“We Are The Leaders We’ve Been Waiting For”
~Grace Lee Boggs
This is a quote that I am holding extremely close at this point in my journey.
But before I go more into that, first, a little history to my connection with this phrase and Grace Lee Boggs.
I had the opportunity to work at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan for a year and half as the Offices of Student Life and New Student Orientation (but for reals, it was Me, Myself and I with amazing students…shout out to my MG Peeps!). During my tenure with Marygrove College, it was an independent Catholic institution sponsored by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Part of the focus of the institution was servant leadership and community engagement.
Being on Six Mile in Detroit and in the old neighborhood of Grace Lee Boggs we read her book and leaned into her leadership and example as an advocate, activist and human. So the phrase was not new to me when we selected it as the guiding principle for #ACPA19. But over the course of the past year and a half it has inspired, empowered and guided me through some difficult times I’ve experienced as a Student Affairs professional.
As you know Michigan State University is going through some challenges. The ripple effect from the Larry Nassar crimes continue to move throughout campus and more start up each week, the trial of former-President Lou Anna K. Simon and the uncertainty of a close Presidential search have created an uneasy environment. Combine these pieces with normal everyday campus politics and dynamics, it has resulted in micromanaging, self-preservation and survival becoming a more than common theme that runs through the work leaving an isolated sense of belonging.
Its hard to navigate this type of environment; to not be empowered with the agency to better the work, the environment and student experience. Its hard to not have role models on campus who lead by example. (And please know I hold that I come from a lens of an individual who is in a lower level administrator position and I can only share and blog from my experiences.)
This is what I’ve struggled with for the past year and a half. And as many of you who know me, I don’t thrive well in these environments.
But over the course of the year I’ve come to understand that I can’t rely on others to be the leaders I need. I need to become and that I CAN be the Leader That I’ve Been Waiting For.
In the MSU Dialogues Faculty Staff Program we talked about our Spheres of Influence. These four spheres are individuals or groups of people that we can make an impact on, and include Self, Close Family and Friends, Local Community, Larger Community. And we can only authentically make change within those spheres in terms of what you, yourself, can do. Not what we wish we could do.
I wish I could work on so many of my great ideas and suggestions. I wish I had a voice at certain tables. I wish I had great role models in upper level positions I could find guidance and learn from.
But I need to focus on my spheres of influence.
Taking some time over the past few months to refocus and see what I CAN do has been eye opening. I can make change and better the work in the small things. In the relationships I build and maintain. In the tasks and projects I do hold. At the tables I do have access to. I can lead by the example I needed for myself, with the hopes I can be the me I needed for someone else.
I hold this close now. It may have taken me a little longer than others to learn this, but you know me, I like to take my time in life lessons 🙂
Thanks for reading my musing and navigating this myriad of random thoughts! We’ll see where this goes over the summer while I reflect on the past year and get geared up for next!
Until next time,
Peace, Love and Pandas!