I have been a student for much of my life. I have often wondered if my attraction to being a student was a sign that I did not know what direction I wanted in life. Finishing college with a B.A. in History, I did not move immediately into a career. Instead, I took a job in a restaurant that gave me the flexibility to search for my next step in life. I explored a number of career options, including a life in politics, before responding to a call to further education. A chance lunch meeting with a former professor turned into an invitation to attend Clemson University and complete my M.A., also in History. Upon completion of my M.A. in History, considered continuing my education in a Ph.D. program, but when I was not accepted to my top choice program, I decided that I needed some “real-world” experience. I joined an academic publishing company where I excelled. Though I was not enrolled in an academic program, I continued to learn. I learned more about myself, about how to lead coworkers, how to manage projects, and how to thrive in the publishing world. In 2010, I heard again my call to education, though this time as a teacher, not a learner. I began teaching as an adjunct at the local college. As before, I discovered that teaching provided an opportunity for me to continue my own education. I learned how to effectively lead a class, I improved my public speaking and lesson planning skills, and found pleasure in motivating students in their personal quests for knowledge. As I approached my seventh year in publishing, I again responded to my sense of call to education, returning to a Masters program at Gonzaga. For the past three years, I have balanced my own education with my career requirements and have grown as a learner and as a teacher. So, as I leave this program, I do so knowing that I will not turn my back on education. My time at Gonzaga has been full of learning experiences, but I do not believe that these experiences are an end to themselves. Instead, at every turn, I have found my new knowledge to be a catalyst for further learning. As I learned more about servant leadership, or adaptive change, or diversity, I have responded by wanting to learn more, to experience higher and higher levels of leadership in my own life. I know that the technical completion of this part of my leadership journey will not signal an end to my personal growth. As I leave Gonzaga, I know that there are many aspects of my leadership journey that continue to need work. My time here has given me the theoretical knowledge I need to move into the next phase of my journey. I am now familiar with the concepts of servant and authentic leadership, two leadership approaches that I want to practice in my own life. I have started integrating these concepts into my own practice, but I still struggle to cast off my comfort with traditional, transactional leadership. I strive to be a servant leader, but I frequently slide back into my comfort zone. As I emerge from my phase of learning, I look forward to the increased practice of servant and authentic values. My Gonzaga experience also revealed parts of my life that are not congruent with the life I hope to live as a leader. I continue to struggle with the ideas and practice of embracing diversity. I welcome diverse people into my life and my leadership practice, but I do not always welcome diverse viewpoints. I struggle with forgiveness. I hear, clearly, the call to live a life of forgiveness. I try to practice the forgiveness that I desire from others, but I fall short. As I move out into the world, equipped by my experiences and my learning at Gonzaga, I know I will find asking for, receiving, and granting forgiveness challenging. However, I believe that forgiveness is an essential component of serving others and being an authentic leader. I know this requires continued growth. As I enter the next phase of my life, one without a structured educational environment, I know that education will never be far from my heart. Just as I needed space to explore my next steps before returning to Clemson and just as I needed experience in the “real-world” before returning to Gonzaga, I anticipate the next phase of my journey will include a great deal of practice. The Jesuit education requires the learner to take action and I am ready to do that. I have been uniquely equipped by my experience and my knowledge to go into the world and practice what I have learned. However, in practicing, I will keep learning. I will keep improving on the aspects of leadership that challenge me. And I know that my education is not complete just because I do not attend class regularly. I look forward to the new challenges I will face and am thankful for the opportunity and experience that will guide me into my next phase of learning.
Organizational Leadership was the my first course at Gonzaga and provided an introduction to the traits, thought processes, expectations, and outcomes of leading. In this course, I began to explore what I wanted and did not want to be as a leader, my expectations for leadership, and I began crafting my own vision of leadership. I found Freire's work to be the most challenging. As a white, middle-income male, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, truly challenged my worldview. I began to understand the different approaches and worldviews that people use and I began to understand the role of oppression in crafting the world. This book was specifically included in the curriculum to challenge students and I found this approach effective. Wheatley's book also provided a great introduction to the challenges that organizations face in today's world. Her works helps leaders discover how to lead in a chaotic world and introduces the idea that organizations are living things that grow and respond to the challenges they face. I have dog-eared and written on more pages in this book than any other in my program and I frequently return to Wheatley's sage advice regarding the direction of organizations.
- Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.
- Kouzes, J. M. & Posner, B. Z. (2008). The leadership challenge (4th edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Palmer, P. J. (2007). The courage to teach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Wheatley, M. J. (2006). Leadership and the new science: Discovering order in a chaotic world (3rd edition). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
- Yukl, G. A. (2009). Leadership in organizations (7th edition). Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall.