How The Impossible Becomes Possible

For teams of one to 100, success is contingent upon the growth of both the individual and the collective.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle is often attributed to the proverb, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In contemporary philosophy, this notion lives within the concept of emergence, in which a new entity emerges when its parts coalesce.

“Think of consciousness emerging from the simple cells of the brain,” said Philosophy Prof. Steve Gimbel, who wrote a paper on how teams form with Jewish Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies Prof. Stephen Stern and former Gettysburg College basketball forward Wil Rasmussen ’20. “The great business ethicist Peter French ’63, our most illustrious alum from philosophy, argues that a corporation is like a person because the decision-making structures they are built around function like a centralized brain. We argue that teams, on the other hand, are more like an octopus. The majority of an octopus’ neurons are located outside the brain in its arms. The arms literally think for themselves and operate independently. But for the octopus to survive, they have to serve a common purpose as they independently figure out the best way for them to do their jobs.”

“Team members do not surrender their independence, identity, or ability to think for themselves,” Gimbel continued, “but, rather, figure out the best way to use their resources to serve the team’s goal.”

Sunderman Conservatory of Music Director of Bands and Prof. Russell McCutcheon witnesses this concept in action every day.

“Any musical ensemble is reliant on teamwork because we’re reliant on one another,” said McCutcheon. “If any one person is missing or not contributing to the best of their ability, the music and the class experience declines.”

When teams’ neurons fire on all cylinders, their success culminates in growth for both the individual and for the collective. For members of the Gettysburg College community, teamwork means showing up—showing up in a consistent way for oneself and for one another, all for something bigger than themselves.

Drawing connections, building community

For Jaclynn Cross ’10, education and events project manager at the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., and managing partner at Bogues Group, a Black female-owned communications and events agency, teamwork is all about community.

“The word teamwork makes me recall the proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ This speaks to the power of community and a collective effort toward a common goal,” said Cross. “To me, teamwork is synonymous with community. We are nothing but a physical manifestation of the support, knowledge, and experiences we learn and acquire in the various communities of life. Gettysburg College was—and is—an essential community in my life.”

When Gettysburg Softball Coach Brooke Kalman ’14 first stepped on campus in 2010, she did so with trepidation. A self-proclaimed homebody, she wasn’t confident she could handle the demands of being a student-athlete. However, that fear was quickly silenced.

“Gettysburg doesn’t let you fade into the background or fall through the cracks. The environment—from our athletic teams to the classrooms—and the people—from the professors to our cafeteria workers—all work together within our very interwoven community to make sure everyone does well and that you build the skills to do well on your own after graduation. You don’t get that in many places,” said Kalman. “The Gettysburg community is one big team.”

Carrie Small, dining services coordinator, ensures the Bullet Hole team runs smoothly. She stressed how a shared sense of purpose is a key ingredient for a successful team, especially at Gettysburg. Without this, she said, her staff could never succeed in serving meals to more than 2,000 people every day.

Jaclynn Cross ’10

“Teamwork starts with letting each staff member know we are all in this together,” said Small. “I task each staff member and student worker with jobs based on their strengths and help others learn what they don’t know yet. When we work together, things not only get done, but they also get done well.”

Within the Cross-Disciplinary Science Institute at Gettysburg College, working together is at the heart of its ethos to answer science’s most pressing questions across multiple disciplines. The program was “built to be based around community,” preparing students to be research-ready, research-active, and research-connected, said X-SIG Coordinator and Physics Prof. Kurt Andresen.

“The research-connected part is based on the idea that X-SIG is not just a research program but a community of researchers,” Andresen explained. “We had research here at Gettysburg well before X-SIG, but it was a bunch of individual professors doing research with their students, completely disconnected from one another. X-SIG breaks down those barriers and encourages people to connect with one another.”

Computer scientists are collaborating with physicists, and physicists are consulting with biologists, said Andresen. New questions arise, and unique solutions emerge, thanks to the diverse perspectives of what once may have been viewed as an unlikely team.

“It makes the projects better and pushes the research further,” he said.

Gaining knowledge, sharing wisdom

Being part of a team—no matter the size—is an avenue to gain, exhibit, and share knowledge. Laura de Matos Leal ’25, an economics and political science major, believes that the College provides the ideal environment for personal and professional development through small group learning, collaboration with professors and peers, and co-curricular activities.

“Something Gettysburg does really well is provide a safe and supportive community for students to develop themselves,” said Leal, an international student ambassador for the Office of Admissions and a residential assistant. “Given the small class sizes, we are often expected and encouraged to participate in debates, listen to diverse perspectives, and challenge our beliefs. In co-curriculars, students are given autonomy and trust to lead impactful projects on campus and grow as individuals, team members, and leaders.”

When Gettysburg Baseball Coach Cory Beddick ’10 was a student, he played baseball, was an intramural supervisor for Campus Recreation, and held leadership roles in his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. With his well-rounded experience, the political science major and history minor was able to “get outside of [his] comfort zone and develop positive leadership and communication skills.”

“I was challenged to speak, write, work in groups, and give presentations. This allowed me to become more comfortable communicating effectively in many different ways, specifically in front of larger groups of people. This [experience], and being a member of the baseball team and other groups on campus, helped me to develop into a strong coach and leader of a team,” he said.

For Rachel Fry ’15, the sole human resources representative at Philadelphia-based tech startup EverWash, it’s essential to understand that teamwork can be learned—and Gettysburg College was the ideal place for her to do that.

“There are so many opportunities for growth and collaboration,” said Fry, an economics and history double major and business minor. “You can be a part of the Eisenhower Institute, join the Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC), do intramurals, work different jobs, and join multiple affinity groups. You’re never pigeonholed into one thing. You can be a part of so many different kinds of teams with diverse people of different backgrounds who are all working to achieve something together. That skill set is transferrable to so many different areas of post-grad success.”

With Gettysburg’s consequential education, students truly understand how diverse perspectives produce a richer human experience.

Coach Maurice “Moe” Banks

“Being a good team player means knowing how to work respectfully with people from different backgrounds and displaying exemplary leadership. Gettysburg prepares me to do just that,” said Leal, who also serves as the diversity, equity, and inclusion director for her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi.

When Gettysburg Football Coach Maurice “Moe” Banks played abroad in Italy, Austria, and Brazil, he had to learn to work well across language barriers and cultural differences—an integral piece of a successful team he imparts to his current players.

“No matter what team you are on, at home or abroad, there are going to be times when what you believe is the right thing for you may not be the right thing for the team,” he explained. “On the Bullets football team, we practice having difficult conversations so that we can build a sense of unity among individuals. Teamwork forces you to grow because you’re going to get pushed by your teammates to be better.”

From finding strengths working through challenges for Banks to making scientific discoveries by merging expertise for Andresen, teamwork makes the dream work.

“You don’t get myopic at Gettysburg, which is so important for the real world,” said Fry. “The more fluent you can become in college practicing that skill set, the more you will be set up for success.”

Paul Thallner ’89

Instilling passion, remaining resilient

Surrounded by history and opportunity, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, inspires the College community to build in each other the ambition to improve the world in their own ways. Through programs like the GLC, students and alumni—like Fry and Neil Bryant ’82, the vice president for leadership development at Carestream Health—recognize their potential as leaders and their responsibility to serve.

“At Carestream Health, we focus on building great leaders and helping people become the best professional version of themselves so that they can contribute to their functional teams and the organization overall,” said Bryant, a volunteer with the GLC since its inception. “Through all GLC programs, specifically one dedicated to young alumni skills-based coaching, we teach how to become coaches and coach-like, which enables team members to reach the full potential of their personal performance and contribution to their workplaces. This form of leadership invites and creates followership.”

At the core of all team performance is emotional intelligence, Bryant added.

“Effective teams and their leaders require mastery of many competencies, including conflict resolution, strategic thinking, problem-solving, inclusivity, stakeholder management, and effective communication, but at the core is this notion of emotional intelligence,” he said. “A person with high emotional intelligence understands who they are and who others are and can navigate their interactions effectively. Great leaders move teams by successfully blending their members’ skills to accomplish something.”

Stephen Fireoved ’76, a former Navy captain and attorney who is also a GLC mentor and professional coach, echoes that sentiment. A team leader can set goals and objectives, but the buy-in comes from passion.

“They make the mission clear and inspire people to buy into that mission and get passionate about it,” Fireoved said. “Good leaders solicit input, delegate well, and make sure every team member feels important and part of the team.”

“I am a big believer that as a leader and a coach, you need to be authentic with your players and show them that you live by the values you teach, like hard work, respect, and clear communication,” Kalman agreed.

Growth through teamwork also often means being a little uncomfortable, according to Paul Thallner ’89, author of “Reinventing Resilience: How Organizations Move Beyond Setbacks to Grow Through Challenges.” He’s a current principal at Daggerwing Group who advises senior executives on being highly effective leaders and team members.

“The growth that comes from being a part of a team can often be uncomfortable, but that’s not a bad thing,” said Thallner, a fellow GLC mentor. “It’s a good thing because you grow, the team grows, and the team gets results.

“Teams that fail,” Thallner continued, “tend to be ones that find it difficult to embrace discomfort and the idea of change. The impossible, on the other hand, can become possible when a team prioritizes team performance over individual performance.”

“One of the many things that I admire about the experience of being a student at Gettysburg College is the holistic approach the institution believes in,” Beddick said. “The institution instills the need to get involved outside of the classroom to truly grow, learn, and develop those enduring skills that lead to a lifetime of personal and professional growth and successes. Gettysburg College gives students the opportunity to learn to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”


Beginning in Fall 2023, all incoming students will have the opportunity to experience Gettysburg College’s new Guided Pathways and Personal Advising Teams—an innovative model for skillbuilding and self-reflection for a lifetime of career advancement and personal success.

“Students’ professional success is largely defined by the educational path they choose for themselves. At Gettysburg, they don’t have to make that choice alone,” said Vice President for College Life Anne Ehrlich. “With the support of a Personal Advising Team, students will intentionally select the out-ofclass experiences that will equip them with the enduring skills that align with their passions and the expectations of tomorrow’s employers— experiences that will transform their minds, build their confidence, and position them to have a consequential impact on the world around them.”

The Guided Pathways focus on Creativity, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation; Global Citizenship and Intercultural Fluency; Justice and Community Change; and Leadership, Teamwork, and Collaboration. All students participating in the Guided Pathways will also supplement their chosen Pathways with a four-year Career Development Pathway.

Every student who participates in the Guided Pathways will be supported by their own Personal Advising Team, ensuring students receive 360 degrees of advising in all facets of their college experience. Their team will include: 

  • A faculty advisor, who will help evaluate academic program selections,
  • A co-curricular advisor, who will offer guidance to pursue on-campus activities, and
  • A career advisor, who will provide opportunities for continuous reflection to connect the skills they gain to tangible outcomes.

After their sophomore year, students have the option of adding an alumni mentor to their Personal Advising Team, who will help define their career goals and build their professional network.

Together, the expertise of the Personal Advising Team will help students explore their interests and ambitions, while drawing connections between their campus experiences and plans after graduation.

Learn more at

by Katelyn Silva
Posted: 08/16/23

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