approach says leaders are born and not made while the Skill Approach says the opposite. While each theory might be true, it is important to understand both and why they were each developed.
It is important to know the different theories and styles to understand different leaders and see why they act the way they do. Knowing about each of them also shows everyone the different skills and weaknesses they have. Different approaches work in different scenarios. Followers are essential to leaders so it is vital to understanding when to act in certain ways. From doing my workshop on Servant Leadership, I can now be conscious if I am genuinely acting like a leader. When I am doing community service, I can ask myself am I just doing service for attention, or am I actually displaying the 10 characteristics of a servant leader (listening, empathy, healing, etc.). I will also carry my facilitation skills with me and can apply them everywhere: in group projects, work, and activities I have been instructed to lead. Effective facilitation is important because it brings a group together and helps get creative thoughts to flow between members.
I have been going to Detroit for Tigers games since I have been in 4th grade. The experience has always been amazing for me by seeing the big buildings, walking in crowds of people who are just as excited as I am, watching baseball, and spending time with my family. I had always been aware of the homelessness in Detroit from seeing people on the streets before and after the games, but it never felt real to me until I was leaving the Quick Lane Bowl Game this winter. As I was trying to exit the city in my dad’s car, I saw people huddling on the sidewalk for warmth under tarps when it was pouring down rain. I realized that not everyone is fortunate enough to lie down in their own bed at night in a warm home. We should all be thankful for what we have.
The service trip that I am going on to Detroit relates to the purpose and vision of the Leadership Institute because I am going to learn hands-on how to make a difference in student’s lives at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy by taking on a leadership role and facilitating volunteer work for them. I will also provide service through Cass Community Social Services and actively help the community of Detroit by improving the quality of life and the state of economy there by doing whatever is asked of me with eagerness and willingness.
I think the service trip will help me grow as an individual by taking me to places in Detroit where I have never been before. There, I will see things I typically do not see on a day-to-day basis. I grew up in a small town with a small community and I am not used to seeing what life is like living in urban areas. I will be able to extend a helping hand to those who need a little boost, and I will get to see the impact I make on the lives of the students at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. I will not be serving alone, but I will be helping with 50 other servant leaders; I already know that seeing others helping and caring will make the trip that much more meaningful to me.
There are people in this world who truly love what they do and do what they love. The Fred Factor is a book written by Mark Sanborn about his mailman, Fred, who brought joy to his work, and to others. The four principles that Mark goes into about Fred are: everyone makes a difference, everything is built on relationships, you must continually create values for others, and you can reinvent yourself regularly. In my Introduction to Leadership class, we created a project where we represented these four principles and documented our work. My group set up a table and had people passing by write how they were going to leave their stamp on the world. They were to take that sticky note with them and keep it as a reminder how they were going to positively impact the world using the four principles. From this project, I learned that it is never too late to recreate yourself and that small acts of kindness and encouragement can completely turn a person’s day around.