Immersed in Leadership

October 27, 2010

ELI Dinner 1

The long-awaited Emerging Leadership Institute (ELI) is finally a reality. After months of planning, members of X Club, the Office of Community Engagement and the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership partnered with other on-campus organizations to offer an extraordinary opportunity for first and second year students. This weekend immersion took a select group of nominated students to downtown Orlando to explore the nature of leadership and engage in service-learning at Saturday Sharing with the Homeless.

“[The goal is] to develop young leaders on campus in both their skills and cohesiveness so that when they get into leadership positions they can utilize that development and those relationships to be more effective leaders,” said Kyle Wilkerson (Class of 2011).

As President of X Club, Wilkerson was largely in charge of running the event. However, the success of ELI has special meaning for him. After returning to Rollins from a leave of absence, Wilkerson devoted himself to the idea of leadership. What began as a program for bringing student leaders together from various local colleges was distilled into a short weekend of activities specifically designed to meet Rollins’ needs.

“I am involved in a few different activities on campus already and I hope to expand on my current positions and take leadership roles in the future,” said Annamarie Carlson (Class of 2014).  “I hope ELI will help me.”

The Institute started with a getting-to-know-you dinner the Tuesday before the trip. Students were introduced to one another by matching up in pairs such as “Sonny” and “Cher” based on the words on their nametags. Of course, that’s difficult to do when the name tag is on your back and you can only ask others yes or no questions to find out “who” you are.

On Friday afternoon, the participants congregated in the X Club chapter room with their duffel bags, waiting to get started. Sporting bandanas bearing their signature group colors, the students and facilitators headed downtown.

That night started out with pizza and a series of icebreakers but culminated in a group discussion on leadership based on the following quote by John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

On Saturday morning at Saturday Sharing with the Homeless, students not only passed out food and clothing, but were encouraged to take time out to talk to the people they were there to help. For many it was their first time and was an eye-opening experience to see people from so many walks of life struck down by hard times and circumstances they couldn’t control.

The real substance of the day was a series of three rotating workshops. Students switched from team building games in the warm sunshine in Lake Eola Park that attracted the attention of curious bystanders, to a self-analyzing game of Four Corners that challenged them to explore their personal values, and a surprise session with the Rollins Improv Players, who set up a series of skits for the participants to perform that emphasized the importance of communication.

As the day wound to a close, the small groups joined together in a closing candlelight and graduation ceremony. Although many of them did not know one another when they first set out, there was no mistaking the bond that formed between them. The weekend was not long enough for most of them, and chances are that more than a few people have new Facebook friends now.

“I felt, personally, that this was an awesome experience and I implore any of those interested in leadership to take part in the next ELI conference,” said Jeff Guyan (Class of 2014).

Although the trip is over, the participating students will be paired with Leadership Allies in the Spring. These faculty and staff members will assist the students in the completion of personal action plans that function as the longterm component of ELI.

By Jennifer Ritter (Class of 2013)

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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