From vision to action

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More than 50 students participated in a four-day intensive leadership development program called LeaderShape, during MIT’s Independent Activities Period

Over the course of the program, students take a deep-dive in a wide-range of topics and activities such as action planning, team building, group decision-making, and conflict resolution. The program is open to all undergraduate and graduate students and takes place at the Salvation Army Wonderland Conference Center in Sharon, Massachusetts.

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Stephon Henry-Rerrie, a senior studying chemical engineering, wanted to take part in the program to break down barriers and have conversations that would develop his leadership skills.

“I expected to be vulnerable with my ideas and to lend myself to learning from other people,” Henry-Rerrie says. “Every conversation I had has impacted me with new knowledge or new perspectives that I’m able to add to my own way of viewing the world.”

Tracy Purinton, director of the MIT Leadership Center, says MIT LeaderShape is also an opportunity for faculty and staff facilitators and students to “explore together what leadership means to them, what leadership means in the context of community, and what leadership means in terms of bringing positive change into the world.”

Each individual creates a plan of action designed to improve the world on a range of topics: apathy, diversity and social justice, education, health care, and technological innovation. From engagement in powerful simulations, activities, and discussions, students learn how to develop their visions in a thoughtful and systematic way that they can execute or carry with them through their lifetime.

In addition to working and providing feedback on their visions in large groups, participants also have the opportunity to interact with renowned MIT faculty and administrators, known as cluster facilitators, in smaller group settings.

This year’s cluster facilitators included Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean of student life; Judy “JJ” Jackson, diversity and inclusion officer; Joseph Granado, associate director of student activities and leadership; Akunna Rosser, assistant director for prehealth advising; and Shawn Ferullo, chief of orthopedics and student health.

The MIT LeaderShape program, which started in 1995, is a partnership between MIT and LeaderShape Inc., a non-profit organization in Champaign, Illinois, that provides materials and the complete curriculum to all campus-based LeaderShape programs nationwide.

Over the years, the LeaderShape program has allowed many students to reflect on the impact they can make as leaders in the world, says MIT Vice President Kirk Kolenbrander.

“Students leave the experience with a plan of action that guides them for many years to come,” Kolenbrander says. “But what they leave with MIT is a deep and lasting commitment to improving our community.”