Learning to lead
Katie Chancellor says she had an “a-ha” moment recently as she dangled off the cliff face of a mountain.
The freshman from Augusta was participating in an Outward Bound trip as part of her involvement with the college’s new Leaders Inspired for Tomorrow program. Before the start of fall semester, the 10 members of the inaugural LIFT class traveled to North Carolina for team-building exercises. Katie says it was a life-changing experience.
“I realized that life was going to be a lot like (rock climbing),” she says. “I’m going to have to put my trust in things that I might not understand and in people I might not know, but I should have faith that the outcome will be worth it, and I’ll be a better person.”
Katie calls the Outward Bound adventure “traumatizing – and amazing.”
“When I filled out the paperwork for the course, it said that it was going to be strenuous,” she says. “None of us thought it was going to be THAT strenuous. It was kind of outrageous – something like you’d see on ‘Survivor.’”
The students spent four days in the mountain wilderness, carrying 70- to 100-pound backpacks and discovering skills they didn’t know they had.
“We learned how to read maps and use a compass – the basics of navigation,” she says.
They also learned how to set up camp, cook outdoors and work together as a team.
“It was eye-opening for me to understand that other people often feel the exact same way I feel. It is a way to connect with them and let them know that I understand what they are going through, and together, we can work it out.”
LIFT is designed to take a group of 10 first-year students through a yearlong leadership experience. Being chosen for LIFT is the highest nonacademic honor that can be given a freshman, according to Dr. Marc Shook, Associate Provost and Dean of Student Engagement.
“This is primarily a one-year program, but returning students will be mentors to incoming students over the next few years,” he said. “Returning students will also assist with service projects as well.”
Katie says learning different leadership styles was invaluable to her.
“We took a personality test to see what kind of leaders we are,” she says. “Some were very strong leaders while others would hang back and make sure that the small things were going together to make everything work. It helped us learn how to function as a team. That was very enlightening.”
Katie says it is important to be both types.
“I used to think that I had to be the go-getter, the person who took over everything,” she says. “Now I realize that isn’t necessarily what a strong leader does. Sometimes counting on others is the best way to go. That’s what a true leader is – someone who makes sure everyone is included, contributing something and feeling valued as a team member.”
As a member of the college’s volleyball team, Katie says she’s putting those lessons to work.
“I wasn’t always the leader of team. I could help out by just doing my part and helping others do their parts as well.”
She’s also looking forward to continuing with LIFT throughout the year.
“We want to be the kinds of leaders that people can come to, and the kind of people who become servants,” she says.
“We worked with Christmas on the Hill and other small projects and programs. We try to do things that might seem unimportant to other people but are a way to transform others, one step at a time.
“You have to do the simple things before you can get to the big things.”