Leadership is not a position; it is a journey that cycles through life. It is a torch that is passed around to help ignite the passion of others, to spark traits that allows the leader within to emerge. That is what some 60 York students learned recently through the LeaderShape Institute.
Founded in 1986, the LeaderShape Institute has over 30,000 graduates around the globe. York was the first university in Canada to offer this widely acclaimed program to its students, and has hosted the institute three times so far.
York staff, alumni and two leadership gurus pose at the YMCA Geneva Park for this year’s LeaderShape Institute. From left (standing, rear): Claudia Beeny, Abdul Hassan, Megan Bertasson, Bart Zemanek, Courtney Mallam, Sara Jahansouz and Danielle Stein; (crouching in front) Dimple Savla, David Ip Yam and Lavina Sadhwani.
“So many others told me that the retreat was a life-changing experience,” says David Ip Yam, the coordinator of this year’s LeaderShape Institute. “I was a little skeptical going in. Having witnessed the degree of impact that it had on 60 students and 10 staff, however, I now truly understand that this claim is as authentic as they come.”
The 2012 LeaderShape Institute took place, from February 19 to 24, in Orillia, Ont., at the YMCA Geneva Park retreat centre where 60 York students, eight York staff or alumni, and two external institute gurus served as the clay to be molded by the impactful week. And, indeed, the participants pointed to it as a transformative leadership experience, unlike any they had experienced before.
But how does one week consistently create myriad agents of change for the York community?
The LeaderShape Institute does not sugar-coat leadership. Students and staff alike were placed in situations where they actively engaged in deep dialogue and interactive activities focused on self-discovery. On top of coming back motivated, renewed and excited, they came back having sharpened many of the tools needed to be a visionary leader of integrity.
Exuberant York students, staff and alumni symbolically point to the future, which they promise they will change for the better
“On an individual level, I cannot stress the degree of growth and transformation that each [individual] experienced,” says Ip Yam. “As people began to understand that they could change their world, they modified hindering perceptions into more open, positive and healthy ones. As another facilitator said, creativity was born from chaos and breakthroughs emerged from breakdowns. It was a powerful and moving experience.”
Coordinated by the leadership team from York’s Student Community & Leadership Development (SCLD), programing during the actual week of the institute is run by two lead facilitators from the United States. Sara Jahansouz, co-lead facilitator and assistant dean of students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, says, “For the first time, many young people get in touch with who they really are and what they stand for. When they leave, they get to live a life that they may have never dreamed of.”
Claudia Beeny, a co-lead facilitator and a professional executive coach and former student affairs professional, explains that LeaderShape “gives 60 students the time and space needed to experience the power of meaningful human interaction, to talk about what they really care about and to build lasting community.”
LeaderShape was sponsored by SCLD, AVP, Enrolment Management and University Registrar, Bethune College Council, Centre for Aboriginal Student Services, the Centre for Human Rights, Calumet College Council, Calumet College Master’s Office Career Centre, the Faculty of Health Student Caucus, Founders College Master’s Office, Glendon College Student Union, HealthAid Network, Health Education and Promotion, McLaughlin College Council, McLaughlin College Master’s Office, New College Council, New College Master’s Office, Office of Student Conflict Resolution, Office of Student Services at Glendon College, Office of the Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Recruitment, Sport and Recreation, Stong College Student Government, Stong College Master’s Office , Vanier College Council, York Federation of Students, York is U, York’s RED Zone.