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.
here. But, what I remember most about Ralph is that he was a storyteller. Ralph was one of the few white folks I've ever met that could speak in perfect Gullah and he loved nothing more than to tell a story using that beautiful, poetic tongue of the Sea Islands. If you've never heard Gullah spoken, you're missing one of the most musical and charming languages. Take a few minutes to watch this video with Queen Quet: Now you have some idea what my friend sounded like when he told stories. So, with that in mind, you should take a few minutes to read this story, written by Ralph last year, and reprinted today by The Beaufort Gazette. You give up a lot not hearing Ralph's tone, inflection, and cadence, but I hope you can see the power of his storytelling, even in this two-dimensional setting. If you're really interested in the Gullah language or the Geechee culture, here are a few resources:Late last month, one of the more interesting people in Beaufort, SC passed away. Ralph Davis Jr. grew up on Wadmalaw Island and then came to the Beaufort area after his service as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. You can read Ralph's obit
- This is a updated version of Lorenzo Dow Turner's seminal work on the Gullah language, Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect. Be forewarned, this isn't a guide to speaking or understanding Gullah, but a real linguistic exploration of the language.
- Here's another book I have and recommend, Gullah Culture in America. Much more approachable than Turner's work, less academic and involved, but much easier reading.
- Jonathan Green is an amazing artist and is probably the first thing that pops into my mind when I think about the Geechee people depicted in art.
- Here's a useful dictionary of Gullah words.
- Recently, Rick Steves' show included a tour guide from Hilton Head discussing the Gullah. The guide mispronounces the names and is not well versed in many details, but this episode did reach a wider audience than local articles and interviews.