When Midwestern State University Student Development and Orientation Director Cammie Dean first met Grenadian student Giselle Lewis, she was so soft-spoken that Dean would have to ask her to repeat herself. But Dean saw that Giselle had an interest in being involved and taking on a leadership role on the MSU campus.
Because Dean could see Giselle’s potential, she recommended that Giselle apply for the Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement, a four-day summit at the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) held in the summer designed to teach students to be effective, ethical, and innovative leaders. Out of more than 400 applicants, Giselle was one of 50 chosen to attend.
“I was never the most confident person,” Giselle said. “I always thought others could do better.” But at one point in her life, Giselle had to take a leadership role and that situation boosted her confidence. “Now I just want to rise above the obstacles that come my way, and to make others on the team look good.”
At the Student Leadership Summit, Giselle took part in workshops with people from all over the world, and discussed topics such as what makes a good leader and how to bring together people of different personalities. In one workshop, a team needed to empty popcorn kernels from one can into another inside a roped circle using only a bicycle tire, a rope, and tape – teaching the value of teamwork and resourcefulness. “They want us to learn that leadership is not about one person, it’s about a team,” Giselle said.
The workshop is named for Frances Hesselbein, President and CEO of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute. She was the CEO of the Girl Scouts of United States of America from 1976-1990, and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in America. Hesselbein has written numerous books on leadership.
Giselle has taken to heart one of Hesselbein’s quotes, “To serve is to live,” and applied that to her own life. The senior social work major is a member of Phi Alpha National Honor Society, the Caribbean Students Organization, and is the executive chair of the University Programming Board. She is also a team leader for MSU’s Phonathon and the president of Social Workers Acting Together (SWAT). Projects that Giselle has been part of include making baskets for adoptive parents for National Adoption Day, taking part in clean-up activities and other service events. After graduation in December 2013, she plans to earn a master’s degree in speech therapy.
Dean can see that attending the workshop strengthened Giselle’s confidence. “From her first program as a University Programming Chair, Giselle demonstrated a strong motivation to bring together people of diverse backgrounds for the purpose of building community on our campus,” Dean said. “Now, I see her asserting herself as she leads meetings and coordinates events. But, most of all, it is her contagious smile that makes her a joy with which to work.”
For more information on the Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement, visit www.hesselbein.pitt.edu.