Leadershape Institute @ Grinnell

*For informational purposes of the Leadershape Program organized by the Wilson Center and Student Affairs.

Hello! I’ll be writing in English since this page is more of an info section for students curious about the Leadershape Program. As you may already know, the president of the college decided to transition from the Posse Foundation to the Leadershape Institute. Since Leadershape is new this year, I didn’t really know what I was signing up for. There weren’t previous Grinnellians who had attended, so there wasn’t anyone to answer my questions.

So, despite not knowing what I was trading a week of spring break for, I got on the bus with 40+ other students to Boone, IA.

I think one of the biggest, unexpected happening was the fact that there was no cellular data (= no 4G). On top of that, the wifi available was pretty weak. It wasn’t until this camping trip that made me realize how addicted I was to using social media. Back in China, when most of the websites were blocked, I didn’t feel the same tug to get online. Now that I’ve experienced and gotten used to having fast internet, it almost felt lacking to not have access.

At the same time, the lack of internet encouraged participants to engage in conversations with each other. We may have been thinking about what new posts were on Facebook or the accumulating number of Snaps, but since the wifi wasn’t working, it made more sense to interact with each other than trying to find signal. If this practice of not using your phone when sharing a meal with someone could be adopted on campus, students have more opportunities to participate in meaningful conversations… At least, that’s what I think could happen.

So to get back on track, what exactly is Leadershape and what did I do there?

It’s a 6 day program, and I will admit it’s a pretty heavy commitment for students since the program takes up about half of spring break. Though part of my reason for going is out of curiosity, I felt that this program will give me the time and environment for introspection.

One thing Grinnell does really well academically is keeping the students busy, and sometimes, the schedule gets overwhelming and washes away the greater picture from my mind. Why did I come to college? I definitely remember moments when I forgot why I was working this hard. Was it to earn good grades? Then why did I want to earn good grades? By attending this week long program, one of my personal goals was to remember what I was striving for.

Over the 6 days, I definitely feel that the time spent without any distractions allowed me to reflect deeper about myself. Program coordinators grouped students into smaller “family clusters”, and we had many team activities to practice communication skills. The first team building activity. Everyone held onto a long piece of rope and we needed to position ourselves to form a shape with the rope. 
Introductions and a brief rock, paper, scissors activity to break the ice. 
Gravity stick activity: probably the one that everyone struggled with the most. It sounds like an easy task to get the stick to the ground, but when you actually try the activity with a big group of people, directing can get difficult. 

Balloon castle: Each team built a balloon tower in a limited amount of time. The issue was that the balloons kept popping due to sharp wooden chips on the ground.   We actually built a tower that was taller than me 🙂
The most hectic activity of all, since we were constantly bombarded with random happenings: An earthquake, sudden loss of team members, an increase in requirements. This was an activity that needed us to be flexible with sudden changes and also watch each other’s backs.
We each sought our core values–what drives us to live everyday? What values do we apply when we make our decisions? 

As with any other program, how much a participant takes away depends on the participant’s level of engagement. I found the program valuable in that I was isolated from distractions and placed in a new environment, meeting students I have never seen on campus before (the irony of being on a small college campus), and was given the peace to reorganize my thoughts. There are many other lessons I learned and I hope to share them in person or perhaps in a future post.