What does saving the life of a fallen climber, helping with tornado relief efforts, and experiencing a 60-foot freefall on an outdoor challenge course have to do with leadership and making one marketable in the workforce?
In environments such as these, it's about pushing one's perceived physical, emotional, and mental abilities to tackle complex situations in dynamic environments.
John Regentin, director of Gettysburg College's Office of Experiential Education, said he teaches students to be versatile, professional, and poised – all traits that are displayed in Jess Jozwik '14, a Gettysburgian who has served the office as a student facilitator for the last three and a half years and participated in numerous challenging experiences that the office provides.
“Our office teaches important lessons and then takes all the steps to show students how to use them,” Regentin said. “We see the potential of who our students will become and push them to get there. Jess is a great example of that potential.”
As a student facilitator in the office, Jozwik is also a Gettysburg Recreational Adventure Board (GRAB) staff member and is in her fourth year in the program.
“GRAB has put me in very real situations with very real consequences. I can then extrapolate those skills and see how they can be applied in other environments,” Jozwik said. “I think an ability to remove myself from a situation and examine it practically to determine the best plan of action is important, whether I am in a business transaction, emergency, personal dilemma, or anything else in between.”
One instance that clearly required such GRAB-inspired flexibility and levelheadedness involved Jozwik and a team of Gettysburg College students helping to save a life. She was part of an emergency response team that rescued a fallen climber in the Red River Gorge in March of 2012.
“After we spent several days designing technical rescue systems with rope, we received a call from one of the men who had taken the class with us,” Jozwik recalled. “A woman had fallen 80 feet and needed to be extracted from the forest.”
Jozwik, Regentin, and fellow Gettysburgians hiked the extra two miles to the climber's location and helped stabilize her and safely remove her from the area.
“I've never been part of a team that worked so smoothly,” Jozwik noted. “There was fear, relief, and a whole lot of pride in working together and accomplishing something that had real consequences and rewards.”
Another event that tested Jozwik's experiential education occurred when she was on a Wilderness Institute excursion and became engaged with relief efforts serving families whose homes had been destroyed when a tornado ripped through Kentucky.
“We decided to take a day out of our itinerary to work in the community and help with disaster relief,” she said. “The home I worked on had been reduced to a pile of toothpicks, with glimpses of the family's life strewn about everywhere. The family and community were so appreciative of our generosity.”
Jozwik attributes a lot of the transferable skills learned in GRAB, such as leadership, responsibility, and conflict resolution, to program director John Regentin.
“I've learned a lot from him,” Jozwik said. “From day one, he invests an incredible amount in his staff. He pushes us both mentally and physically, and is there to support and encourage us.”
In addition to her involvement in the Office of Experiential Education and GRAB, Jozwik is also an Eisenhower Institute Undergraduate Fellow and has achieved honors status in her environmental studies major, while working as an admissions tour guide and serving in the Alpha Delta Pi sorority chapter.
Recently, Jozwik applied to Princeton University for a one-year fellowship. If she is accepted into this competitive program, she will work for a non-government organization in Asia. Part of her application required her to describe an experience that helped her rise above a personal fear. She shared the story of how, as a senior GRAB facilitator, she dared to tackle the final and most mentally difficult portion of the College's outdoor challenge course: the 60-foot facilitated fall.
It wasn't the high climb to the course's peak or the long fall that quickened Jozwik's heartbeat – it was knowing she would need to physically release her grip and take the plunge, an act that would fully test the skills she had acquired over her years in GRAB.
“The moment right after the release, not as much the fall, is what the facilitated fall is supposed to test,” she said. “It took a lot to push myself to the top of the course, reflect on all the skills I learned on and off the challenge course, and remember my ability to assess and conquer stressful challenges.”
She drew on her experiences, forfeited her grip, and let herself go – and has moved forward with new, seemingly limitless confidence.
“My time at Gettysburg and specifically in GRAB has pushed me outside of my comfort zone, both academically and in leadership positions,” Jozwik said. “I think knowing how to respond to the stress and challenges of being uncomfortable in new or difficult situations is essential, and I feel like I have now developed that ability.”
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 enrolls 2,700 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Nick Skitko, communications and marketing intern
Contact: Mike Baker, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6521
Posted: Fri, 6 Dec 2013
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