JBU Students Discover What “Real-World Application” Should Look Like
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Class discussions, projects, essays, assigned readings. These are all valuable tools for learning, but how do you take what you’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to real life? As a student of this term’s Foundations of Leadership course, I discovered what “real-world application” should look like.
Dr. Delia Haak is the executive director of the Illinois River Watershed Partnershipand professor of the Foundations of Leadership course here at JBU. She is also a firm believer that having the title of “leader” does not necessarily indicate that a person is practicing leadership.
“We can teach students about leadership, but for all of us, to LEARN leadership requires application and practice,” Dr. Haak says. “A student can get an ‘A’ in knowledge in the course, but in reality, one must apply and practice leadership in order to become an effective and ethical leader.”
This is where our group project came in. You may be thinking of the last group project you did where you probably worked with your team to research a topic, write a paper, and make a presentation. This project was a different take on the typical group project; our assignment was to practice ethical leadership in a tangible way while serving the community.
Each person in my group was passionate about mentorship, specifically for middle school students. We decided to work with the Helen Tyson Middle School LEAD team, a group of sixth-graders dedicated to community leadership. Our group worked beside the LEAD team to revamp the school’s rain garden–a garden designed to allow rainwater runoff from urban areas to absorb into the ground, reducing pollution in our waterways. We and the students worked several hours to clear the garden of weeds and brush and added several beautiful plants to the garden, all donated by the Illinois River Watershed Partnership. When we were finished, both the LEAD team and my group were in awe of the transformation.
The improved rain garden wasn’t the only benefit from the project; we were able to practice servant leadership in a real-world setting. Our group encouraged the students and provided purpose for what they were doing while working right alongside them. We instilled within the students a feeling of responsibility and pride for the work they had done, and we practiced the important skills required to be ethical and effective leaders.
When asked how the team leadership project helps to serve her vision for the Foundations of Leadership course, Dr. Haak answered, “Leadership must be exhibited among team members for the project to be implemented and the community to benefit from their vision and actions. Becoming a ‘good leader’ is not the goal of the course; practicing good leadership is the goal of the course. We are called to practice servant leadership every day, as Micah 6:8 instructs us to ‘Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.’”
I think my fellow classmates would agree with me when I say this group project certainly gave us the chance to practice servant leadership in a meaningful way.
- Jessica Turner, MBA Student and Graduate Assistant