By Kaitlyn Harms
Over winter break, the College held a four day, campus-based session of the LeaderShape® Institute that engaged selected participants with highly interactive large and small group activities.
LeaderShape® is a nationally recognized program that challenges participants to explore identity development, inclusive leadership and the importance of a healthy disregard for the impossible. The 2023 LeaderShape® Institute, otherwise referred to as the “learning community,” took place from Jan. 7 through Jan. 10 in the Brower Student Center.
The Institute curriculum equipped participants with the tools to develop a vision for positive global change, along with a plan for enactment of what they hope to see in the future. In the learning community, the facilitators emphasized that every individual is a teacher as well as a learner.
“The most rewarding aspect for me, as program coordinator, is to see the evolution of the students' learning throughout the four days of attending LeaderShape®,” said Avani Rana, director of Co-Curricular and Leadership Development. “I get to observe the growth and development of our students as they go through the program through small ways; those who didn't speak up in the large group in the beginning coming out of their shells to participate, or talking with students during meals about the ah-ha moments they had through the program, and when I follow up with students after the program is complete to see what they took away.”
Throughout the duration of the program, every participant was assigned to a “Family Cluster,” which served as a support and reference group for the participants. The cluster facilitator of each group supported students as they developed their visions and reflected on their values.
“I heard about the opportunity, and I knew that it would include the process of people stepping outside of their comfort zone, pushing through it and coming out on the other side of it,” said Eric Van Eck, the College’s recovery & prevention coordinator who served as a cluster facilitator. “It is a process that I am in love with because it is how people heal, and it is how they grow.”
During the Institute, the participants were given time to develop a vision for the world that they wanted to create through their leadership roles. They wrote headlines for their visions, as well as a paragraph depicting how the world would be once their vision came to life.
“The vision headline was so inspiring,” said Van Eck. “I had an emotional reaction to the power in every student’s vision and what they hope to accomplish in the future.”
The students who were selected to participate in LeaderShape® said they feel like they are already implementing the lessons they learned in their everyday lives.
“LeaderShape® is truly an institute I believe all college students should attend,” said Courtney Nagy, a sophomore graphic design major. “I went into the program having some understanding of leadership and what I perceived leaders to be, but I learned leadership is within everyone.”
Other participants left LeaderShape® feeling more equipped to lead in their organizations on campus.
“The most valuable realization that occurred to me during this experience was the impact of my voice,” said Jazailis Gual, a junior communications major. “At LeaderShape®, I was not TCNJ’s Junior Class President, but simply a student.”
The LeaderShape® Institute positively impacted students’ and facilitators alike and has further motivated future leaders to put their visions into action to shape our future.