Leadership Conversations

Friday, December 5, 2014
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“When is the last time that you had a great conversation?” asks John O’Donohue. “A conversation which wasn’t just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture.  But when had you last a great conversation in which you overheard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew, that you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost.” With this quote, we began our first student leader meeting of the year, asking students to pause for a minute of silence to reflect on the question it poses. It is these kinds of conversations that we are modelling and training students for, whether they are facilitating volunteer groups or discussions on campus.

In this letter, several of our student leaders reflect on how they are growing personally through their role and how they are being influenced through our regular Facilitator Training meetings and individual mentoring. The themes of trust, service, listening, and compassion that you hear in the students’ stories are topics we’ve explored in depth this fall. Often the students who facilitate our Community Volunteer Action (CVA) weekly volunteer groups are pretty new to reflecting on these themes. Each year Open Circle and CVA’s 50 student leaders agree to attend our ongoing Facilitator Training meetings and mentoring sessions when they sign up for their facilitator role. Initially, some students are uncertain about whether these regular meetings are really all that necessary. Some are more prone to action than contemplation. But as this student discovered, their perspective soon changes: “I started the year skeptical of how useful the regular Facilitator Training sessions would be in developing my skills as a facilitator and leader, but having done a year of it, I realize that they have been a great space for me to grow as a whole person.”

Thank you for your support and encouragement as we journey with students who are growing into leaders. Many tell us of how they are carrying this depth of development with them into other settings and into life beyond university, where they continue to initiate “great conversations” in a society that often settles for “intersecting monologues.”

— Marybeth and Jeff