2018 NUFP Dungy Leadership Institute: Missouri State University

It’s hard to wrap up the Dungy Leadership Institute into one blog post, but as I reflect on this extremely transformative experience, I find that the words I associate with DLI are actually feelings. So in an attempt to express just how important DLI is, I have chosen to describe, (yes) all “the feelings.”

Vulnerability. The first couple of days were nothing short of intense. As someone who has found it increasingly difficult to share stories of life, where I come from, and what I’m passionate about, I was put in a space where I was challenged to show other people parts of myself I had never shown anyone. Personally, I learned the value and importance of vulnerability, especially when it comes to student affairs work. It was through this process, we all learned the beauty and grace that comes with being vulnerable.

Strength. Throughout the days, we attended different sessions about higher education and student affairs that opened our eyes to the struggle and success of the field. Although some of us may have had differing opinions on some topics, we all had passion behind our words and aimed to see and understand things through different perspectives. In having to observe through a “social justice lens” there is strength. There is strength in wanting to be an educator and a change agent. Every person at DLI had an amazing and inspiring way of exhibiting their own strength and it was most visible through the case study that our small groups worked tirelessly on!

Understanding. I will say it time and time again, it amazes me how close my DLI cohort became in just six short days. The amount of diverse stories and backgrounds in the room actually made us able to connect with each other on very basic human levels. Above all, there was always a feeling of understanding, compassion and empathy. We learned to love each other, to build each other up and to support one another. By the end of the week, I knew that these students would be connections I would have for years to come, and if any of us ever needed anything, we would be there for each other. 

Finally, confidence. This is probably the most important feeling. On the scale of introverted to extroverted, every DLI participant was somewhere different on the spectrum. However, by the last day, when it was time for brunch, affirmation bag pick-ups, and teary goodbyes, every single person exuded confidence. Sure, maybe we didn’t have our lives together (and probably still don’t), some of us were terrified and excited at the same time to start grad school, some of us were freaking out over the concept of a gap year, and some of us were just too sad to be leaving to think about anything else; but every single person looked confident. Confident in their abilities as an aspiring professional. Confident in their ability to figure out things they weren’t sure about. Confident in who they are as a person.

Having the amazing honor and privilege to speak to my DLI cohort who I looked up to in so many ways, was truly the highlight of my personal experience. The last day encompassed so many life-changing moments and it was truly the culmination of so much positive change in my life. I knew the people I was surrounded by are special and will be by my side for a lifetime, which honestly makes me all the more excited to enter the world of student affairs.

Antonella Valdivia is a part of the 2017-2018 NUFP cohort and a student at the Univeristy of Miami.

Applications for the 2018-2019 NUFP Class are now open!

Deadline: Friday, September 14, 2018