Tuesday, November 12, 2013

SLLO Where Are They Now: A Public Speaker

 About 11 months ago I packed up my (too many) belongings and moved to Waco, TX to start the next chapter of life…graduate school at Truett Theological Seminary. As I look around at my life I realize I have come to love this place. I get to spend my time reading and studying God’s word and learning about the church, my “work life” consists of engaging with the community at Waco Habitat for Humanity and doing research on the topic of missions for an incredible professor and mentor, and I am in love with my church. My free time is spent reading books and really digging deep into community with the people God has placed here in my life.

I sit here now writing on the same laptop that carried me through my last semesters at Texas A&M University and an experience that when I look back upon I can only describe as surreal…serving as 62nd President of the Memorial Student Center. I was thinking about this chapter in my life the other day and realized that what I love most about my time as President is that it wasn't something that I wanted to do. In fact, I turned down the opportunity multiple times. I’m not trying to be arrogant when I say this. I know and appreciate that there are many people who wanted the job…I just didn't feel equipped. I knew, in detailed description, the intensity of what I would be agreeing to do. Yet, as I look back on the experience I realize that I was prepared. It was something I was preparing for years before I even knew what an MSC President was. I attribute a vast amount of my preparation to the Student Leader Learning Outcomes.

My first interaction with SLLO was via trickle-down contact. I was a shy freshman in MSC FiSH and the student staff in the organization engaged with the rubrics and tools behind the scenes and incorporated them into their leadership. I think I probably filled out a survey or two.

Fast forward to my sophomore year and I found myself in their shoes. Sitting around a staff table setting goals for myself and marking off boxes where I felt I landed in skill level at project management. Then I sat and talked with my Chair and Vice Chair about where I would like to be and what tools and practices could help me get there.

Fast forward once more and you find me as a junior, back on the other side of the table. This time I was serving as Chair and my Vice Chair and I spent hours brainstorming with our advisor, Katy King, about how we could push this project even further and engage deeper with our staff and freshmen. We simultaneously focused on our personal growth and each picked specific rubrics to follow, drafted learning contracts, and developed staff activities to get everyone thinking beyond just planning programs.

The rubric I picked to focus on personally was public speaking. My learning contract included signing up for a speech class. Two years later I found myself sitting in front of a news camera the morning that the newly renovated Memorial Student Center was to be rededicated and reopened after a $120 million renovation and expansion. The next day I was on a stage speaking to an estimated 3,000 people as we opened the doors and invited our Aggie family back into the campus living room for the first time in three years. Life is weird and unexpected.

What I love about the SLLO project, and where I think its primary impact lies in my life, is the focus on utilizing small steps and choices. I am a huge advocate for intentionality and reflection—and this is what I consider to be the core of SLLO.

I am a big picture person, often I really don’t want to recognize that the little choices I make can actually prepare me for the next opportunity. The SLLO tools required me to slow down and to examine my long-term goals and think about what I can do now to prepare. It is a model that relies on honest self-reflection and a willingness to be open to feedback from others. The funny thing is that it prepared me for far more than any of the goals I ever conceived.

Not only did SLLO prepare me for student leadership at Texas A&M but interacting with the project instilled skills within me that I continue to utilize every day. These are things that I don’t often even think about because they have become so ingrained in me. When I allow myself the time to sit and reflect I am always surprised at how far I have developed since I entered this season of life as an 18 year old freshman. I am comfortable receiving constructive criticism at my job. I am willing to provide feedback to peers and superiors. I am willing to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to do the things I think I can’t.  
If I were to offer one piece of advice to people considering engaging with the SLLO resources it would be: just start. Choose one tool or practice and help your students implement it. And then challenge them to do a little more, and a little more.

I am so grateful for Katy King’s passion. She not only provided me opportunities to engage on paper and in the safety of her office, but she actively pushed me to do the things I didn't think I could do. She never doubted that I could stand on a stage in front of 3,000 people and represent our student body…even though I questioned my ability. The SLLO project gave me an avenue to practice little things every day. It was these seemingly little things that ultimately gave me the confidence to go boldly and serve in ways I never considered possible. 

- Liz Andrasi

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