Transformative. Life-changing. Inspiring. Eye-opening. Impressive. Awakening.
These are just a few of the reflections students shared after returning from the Leadership Institute’s immersion trip.
On May 13, twelve students, two student facilitators, and three staff members left Gettysburg and traveled to Abilene, Kan. The group spent two days there, touring the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum and participating in the Five Star Leadership Program (named in honor of Eisenhower’s five-star rank as General of the Army). During this experiential learning program, the group assumed the roles Eisenhower and his commanders played on D-Day, immersing themselves in a historic scenario while learning more about democratic leadership and decision making.
"I’ve gained a new appreciation for Dwight D. Eisenhower," said Rachel Fry '15, an economics major. "I had previously known little about him, but the trip helped me to understand just how much of an incredible leader and person he was."
On May 15, the group left Kansas and traveled to Little Rock, Ark. They spent the next three days touring Little Rock Central High School and learning about the Little Rock Nine, and visiting the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum and the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. The group also participated in a service learning experience at the Arkansas Food Bank and traveled to City Year Little Rock headquarters. They also met with Gettysburg College alum Chantal Barber ’05 and campus leaders from both Hendrix College and Philander Smith College.
"The visit to Little Rock Central High School was the most in-depth and personal explanation of the crisis that I've ever heard," said Chelsea Broe '14, a sociology major. "This experience made the crisis feel much more real, rather than learning about it by reading about it. It was there that I felt I could really connect with the Civil Rights Movement."
The group returned to campus May 18 with memories that will last a lifetime - as well as inspiration for the future.
"This trip has empowered me to be more active in fighting for social justice," added Broe. "I now feel that I, as an individual, have the power to start a movement, but also that such action is necessary. This trip made me more aware of the inequalities still faced today - and now more than ever I want to work to end those inequalities."
"It was a great honor and privilege to work with social justice-driven and passionate individuals who gave me a renewed hope in our generation to confront the challenges of our time," said Allan Kawala '13, a sociology major and one of the student facilitators. "The battle in creating a better and just society will be long and the path steep, but as true warriors, we will not give up, not now nor tomorrow. The world that we desire exists, and can and will be won. We are very obsessed with one question: have I done enough to make this world better and just?"
The Leadership Institute is a semester-long program that challenges students to think critically about the civil rights movement, leadership, and social injustices. Guided by their peers, students actively learned about and engaged in lessons of leadership and social change through seven lunch discussions, four social issues dialogues, three learning workshops, and an immersion trip (the culmination of the program).
Participants study historic examples of leadership during the 1950’s-60’s American civil rights movement, the living legacy of President Eisenhower and the leadership of numerous other presidents, and the cultural climate on campus and around the world. They challenge social injustice issues through both an individual and unified voice, and work to model the way for current and future generations.
“Discussing topics about race and gender can be extremely uncomfortable,” said Eric Harris ’15, an environmental studies major. “But when we make the assumption that anything ‘uncomfortable’ is a bad thing, we reject the possibility for growth, for opening ourselves to new perspectives, even new solutions. This has been one essential theme that I've taken away over the course of the semester: pushing myself out of my comfort zone and embracing controversy with civility, so that I can be a more well-rounded person.”
The Social Change Model of Leadership Development, which served as the theoretical foundation for the Leadership Institute, approaches leadership as a purposeful, collaborative, values-based process resulting in positive social change. The model is built upon the assumptions that leadership is socially responsible, collaborative, a process (not a position), inclusive and accessible to people, values-based, and the ideal that community involvement/service is a powerful vehicle for leadership, and is also known as the "7 C’s for Change."
As a result of this program, the students developed a greater understanding of the potential they each possess to create social change and were inspired to make a difference in their own lives and well as the lives of others.
"The Leadership Institute has been one of the most rewarding programs I've done at Gettysburg College because it challenged me to grow as a person, opened my eyes to the greater world around me, and inspired me to essentially 'be the change I want to see the in the world,'" said Kaeley McEvoy '14, a religious studies major. "I can see myself using what I've learned in almost every discussion I've had going forward in the classroom and in the workplace because I learned how to craft an argument within a group setting while incorporating and respecting the opinions of my other group members. This program also enhanced my world view, which is something that will impact my life in almost everything I pursue.”
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college, which enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students, is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Tracey Dukert, assistant director of news content, 717.337.6521