Skills as Service

Most of my volunteer experiences this year happen to occur back in my home town while I was on a break or just away for a weekend. I actually went home very often this year in comparisons to last and I think it had a lot to do with people asking me to share my knowledge of martial arts and self-defense.

First, I was asked to come teach a very simplified self-defense seminar at Planet Kids Premier Academy. I spent my Friday afternoon teaching small children about stranger danger, how to stay away from dangerous people and places, and a few easy techniques for getting away from an attacker. It took a lot of patience and answering tons of questions before their brains and tiny little hands could grasp the concepts I had to teach. After the hard work was over, I got out the foam swords so they could feel like the big kids playing games in the real karate classes. They went crazy over the small matches they acted out and didn’t want that part to end. By the end of our time together that day, many of the children were grasping at my legs begging me not to leave. I never cease to be amazed by the endless amount of love and appreciation small children have shown me for doing something I find so normal.

A few weeks later as the weather began to grow cold in the fall, I returned home for a similar reason. Only this time, my students were on the opposite end of the age spectrum. I was asked to go to Auburn Hills at 7am on a Thursday Morning to teach a very different side of self defense to the members of the Optimist Club.  The truth about being older and living in a city is that people won’t really be looking out for you. In fact, the elderly are targeted often as easy to steal from. So for this lesson, we had to learn more self defense against weapons and life-threatening aggressors.

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The Optimist Club provides a framed copy of their creed to anyone that volunteers their times with them.

On the upside of waking up early and teaching serious material, I was given free breakfast and conversations that lasted long after the lesson on martial arts was over. I also got to witness how adorable it is when really old people sing a special version of the Happy Birthday song to a friend. And finally, it was great to experience a new age range to teach to. I wont be stopping any time soon so I can hope for more experience and bigger crowds.

Sociology: What’s my Role in Society and can I do better?

When I was younger, I wore my big brother’s old clothes to school. They were mostly baggy, they had more zippers and pockets than the girl’s clothes, and had some pretty cool graphics on them. I would always tell everyone that those clothes were so comfy. And they were–I was always itchy, uptight, and aggravated in most of my girly clothes. That’s the way I wanted to dress sometimes–and my parents let me.

When I was younger, I had a best friend named Josh. He was nice and liked to play with the same toys I did in kindergarten. We built things with blocks and once they were high enough–all the way over our heads–we’d knock them down like Godzilla with crowded cities. My other two closest friends were twin brothers, Nickolas and Cameron. I always hung out with these young boys and all my neighbors who were overwhelmingly boys–and my parents let me.

When I was younger, I wanted to go to football and lacrosse day camps. I turned out to be the only girl to participate in either, but that’s something that I didn’t notice at the time. I ran as fast as I could, stayed as alert as possible to never miss a pass, and always did all the exercises. I was put into karate classes at the age of four. There were only a couple other girls who practiced at that dojo and they were older than me. Everyday I went to karate, I never questioned that I was going to be one of the best students. My older brother and I did many of the same activities growing up–and my parents let me.upnorth

When I was younger, I spent my years growing up outside in the woods before dinner. My neighbors made sticks into weapons with my brother and I to fight off imaginary intruders and evildoers. We’d get spots of dirt on our clothes and spots of poison ivy on our skin. If we got hurt, we’d help each other to get back inside and clean up. I came in the house smelling of soil and grass–and my parents let me.

When I was younger, I started middle school, where I learned how to make new friends. I started realizing that I had a lot in common with many of the girls in my grade. I had  sleep overs with them and even had a best friend that was a girl from elementary school all the way up to sometime in high school. I started going shopping for clothes that fit me well and used purses instead of pockets. I used the makeup that I thought looked good on the other girls–and my parents let me.

When I was younger, I started to see that the little boys were growing up from punching-bag-play-mates to young men I’d daydream of holding hands with. I made more friends that were girls who tried to help me talk to boys nicely about things like feelings. I remain that same child that spars hard in karate and isn’t afraid to get dirty outdoors, but I have grown into a young woman that practices a more nurturing attitude and values softness and elegance–and my parents let me.

My parents taught me enough to let me make decisions as I grew up.

An issue that has resulted from large portions of the population’s actions in parenting, is that of their children starting to feel restricted by the norms of gender identity. If a child identifies as a girl, does that mean that they must only play with the toys sold in the pink packaging? Do they have to play house rather than learn how to throw a baseball? If a child identifies as a young boy, does that mean they automatically have to be athletic? Do they have to aspire to be a part of life-threatening careers at a young age? Of course they don’t. What seems to be the problem is that parents, caretakers, relatives, and friends alike automatically expect certain behaviors based off of one’s expressed identity.

It’s clear that we, as individuals, have the autonomy to decide how masculine and how feminine we behave every day. What isn’t clear is how society will treat a person for acting more feminine or more masculine than everyone else would expect. Sometimes the reactions of society are so extreme that no matter how autonomous we may or may not feel in our self-expression, the people around us can slowly push us to expressing and acting on feelings or urges we may not have within ourselves.

I am Kalie. I go to Central Michigan University to study communication, leadership, and psychology. I spend my free time practicing archery and martial arts, working out, hiking mountains, painting or writing, analyzing music, playing board games and video games, and dancing. I don’t always act the way people expect me to. I am lucky enough to have been raised to not allow many restrictions that come along with identifying as a woman affect me on a daily bases.

If you are interested in how some people or places plan to get rid of some of the negative effects of gender roles and expectations, or if you are curious about what might be right for raising a child in today’s society, you can visit these sources:

about Sweden’s Gender-neutral Preschool: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-14038419 

men and boys challenging the dynamics of personal and professional gender roles for equality: https://www.un.org/press/en/2015/wom2031.doc.htm

A Celebratory LEAD Team

I previously posted about being on something called a LEAD Team. Last year I participated in something called Spot Light which highlighted members of the leadership community on campus and other leadership events around campus After being a member of a lead team that didn’t have great communication or regular updates within our team, I wanted to become a chair in order to ensure at least one lead team would have better communication and positive participation.

I was given the position to be a co-chair of our team that puts on Grad Ball for our graduating LAS members. Because we are in charge of planing a serious event rather than doing periodic work throughout the year, it was very different for me. Luckily, my co-chair was a veteran of the Grad Ball team. We separated our tasks as leaders of this team by communication, logistics, and other miscellaneous tasks. I was in charge of making sure that everyone knew what was going on, when meetings would take place, where, and why we were having our meetings. We made sure that each time we met there were clear goals for the night. We didn’t meat when there was just simple information to share, when we didn’t feel that there was enough work for everyone to do, or when we just needed to remind our team members of something.

Amanda, my co-chair, was an amazing. I was asking so many questions all the time. She was so patient. She understood that I was on a very different type of LEAD team previously and this was my first time being a chair. She took care of most of the budget issues and gave me more hands on tasks which fit my experience quite nicely.

Grad Ball is coming up. We are crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s in the next week to ensure we are ready to go. We have separate committees within our team to make sure that details are taken care of efficiently so things should go smoothly the day of! For now I will post a happy picture from last year’s grad ball. In a week or so I will add pictures from a cute photo booth area I am currently working on and comment on how the night goes. Fingers crossed! gradball

What is Communication to a Leader?

Everything.

I may be bias in the sense that I am a Communication major with a minor in Leadership and (recently added) psychology.

Our words and our actions communicate to others whether we intend it or not. Leaders have to do what is right, do it the right way, and explain it the right way. There are wrong ways to talk about things but there are an infinite number of other ways to go about something with each way giving a different impression. Every single word used, the way you say the words, and how you look and move when you say them all contribute to the messages you send to other people. As leaders, people will be exceptionally critical of our communication skills–and rightfully so.

A leader is someone who has some extent of power or more influence than those around them. Our words and actions directly affect those around us as it is. When you are leading, however, those stakes increase and we now have more of an effect on how people around us feel and behave. It all starts with what we communicate.

I firmly believe that we wouldn’t be able to study leadership if we couldn’t understand effective communication. Communication can exist without leadership but leadership cannot exist without communication. Once that is established you’ll see that effective communication doesn’t exist without leadership qualities. They are very interdependent. The Communication in Leadership (COM461) class is so important for these reasons. For those of us going into STEM based careers, there is still no way to avoid communication and if we want to be effective leaders, we must be effective communicators. I see the study of communication as something that can never stop. Words and behaviors are always evolving and are endlessly malleable. What is vernacular will always be relative to what else is going on.

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Before our exams in COM461 we would play a competitive review game that my team happen to win for our final exam review.

Professor Carlson is truly amazing. Although her teaching style isn’t always the best for everyone, I hang on her every word during lecture. From the way she speaks to us, it is clear that she still finds the study of communication extremely interesting. She strives to ignite any interest we may have by asking many thought provoking questions every time our class meets. She incorporates different mediums of study tools to keep things interesting. She ties in important real world experiences to ensure that we aren’t just memorizing terms and studies but that we are visualizing and applying them on our own.

This class will certainly stick with me as I continue further down the rabbit hole of the societal-questioning, experimental, ever-changing studies that include communication in leadership.

Clubbin’

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At CMU there are nearly 400 registered student organizations (RSO’s).

“Build confidence, your résumé, leadership skills and a new worldview by joining a CMU student group.” –CMU Student Organizations.

People typically stick to what they know, who they are comfortable with, and don’t push themselves too hard. Here at school, I say there are many reasons to throw those values to the wind and join any club that sounds interesting to you.

Effects of joining an RSO may include but are not limited to:

  • meeting new people
  • increased positivity in your everyday life
  • mental and physical activity
  • professional and personal development
  • time management skills

I first joined the Infusion Dance Team. We are completely student run without any choreography help from faculty or staff here. We are very proud of how well we organize ourselves and perform. For events like the Homecoming Parade, Siblings Weekend, some basketball half-time shows, and Relay for Life, we come up with songs and choreography that fits our skills and is fitting to the event. Our organization doesn’t compete against dance clubs from other schools and we stay on campus for all of our practices and performances.

Coming out of high school, I was a mediocre dancer at best. I learned and executed what skills I considered the minimum for qualifying me to be a dancer. But, bless my soul, I really love to dance. So I decided that I didn’t want it to end with my high school graduation. I searched for the right dance club to join which was surprisingly difficult. There are several here on campus so I had to really look into which team would be a great fit for me. Infusion Dance Team focuses on self and team improvement, a positive place to escape from school/work/other responsibilities, and a group to find friends among dancers. Try outs were nerve racking and challenging so I feel blessed to have made the cut. However, the experience of being on the team is much different. We offer each other so much as far as new skills and tips to improve old ones, that I feel like I could easily learn new things whenever I think I’m ready. It’s a great club for improving myself without feeling the pressure of a competitive team.

Secondly, I joined the Classic Games Club here at central. Another completely student run group, this club’s main purposes include recreation, relaxation, and fun. Every Friday night we meet in the lobby of my building to play all sorts of games. It can range anything from Taboo to Settlers of Catan and from Family Feud to Mortal Kombat. We plan special event nights that include a barbecue, volleyball at the Student Activity Center, going to the casino, a euchre tournament, and many others.  There are no try outs or skills required to join. It’s suggested that you really like board games and games of other sorts but you could even learn to love them if you’re looking for new things to do. We go for hours on end switching from game to game. Everyone has been more than welcoming.

The easygoing atmosphere and friendliness was immediately offered to me and I started telling everyone to check this club out. I have had a couple friends here and there already come play games with us which is why I decided to run for the publicity chair. Several people ran and now my pal Cameron and I are co-chairs. I created a Classic Games Club Snapchat and Instagram that we run and I bought tons of chalk to mark up the sidewalks around campus–unfortunately spring semester weather isn’t exactly conducive to writing with chalk on the sidewalk most of the time so that will take place more in the upcoming fall semester.

Over the summer, I have plenty of people to play games with and time to stretch and be ready to dance again in the fall. I chose these organizations not only for the benefits that come along with being in an RSO but because these activities are already part of who I am and will likely remain to be for as longs as possible.

HST 110 L

HST110L

It’s that one ‘L’ on the end of the class title that makes the big difference.

When I was in high school, I took advanced placement US history. I learned far more information about the American past that I will probably ever need to know. So many years, plans, names, and acts memorized and yet I didn’t learn a lot.

In HST110L we had to memorize many of those things over again. The main difference between an American history class strictly about the facts and one that focuses on the leaders and their leadership styles through history, is that we learn a ton more. And not just about American history, but we learned about leadership throughout the country and within ourselves. mlk

We carefully analyzed some of history’s greatest leaders and what made them leave such prominent legacies. We did this by being assigned reading and plenty of papers to write. I could complain for days about the work load, but I honestly appreciate the work we did. Sure, it was pretty stressful. However, I am pretty proud of the papers that I wrote in that class.

It all worked up to the second to last assignment that we had. We were asked to write 10 to 12 pages on a leader of our choosing and how they affected American culture. I chose, obviously, Bruce Lee. I already knew a lot about Bruce Lee to begin with so I was exctied to write this paper. After doing the research and reading books, I grew more and more interested as I wrote the paper. This paper not only pushed me harder than any paper had before, but it let me into more inspiring details of Bruce Lee’s life.

LDR 200

My experience in LDR 200 started out and continued to be, much different than those in my cohort. Even though we are reserved an entire course section to our cohort, a class for my major interfered with the time that the cohort had LDR 200 together. So an adviser helped me get into another section of the class. Instead of taking it with the rest of my LAS cohort, I took LDR 200 with students who may or may not be interested in getting the leadership minor.

The class was run, so I’ve heard, very differently form the way mine was conducted. For one, two of my classes were held in the adventure center where we practiced team bonding activities applying our theories from the textbook. stand alone

I went into the class expecting it to feel just like any other class. I knew that a leadership class without my leadership classmates wouldn’t feel like it should. I missed having close ties to the people in my class. Having the connections with students make for deeper discussions and more meaningful conversations each class. Despite this piece that seemed to be missing, I was not disappointed.

Having been away from what I got used to in first semester, I was once again, out my element (which seems to be a theme in college). It it was just OK. For the first time, I learned about leadership in more of a methodical and scripted way. I was able to hear about the statistics that came from studies on leadership skills and theories. Leadership is living and ever-changing. It’s something that lives through those who live to make it happen. But much like the things we learn about in psychology, it was satisfying to hear data. Not that confirmation is necessary, but it certainly makes it easy analyze what works where and when.

The last thing that was particularly different about my LDR 200 experience, was not being able to take part in the mentor/mentee selection process. Everyone makes a big deal of this. In this event, us freshmen who are about to be sophomores in the LAS program will be assigned to an incoming freshman to mentor for coming years. After experiencing endless discussions on what would be the most fair, the day came and I had to have faith in the process as my roommates when to the selection process as I went to work and another class. After the fact, I am blessed enough to have the most wonderful mentee. By some miracle, I have a mentee that is very similar to myself. I would have been happy getting anyone but I am shocked at the luck of the draw.

Situational Leadership: Applied Theory

I am a student in LAS. That may give me something in common with a few hundred students on campus right now, but not every leader is acting in the same interest (especially on one campus). Leadership is often looked at as a singular trait or feature in a person.

Oh he was just born a leader.”

“That’s what makes a good leader.”

“You have to step up and be the leader.”

Leadership takes on many faces and forms. It is flexible and fluid just as any day in this world. It is ever changing. Leadership can be both commanding and supportive in the same day and depend primarily on the situation. Situational Leadership Theory focuses on the adaptation of various leadership skills to effectively handle a specific situation. This theory works under the assumptions that the leader has the ability to read a situation and adapt their skills for the best, and that they will do so if they can.

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I was shocked when I was asked to dress as Jimmy MacElroy from Blades of Glory to entertain my cohort. 

Being in LAS has provided me with many opportunities for personal growth. The one thing that challenges me the most is being put into leadership positions that I have not yet experienced. Considering this is my first year away from home, things were already pretty uncomfortable to begin with. If I weren’t in LAS there would have been far too much free time on my hands. We do so many amazing things together as a cohort (required or not). If it weren’t for LAS, I could have spent far too much time letting my leadership skills wither and rust as I watched Netflix for hours.

I gain important experience through leading in very different situations. Without change and flux, a stationary leader doesn’t improve. Daily life changes and our futures are never set in stone so it is extremely important to have the ability to adapt. We can’t rely on just the depth of our leadership skills, there must be breadth as well to offer us wisdom in leadership situations to come.

An Ascent: Leaders Brought up in Detroit

You wake to the pang in your stomach. You try hard not to remember when it was, exactly, that you last ate a full meal. Who can you tell? Who cares enough to help? Besides, you should be able to help yourself, right? All you can do is go to school each day as you should. You know you’re not the only one which makes it even more difficult to ask for help. Someone else has it worse. But how long can you endure things the way they are now? Sometimes you just wish you had someone to show they care–just enough to show you an opportunity to make things happen.

This is a reality for far too many young people around the world. Places like Detroit, so close to my home, know the feeling of hunger, restriction, and fear all too well. Change is wanted and needed. With nearly 40% of Detroit area residents living under the poverty line, where does the community start?

We get so caught up in the pressure to be successful that we forget the things that don’t affect us immediately. We fill most of our days. We spend our time on things that we have to do and then feel drained and incomplete if we don’t do some of the things that we really want to do.

I don’t have all the answers but I do have time to offer a helping hand.

It only takes a little time and hardly any extra effort. Instead of going through the usual routine, consider doing something to help others. Providing service for others is not only extremely helpful to a community, but offers personal gain in character.

My Leader Advancement Scholar cohort made a trip down to Detroit from Mount Pleasant   to help out the second poorest place in Michigan (around third poorest in the nation) that just happens to be a place full of potential for more amazing things. Detroit could return to the state of greatness it was once in. It may just need help along the way. We visited the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy on day one of our trip.

We placed our things and ourselves within a tiny gymnasium that doubled as a cafeteria and then waited patiently for the students to arrive. On their last day of spring break, I was worried the students would be far from excited to be undesirably adorned by their uniforms and come back on a Friday that was meant to be school-free. Throughout the day, I was with a small group of LAS members and Jalen Rose students. We made a somewhat quiet team. I did appreciate, however, that the students went along with our efforts to keep conversations rolling and our attempts to play games to make things more interesting or engaging. There were two moments in the day that really stuck out to me: First, we were simply “de-fuzzing” some circles cut off of socks for an educational non-profit’s craft kits. As the eight of us sat quietly in the classroom, we decided to play hangman on the white board. We each took turns going to write on the board. Every one else continued to “de-fuzz” as we guessed letters and phrases. Second, at the end of the day, we discussed what everyone thought of the whole event. It was then that I realized that none of them were really disappointed to be brought back to school. In fact, they were glad that they had something fun to do on their break. Nearly all the students agreed that they were extremely bored during their break. Many even felt like they were trapped to do nothing until we came to visit.

Their attitudes were obviously appreciative. In a place that doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of facilities and opportunities, it’s amazing to see that they show their appreciation so clearly. Or maybe that is something that I should be used to seeing? Should I even be surprised when people are appreciative? With such a great difference between the areas we live, no wonder I am accustom to being under appreciated and under appreciative. Attitudes and life styles are geographically based when there is such a difference in an area’s average income. This new point of view that can be gained from simply getting to know the inner-workings of a new area, is something that everyone should have to experience at least once in their lives. And even though it isn’t understood by all, I’m positive that our LAS members were humbled by the type of leadership that we saw coming from the Jalen Rose students. Attitude is a huge part of leadership attributes and they had it right. They were so appreciative and they saw so many good things coming from their situations. It assured me that they don’t want to become victims of circumstance, and specifically, victims of their city’s current reputation.

 

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