With a healthy disregard for the impossible
In the week leading up to this semester, 70 students and a handful of faculty facilitators retreated to snowy Salt Fork State Park for Denison’s 10th annual LeaderShape Institute.
For six intense days, through dialogue, teamwork, and introspection, the students learned how to identify their own values. They explored their personal vision of the world they want to live in. They learned how to form a plan for that vision, and how lead others toward it with a solid sense of integrity and a “healthy disregard for the impossible.”
As it happens, 2011 also marks the silver anniversary of the creation of the program by Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, and 23 years since it became Leadershape, Inc. a non-profit corporation. Today, it partners with scores of colleges and universities and even a few corporations across the country.
Once again, Denison students (and even the faculty) returned from LeaderShape describing it as one of the most powerful experiences they’ve had at Denison so far. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to what Allie, Ben, and Shavely have to say…
Allie Jeffers ’14:
LeaderShape was such an amazing experience! Personally, I feel like the biggest impact LeaderShape has had on me has been to broaden my horizons, to know that my voice is powerful and important, and to open myself up to others and allow myself to be vulnerable. I have never been in such a large group of open, accepting, like-minded individuals. More than that, it allowed me to connect with people I never would have otherwise, and I feel like the connections I made will be lasting and worthwhile. I honestly didn’t want to leave.
Ben Gertzog ’11:
Leadershape gives you the opportunity to look into how you wanted to develop as a person. I have been on similar retreats, but none quite like LeaderShape. Typically we focus on just one aspect of our lives, whether it be something with the Greek Community, or an individual fraternity. I have also had experiences where we talk about grad school and the exams, or on jobs in the near future that we should be concerned about. This is the first experience in which I have been asked to dream big, and to explore what I am truly passionate about. To set time aside and ask, and answer, “What motivates me to be a leader?” At first it was strange to determine what that was, the only direction was to have these grandiose thoughts, which is a vague description of an assignment. However, once I began it became clear that this assignment wasn’t meant to be easy, it was meant to challenge me, to determine what is most important to me and discover what I want to change in this world. Moving forward, this fuels my drive to succeed in life.
Shavely Peralta ’11:
I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go through LeaderShape before graduating from Denison. The week truly impacted my perspective on leading with integrity, influence, and relationships.
Six days of intensive discovery and self-reflection led me to the beginning of a process that will guide me for the rest of my life. I mean this with all sincerity- discovering my passions, and honing in on my values and principles is a life lesson that I know I will integrate to any situation I face in life; it was very empowering.
I believe in leadership. This program made me realize that leadership is a choice of courage. I was motivated by my peers and inspired by their stories.
My biggest take-away from the 6-days was learning to “sit in the front row of your life!” How powerful is it to think that by throwing yourself into your life and being present is the first step—we do not have to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. Each of us can do something wonderful and meaningful.
At our closing ceremony we were asked to grab a pebble. I am taking the challenge of the pebble: I will throw myself into my life, like a pebble thrown into the pond; and just as a pebble causes ripples in the pond, I too will take notice of the ripples in my life as I strive to make a difference.