Aletha’s ‘One Word’ – Fa’a Samoa

Aletha's 'One Word' is Fa'a Samoa This is my culture. This is my childhood, adulthood, and death all rolled into one word. I live my life every day the way my culture would have it. Although I am not as traditional as my father would like, I still keep to most of the ways of our family and the ancestors before us. When I was growing up, it was expected to carry my name with pride and a sense of respect. I was told that the name you have is not yours, but the name of those whose blood runs the same way as you. For the longest time I thought he meant those whose blood was the same as you, but that is not correct. The name you carry does not necessarily mean the name you were born into but the name that you build for yourself throughout the life you live and the actions you make. This is Fa’a Samoa, “The Samoan Way.”

If I were to grow up in Samoa I would have developed very tight-knit familial traditions. Family housing supports 10-20 residents within the immediate relations. Even though I spent my adolescence in America, we held many of the same customs. Dinners at home would be a mandatory event with a customary prayer said before anyone was to eat. Elders were served first and then you were permitted to eat. In my culture, elders made all decisions and no alternate options were provided. If there was an older age group, the generation that followed was to trail behind the example that their predecessors set. If an older sibling made a mistake the younger was to learn by their punishment. Many ancient civilizations rely on their older populace to guide them to success.

I had hoped that there would be an easier way to explain the meaning, but there really is not. I learn from the mistakes of my past or the mistakes my elders have made. I am expected to conduct myself as though I am representing my people in everything that I do. Even though my parents are divorced, my sister has moved away, and we are not as close as I would like, it does not matter because we each have been set on a path that will lead us together in the end. This may sound religious, but it is not. When I die I know I will be put in the same earth as my people before me, and I take extreme pride in that. I live my life the way my family would be proud, and I truly believe that I carry out the traditions of the Samoan culture in every aspect of my life.

Gisela’s ‘One Word’ – MUSIC!

Gisela's 'One Word' is MUSIC! What’s the best word to describe me? I’ve pondered this for many years, and I never seemed to fully stick to one word. As we grow, we mature and set new goals that can alter one’s personality and views. Growing up I felt like an outcast, as if I had to live up to certain expectations to “fit in”. This feeling I had growing up, believe it or not, made me think of the word I chose to describe myself. My word is Music and I chose music because it has impacted my life in a positive way. Music is what I love, my life revolves around, inspires me, and motivates me.

Music has always been a part of my life thanks to my inspirational father. Although music is the word I chose for myself, there is a lot of meaning behind the noise. “M” is for mellow, and mellow is definitely within me. As a kid, I used to love being around animals. Animals are a passion of mine, and they made me a soft caring person. “U” is for understanding. I am understanding because I love to help. One thing I notice is that I put myself in the other person’s shoes and think of ways to fix a problem, or at least bring some harmony into their lives. “S” is for strong. I’ve been through some tough and devastating challenges in my life, but I’ve become stronger every day. “I” is for independent. I chose independent because through life, facing certain challenges made me become independent to the point where I was taking care of my family and myself. “C” is for caring, because I am a caring person. I love to help out in any way I can.

As a child, I always found music to be my escape from any situation. I never thought music would mean so much to me even after I grew up. Sure, music is just a term to describe awesome noise that brings joy and ease to the troubled mind, but to me, it means a lot more than just the term itself. Think of it as a museum. When you think of the word, you think of many things that could be in there. When you actually go inside the museum, you find all sorts of neat, interesting stuff that has a lot of meaning behind it.

Leadership Tip of the Week – Ebony Lewis

This leadership tip of the week video is brought to you by the L.E.A.D. department.

Ebony Lewis, who is usually hard at work making things happen over in Admissions, took a few minutes out of her busy day to tell us her perspective on leadership. Why does she think constructive criticism is so critical to be an effective leader? We will give you a hint: it has something to do with the color purple.

Sara “Mustache You to Lead”

When I heard about the {I}Experience, I was really excited about it. I had heard about last year’s trip but didn’t apply because I was too busy with hall council. I was kicking myself afterward when I heard about how much fun everyone had. So when I heard they were doing it again this year, I applied as soon as I could! And when I got the email saying that I got accepted, it was so exciting! I told everyone on Facebook, Twitter…everything! I had already been to the Summer Leadership Summit this past summer and knew how much fun the L.E.A.D. department’s events were. Therefore, I was over the moon that I would get to go to the {I}Experience!

Sara (left) heads into the hotel location for the {I}Experience

Sara (left) heads into the hotel location for the {I}Experience

Finally, on the day we left, I had gotten all my surveys for the assessment done and I was so excited. But I noticed when we were waiting for the buses that I really didn’t know anyone whom was going that well. I was a little nervous about this, but I decided that it would be okay to make the best of the weekend, regardless of who was tagging along. Knowing that Christina Wan was one of the small group leaders was reassuring and since she is my boss, I was hoping I would get her as a small group facilitator.

We got to the hotel and I was put into Zach Shirley’s group. I knew his name and that he is a lot of fun but I really didn’t know him that well. We were the “Mustache You to Lead” group and trust me when I say they are an amazing group of people! We all had different stories/backgrounds and we were from different areas of the campus. It was a just a great mixture of people with great ideas about everything. We had so much fun and learned so much about each other. It was a pleasure to be in that group!

Sara and the rest of "Mustache You to Lead"

Sara and the rest of “Mustache You to Lead”

When we got our first activity, I knew I wouldn’t have an issue because I had done it before, identifying our values. I had done it in RA training so I knew what my values were, but it was harder than I expected. The hardest part was narrowing down our top values. Ultimately, I decided that fairness, faith, family, friendship and leadership were my top values and what I care most about in my life.

The reflection station was probably one of the most memorable things we did. I went with Julian and Britney and we just talked the whole time. We talked about careers, our plans for after college and life in general. We had a great time and had a great conversation. It was good just to have that time to talk and relax and not have to worry about anything back on campus or life.

Sara sits alongside other participants/facilitators for some conversational reflection

Sara sits alongside other participants/facilitators for some conversational reflection

{I}Experience was just so much fun and particularly enlightening. I learned so much about myself that I was able to bring back here to campus and utilize in my everyday life (and in my RA position at Pride Rock). I also met so many awesome people. Everyone there was just so awesome and made the whole experience just that much better. I feel like going into this experience without really knowing anyone made me branch out and meet more people than I would have if I had someone to latch onto for the weekend. I wish I could go to next year’s {I}Experience but you can only go once, which is okay. I’ll apply for Summer Leadership Summit again and have fun there again this summer!

The entire group of students and facilitators at the {I}Experience

The entire group of students and facilitators at the {I}Experience

Sara Smith
Sophomore – Texas A&M University-Commerce

Habitat for Humanity – Building Hope

The morning of October 5th, 2013 was a little chilly, yet there were almost 40 eager students waiting patiently for the busses to arrive. Well, not everyone was eager at first: it was 6:30 a.m., so most of us would normally still be all cozy in our beds. I, myself, can attest that I was neither fully awake, nor ready for the Paris/Lamar County Habitat for Humanity project. It certainly helped that breakfast was provided, yay! Having a muffin, a banana, and some orange juice really hit the spot in my stomach and all of a sudden I was fully awake. I guess many of us viewed this opportunity as a way to help others out who really needed the help. This is why we rendered one of our Saturdays in order to volunteer. During the bus ride, I comfortably sat down on one of the seats which I shared with a fellow friend of mine, Carime. Throughout the 40 minute drive, at least 2/3 of the students were awake because Julian was playing some pretty sweet jams on the bus.

Halfway through the project, Luis had made some serious headway

Halfway through the project, Luis had made some serious headway

Upon our arrival the wind gust seemed to have accumulated a tad bit more and the weather was definitely much cooler. As we all got off of the busses, we were greeted by 7-8 elderly folks and the man whom the house was being built for, Wesley. The older folks began to either break us down into groups or the students volunteered themselves on doing a specific task. First, I took on the task of cleaning out an entire fence row which was covered with a lot of debris ranging from small shrubs, vines, and a lot of leaves. Luckily, there were plenty of ladies helping me out with cleaning the fence. As I stopped for a short break, I noticed that the attitude of the students was effervescent and everyone was working as a team. We all were slowly working towards a common goal which was to accomplish as much building of the house as possible. Wesley was more than ecstatic that we cared so much about helping him out. He was just about everywhere at all given times trying to assist with anything that needed to be done. The joy and glimpse of hope on his face was priceless.
Luis finishes the last of the fence-cleaning portion of the Habitat for Humanity project

Luis finishes the last of the fence-cleaning portion of the Habitat for Humanity project

Ultimately, the end of our time at the building site was coming to a close end. We had been served a scrumptious lunch consisting of beans, rolls, sweet tea, and chicken. The food certainly gave me a boost to continue working hard on getting stuff done. Joey and I managed to dig up 3 ½ posts up from the ground in no time. Half of one post got stuck in the ground, but with hard work we managed to yank it up from the ground. A few students and I finished clearing all of the fence lines, and all of the debris was picked up and carted away to the dumpster. After a long day of helping out it was time to head back home. By this time I felt like we ALL had made a difference on this windy and chilly Saturday morning. The amazing thing is that the building which was now completely standing symbolized a new glimpse of hope for Wesley. All of the students took part in building hope by helping with the house and all the little things that each and every one of us did. I deeply enjoyed spending my Saturday with fellow A&M-Commerce students in Paris, Texas. Thanks to the L.E.A.D. department and everyone who made it possible for us to be able to make a difference in Wesley’s life in, “Building Hope”, towards a new path in his life.
There's no better way to enjoy a great Habitat for Humanity project than to relax in the dumpster

There’s no better way to enjoy a great Habitat for Humanity project than to relax in the dumpster

Luis Arteaga
Junior – Texas A&M University-Commerce

5 Things I Learned as an {I}Experience Facilitator

When the L.E.A.D. department asked me to be a part of the {I}Experience, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with my students in a capacity beyond my residence hall and classroom; many of my students the previous year had attended the {I}Experience and spoke very highly of the value they derived from it. I love to combine my passion for leadership with the opportunity to watch students learn and grow in new ways. I was also very excited to meet many new students, particularly those just starting their student leadership journey. Before we left for the program, we had two Facilitator & behind-the-scenes crew trainings and I was so thrilled to be working with a great group of large and small group facilitators/behind-the-scenes crew. I was interested to learn more about the process of facilitating the {I}Experience, and more than anything, excited to see the learning and development that would occur during this weekend leadership retreat.

Most of the small/large group facilitators and behind-the-scenes crew for the {I}Experience

Most of the small/large group facilitators and behind-the-scenes crew for the {I}Experience

Upon arriving at the hotel the day before the {I}Experience participants arrived, our facilitators group began working on our chant as well as other activities that we wanted to make sure we were prepared for before the participants arrived. I was so impressed with how organized and prepared each of the behind-the-scenes crew members were, and the level of detail that went into planning the trip from start to finish for these students. Kudos to the L.E.A.D. Department!
Throughout the weekend, facilitators and students alike learned more than we ever expected about our personal leadership styles. As a facilitator, I was able to connect with a group of students that I am so honored to know. I will be keeping up with these rockstar students to see what amazing things they do back on campus!
Christina (second from left, bottom row) and the rest of the 'Captain Crunch & Cereal Killers'

Christina (second from left, bottom row) and the rest of the ‘Captain Crunch & Cereal Killers’

My Top 5 takeaways from the {I} Experience:

1. To be a leader, one must learn how others perceive you to achieve congruence.
2. Students (and facilitators) benefit from processing a learning experience in both small and large group settings. This is valuable when considering all of the teaching and advising work that I have the great fortune to do with students on our campus.
3. Reflection (in whatever manner you choose) is key for leadership development. I am making a commitment to take more time for reflection in my life!
4. It is okay to be silly! This contributes to the learning and fun.
5. Self-awareness and authenticity are crucial for leadership development.

It is my sincere hope that every Texas A&M University – Commerce student considers applying and going to the {I}Experience! You will meet wonderful peers, spectacular small and large group facilitators, and an expert behind-the-scenes crew!

Christina and her fantastic small group enjoy a group photo at Main Event

Christina and her fantastic small group enjoy a group photo at Main Event

Christina Wan
Hall Director – Pride Rock, Residential Living & Learning
Texas A&M University-Commerce

The {I}Experience – Al’s Facilitator Perspective

The {I}Experience was a great time for me. The reason I pursued a career in Campus Recreation was to work with college students and give them the direction and opportunity that I did not receive during my undergraduate experience. I have been at this institution for a little over a year now and I can without a doubt say the biggest advantage that Texas A&M University-Commerce has over other schools are the staff members here. They are all dedicated to not only their day-to-day responsibilities within their departments, but also to the success and development of their students. Coming from large universities, this has been a very different environment for me and the {I}Experience was the latest chapter in my time in Commerce.

Al and his {I}Experience group enjoy a chance to goof off a bit and show their personality

Al and his {I}Experience group enjoy a chance to goof off a bit and show their personality

The experience behind-the-scenes was very exciting. The L.E.A.D. crew obviously had been working for months on all the big picture items, as well as the details. Working with the staff members from around campus was wonderful in the sense that I don’t get to see them often or work alongside them as much as I would like to. Seeing everyone come together for this awesome program gave me a great appreciation for what we all do here. I also learned that many of our staff members have great acting backgrounds, especially Ebony Lewis and Julian Sanchez. If they ever want to leave this university and start a career on Broadway, I’m sure they wouldn’t have any trouble.
Michelle (a fellow facilitator) does her best not to marvel at Al's acting skills

Michelle (a fellow facilitator) does her best not to marvel at Al’s acting skills

Looking back on the trip as a whole, time flew by very quickly. I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic group of students who were open to hear what I had to say as a facilitator and what the program was designed to do for them. They were very eager to learn from the two short days they were in Richardson together. The CAMAJAKES (our team name made up of letters of all our names) were great working as individuals, as well as in pairs and as a large group. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them and learned as much from them as I hope they learned from me. The two pieces of advice I hope they got from me is first, that leadership is a process that never ends. You always have to take step forward in order to keep up with those who are following. The second piece is that you will not explode if you aren’t constantly on your cell phone. Even being in my 20s, I was born during the cold war (look it up…) and survived until late in high school without one and I am still in one piece.
After receiving their group picture, Al's group poses for another picture. So much irony.

After receiving their group picture, Al’s group poses for another picture. So much irony.

Al Diaz
Assistant Director – Operations and Member Services
Morris Recreation Center – Texas A&M University-Commerce