Lead365: A Step in My Personal Journey to be an Impactful Leader

By Cristi Rader

Do you ever wonder if you are an effective or impactful leader? I do. What are the qualifications I possess to be an impactful leader? As a young professional, how do I develop my skills to be more effective? How do I inspire others to want to lead in their community or business or academic environment? Hmm-insert thinking emoji.

I received the Corvias Foundation Scholarship in 2007, graduated in 2011, and am now an Opportunity Advisor with Corvias in Cary, North Carolina. Corvias empowers its employees to be truly impactful and its Foundation Scholars to reach higher in all that they do. This year I had the privilege of representing both Corvias employees and scholars at the National Lead365 Conference. Lead365 is an organization “committed to empowering collegiate leaders and professionals dedicated to developing student leaders, to be prepared to serve the greater social good 365 days a year”. For the last three years, Corvias Foundation has sent a small group of scholars and team members to the Lead365 Conference in Orlando, Florida, to support their personal and professional development and to continue to build a network of Corvias Foundation scholars, alumni, partners, and mentors.

I attended the conference as a professional with three college students from across the country: Lahela Daniels, a Corvias Foundation scholar attending the University of Oregon; Sara, a foreign exchange student from Egypt and a Resident Assistant at Wayne State University; and Gerald, a Resident Advisor at Howard University.  Sara and Gerald are Corvias partner scholars; Corvias partner scholars are distinguished students that attend universities with which Corvias has a partnership.*  Through their jobs both Sara and Gerald help students navigate the challenges of their college journeys.

Lahela and I attended the Lead365 Conference with the Corvias Foundation charge to make a difference in our communities and campuses. Although we both are a part of the Corvias Foundation family, this was the first time I had the opportunity to meet Lahela. Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious, and she plans to use her sociology major with a minor in legal studies to make a change on campus. I had the privilege of connecting with her on a personal and professional level during our time together in Orlando, to take risks, and by the end of the three-day conference I could see the new confidence rising out of Lahela. After the conference Lahela shared with me, “I feel that the most important thing that I’ve taken away from the conference is that in order to create your foundation, you must first establish your mission, your vision, and your statement of values. My vision is to start with my community; mentor, influence, and inspire those my age and younger, and to give hope to those who are older, that I will change the world day by day.”

“Leadership isn’t impossible, it means I’m-possible.” This was one of the most resonant quotes from a presenter at the Lead365 Conference. Although, it is fairly easy to listen to your inner critic, this statement reminds me that how we individually show up in failure, truly defines the leaders that we are.  I am continuously learning to be an empowering leader to not only my Corvias teammates but my fellow Corvias Foundation scholars and alumni. Attending the Lead365 Conference allowed me the opportunity to overpower my “inner critic” and allow myself to evolve my leadership skills. I learned from many leaders and presenters in higher education that it is not easy to be a leader, but it is indeed possible. Not only for me but for others too. I can evolve my leadership skills and direct a passionate pursuit to make a difference in others who tell themselves becoming a leader is impossible. I’m-possible and so are they!

The truth is, I do not need someone else to tell me I am doing a good job as a leader, but I do need to feel the 360-degree impact of my actions. James Robilotta, speaker, author, personal coach, and host of the 2017 conference said it best, “As leaders, it’s not only your job to impact others’ lives; it’s your job to let them impact yours.”

Through the Lead365 conference, I have learned that I am a more impactful leader when I:

  • Listen to understand rather than offer solutions—when I am present
  • Engage openly
  • Allow others to impact me and challenges I am facing
  • Take the time to let others share their story
  • Ask for help
  • Recognize moments when a person is showing empathy because we both need this moment.

I know I am being an outstanding leader when the team I am a member of is allowed to learn together. We can learn so much when we value the contributions on all sides.

Corvias Foundation has always inspired me to Imagine. Empower. Reach Higher., and now I can also build upon lessons from the Lead365 Conference to Explore. Engage. Evolve.

*Corvias partners with higher education and government institutions nationwide to solve their most essential systemic problems and create long-term, sustainable value through our unique approach to partnership.

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Photo Highlights of the 2017 Alumni Summit

Photos by Shamera Robinson.  Descriptions by Katie Newton.

1-Erin, Katie N., Tom, Adrianna, Megan S. , Marlena, Paul, Anthony, Katie S., Cody, Melissa, Josh, Mecia, Karl 2- Maria, Kathryn , Shamera, Alexis, Kinza, Megan H., Ashley, Samantha S., Cristi, Kaylan, Kris, Yeralis, Tonia 3- Whitney, Brittany, Samantha B., Kaitlynn, Asia, Brandi, Doug, Carolyn, Trey

Sunday, July 9, 2017:

Our group gathered at the Bradley Airport and traveled by bus to the Guest House Retreat and Conference Center in Chester, Connecticut.  The Guest House had all the charms of a New England country inn and was very welcoming to our group.  The evening was spent re-connecting with friends and getting to know our newest alumni.  Several people also spent time personalizing their validation bags– a place to leave each other notes of encouragement, friendship, thanks, etc.

Monday, July 10, 2017:

For a few of us the day began bright an early with Yoga lead by Kris.  Our first summit session was “Telling Your Story”, lead by Dawn Fraser.  Dawn got us loosened up passing Zap!’s  and Woah!’s around a circle.

Samantha B, Kathryn, Whitney, Kris, Yeralis, and Megan S.

We then discussed the elements of a story and broke into pairs to practice telling a 4-minute story.  We had more than enough volunteers when Dawn asked people to share their story with the larger group.

Shamera and Carolyn

Shamera

Brandi

Dawn Fraser

Trey and Dawn Fraser

In the afternoon Janet Colantuono, Corvias COO and champion of healthy work-places, gave a talk on Work-Life Balance.  Advice on loving the body you have, staying hydrated, and the real challenge of achieving work-life balance were shared.

Samantha S., Janet Colantuono, and Paul

Anthony

Kinza

Tonia, Adrianna, and Samantha B.

Kathryn, Trey, and Brandi

Tom

Whitney’s Dog

The group then hiked to a nearby lake to enjoy some sunshine and a swim.

1- Marlena, Katilynn, Kathryn, Karl, Paul, Tom, Anthony 2- Shamera, Brittany, Megan, Samantha, Katie S., Whitney, Mecia, Marcus, Trey 3- Yeralis, Kris, Christi, Tonia, Kaylan, Maria, Asia

Marcus

Tonia

Marlena

Kris

Mecia

Katie S.

Megan H.

Cristi

Samantha S., Brittany, and Ashley

In the evening we gathered around a bonfire.  The fire was large and warm and had space around it for everybody.  However, as the evening progressed we moved our circle to one side of the fire, and we took turns sharing the stories we had developed this in the morning session.  We shared difficult life lessons, stories of loss, and stories of personal success.  We learned not only about each others’ experiences but also about how each person views and describes their own experience.

Cody, Cristi, and Melissa

Alexis

Kathryn and Yeralis

Josh

Mecia and Asia

Megan S.

Kaylan and Kris

Whitney

Jessica, Maria, and Whitney’s dog

Paul

Kaitlynn and Adrianna

Doug

Katie N.

Carolyn

Samantha B., Samantha S., Ashley, and Brittany

Tuesday, July 11, 2017:

The second full day of the Summit began with rise and shine yoga for a few early birds.  After breakfast, the first Corvias Connects session convened.  In a collective conversation alumni shared their stories of personal and professional connections made through the Corvias Foundation.  We were reminded of the power of our network, especially when we look for ways to give to others and when we ask for help for ourselves.

Samantha B.

Alexis, Whitney, Doug, Anthony, and Ashley

The next session was discussion on practical finance with guest financial planners Chris Bartlett, Ed Pieroni, and Dave Sweeney.  Dealing with debt, preparing for retirement, and understanding taxes were popular topics of discussion.  With only an hour and a half to scratch the surface of these topics, our guests kindly agreed to answer additional individual questions following the discussion.

Kathryn, Katie N., Asia, Mecia

Megan H.

Marcus

The goal of the second Corvias Connects session was to foster connections with alumni in the same geographic regions.  We broke in to smaller groups based on current location (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West/Southwest).  Each group was prompted to discuss ways they could support each other personally, professionally, and philanthropically.

To find out who is in your region, check out the file on our facebook page.

With much of the day spent listening and learning from others, we took a different direction for the next session.  During the self-love session, we turned inward.  Kris led us through a guided meditation.  Then we identified the successes and potential we have as individuals by completing the phrase “I am . . . “.  We filled sheets of paper with words of what we are and what we want to be.  Putting it all in the present tense was a reminder to find and nurture the good things inside of us.

Kinza

Karl

Katie N., Tom, Brandi

Mecia

Marcus

For the last session of the day, it was time for some #CorviasGivesBack.  This year’s on-sight service project was done in partnership with Together We Rise, a national organization that provides “sweet cases” and bicycles to foster children.  Working together, we decorated and filled about 15 sweet cases and assembled about 10 bicycles.

Brittany

Megan H.

1-Ashley, Samantha S., Alexis, Tonia, Kris, Megan 2- Maria, Kinza, Marlena, Brittany, Mecia, Carolyn

Adrianna and Kaitlynn

Yeralis and Katie S.

Kaitlynn

Katie N.

Cristi, Yeralis, and Katie S.

Whitney and Asia

1- Doug, Anthony, Paul, Karl, Josh 2- Kaitlynn, Asia, Kaylan, Megan, Whitney, Marcus, Katie N. 3- Brandi, Katie S., Cristi, Yeralis

Our celebratory dinner was from the Taco Pacifico Food Truck.  Options on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and churros.

The rest of the evening was pretty quiet.  Per tradition, we found a puzzle.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017:

The day began with a restorative yoga practice led by Kris.  Following breakfast and check out, we came together for our closing session.  For our last opportunity to form connections in person this year, we went literal.  We attempted what might possibly be the world’s largest human knot.  All 34 alumni present formed a circle and joined hands with two people across the way.  My arm ended up squished through the middle of the circle and after 5 minutes was falling asleep.  It is very hard to make progress when nobody can move so we decided to break into two smaller circles.  Twenty-five minutes later, both knots were unraveled, and it was time to say our good-byes.

Doug, Anthony, Katie N., and Marcus

Adrianna, Ashley, and Samantha S.

Samantha B. and Paul

Yeralis

 

Anthony

Trey

Marcus and Karl

This year’s unofficial theme was “Connecting in Connecticut”.  The Summit planners did our best to make sure each session and activity facilitated forming genuine connections.  Howerver, it was our alumni that made the week a success.  Everybody came with an open heart and an open mind and was willing to share of themselves.  In return, each left with the friendships, a greater network, and the motivation to keep reaching higher.


A special thank you to Shamera for documenting our time together so thoughtfully:

Shamera

Shamera


Thank you to all involved with planning the Summit:

Corvias Foundation- Maria, Melissa, Erin, and Jennifer

Alumni- Cristi, Tonia, Kris, Kaylan, Samantha S., Anthony, Mecia, Brandi, Shamera, and Katie N.


Thank you to our many guest speakers:

Dawn, Janet, Ed, Chris, and Dave

Your contributions made our Summit powerful and educational.  Thank you for your generosity of time, knowledge, and spirit.

Adjusting to College — Military Brats

image3-19.jpeg

From left to right: Omer, Cody, Nancy, Melissa, Samantha, Kinza, Benedikt (me)

I’ve been in college for two years now. I’m finally on my own and have been able to spend my time, energy, and the limited amount of money I have however I choose! This has led to a surprising amount of magical and constructive moments. However, the one experience that surprised me the most, and continues to surprise me, was how long it took to adjust to college — in fact, I’m still not fully accustomed to it. Getting to know and becoming close friends with the other students as a military brat was harder than expected. Traditionally, military brats are infamous for being too good at adjusting from one PCS to another. How come my college transition isn’t going as smoothly? If this school was going to be my home for four years, it shouldn’t take two to get settled.

Last October, Corvias provided the opportunity for 4 other Corvias scholars and me to attend Lead365, a leadership conference in beautiful Orlando! Although we had never met before, the other scholars and I experienced an immediate sense of friendship and the familiar military brat camaraderie that could’ve only been noticed if you’ve been without it for some time. We compared where we’ve been stationed, seeing if we were close to running into each other at some point in our lives and finding seemingly random mutual friends from our pasts. As the conference progressed, the scholars provided an open-environment for emotional conversation and the refreshing feeling of being at home. Although it wasn’t intentional, the most valuable lesson I learned in Orlando was how important it is to be surrounded by students who understand and can relate to your upbringing, and ultimately, your identity.

Since Lead365 I haven’t found many military brats at school, although, I recognize that the close friends I do have are almost identical to one. They grew up going to 5+ schools; they know what it’s like to be the new person in a group. They know how to make the best of a situation, even if that’s not where they want to be. They know that distance isn’t a reason to grow apart from someone, rather, it’s more of a motive to keep in touch. They know that their home is not where they are, but who they’re with. Their friendship has made the world of a difference to my college experience. It has positively influenced my decisions and comfort and I’m indebted to them for making my school, my home.

I say this because most of the schools attended by current scholars, alumni, and military brats have fewer military students than the high schools and/or neighborhoods with which we’re familiar. That means you’ll be part of the 5% instead of the 75%. It means more people will be curious about what USAA is or why you have a separate ID exclusive to the armed forces. It means it might be hard to adjust even though you’re so good at adjusting, because in the real world only 1% of the United States’ population are immediate relatives to the military. If you find yourself in a similar position that I was in, don’t be afraid to reach out to other military brats, international students, nomads, and their families — both at your school and through Corvias. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll become acquainted, and how easy it is for a friendship to blossom. Always remember, home is not where you are but who you’re surrounded with.