2018 NUFP Dungy Leadership Institute: University of Illinois at Chicago

It was a blessing to be challenged by professionals that had been in my shoes and to have my quiet thoughts validated by their years of experience. My Dungy Leadership Institute (DLI) experience was both eye opening and restorative. The sense of trust and community our cohort built can only be compared to a family reunion or group therapy. During undergrad my institution was my world. Student staff work required a hefty amount of care and time. While I knew I didn’t live in a vacuum, it was hard to conceptualize that any other young professional experienced college differently than me. It was even more bewildering that though our paths differed, our commitment to serving others was the same. Along with that common ground came the unglamorous emotional work and social strain that weaves the tight rope student staffers walk.

It is very easy to forget ourselves when working with other students. I loved that our DLI sessions asked us to be honest and vulnerable in the ways that we’d want to engage those we serve. “Where I am from” was one of my favorite activities. Of course, on the surface level we all were from across the globe. But our facilitators encouraged us to dig deep and answer the larger questions: Who we are, what shaped us, and what grounds us. So often diversity is illustrated in numbers and sterile statistics, but as we read it was clear that a wealth of differentness existed amongst us. We were offered a moment to silence the rest of the world, truly see ourselves and hear each other.

University of Illinois – Chicago gave us an awesome area to express our curiosities. We had spaces to meet up and debrief the day. Also, time to meet professionals in plenty of functional areas from other local colleges. The University absolutely leaned in to offer all of the resources and knowledge we needed to feel whole during our stay. The breakout sessions lead by UIC staff perfectly added to our DLI curriculum. They really meet us where we were at and elevated our ability to express what we do to help others.

Our case studies required us to pull from our communal pool of wisdom and experience to solve real world problems in the field of higher education. It was a lot of work, I enjoyed how innocuously it prepared us for grad studies. It’s one thing to talk about diversity in leadership, styles of direction, and delegation. It is an entirely different world being in the thick of it. I still have a glow of pride for my team after making it through. The practice helped quiet my doubts about pursuing my masters. The support and encouragement we received from the facilitators was amazing. I wish I could have them in the room cheering me on when I turn in my first paper.

While I won’t have my DLI fam with me in person every step of the way, I now have an expanded network of talented people in my corner. That alone is invaluable. I recently started my first staff position and am already drawing on what I learned at DLI. My experience in Chicago prepared me to lead and learn from students of all backgrounds. I am so grateful to have spent a week with world changers.

Johana Gourdin is a part of the 2017-2018 NUFP cohort and a student at Frostburg State Univeristy.

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

Deadline: Friday, September 14, 2018

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