So many sweet successes, each alone more than enough.
Today, a group of emerging higher ed superstars wrapped up our yearlong Leadership Legacy program. Before the university president’s speech, before certificates and applause and cake, participants shared the ideas for change we’d launched into existence. It thrilled me to describe an alumni mentor initiative that’s now charging forward, with current PhD students paired with graduates. This program aims to retain and support the success of underrepresented students (first-generation and students of color) by offering a connection with graduates from similar backgrounds.
I expected this project to take a couple of months at most, and that it would be off and running by last November. As with so many endeavors in a complex organization, the process involved more people, pivots, and planning than any of us anticipated. Nevertheless, today — this very day! — I clicked “send” on the emails matching mentors with mentees, complete with polished bios and tips for engagement.
Several other participants presented to the large group at today’s closing ceremony. It gave me hope to hear what folks across this university are putting in place. Colleagues are making smart, generative use of tools from our 360 evaluations, StrengthsFinder assessments, conflict management models, and ongoing reflective sessions. One is establishing creative communication programs. Another is reorganizing student housing. Yet another has built a truly collaborative partnership to implement cross-campus facilities plans.
So much energy moves through this place — far more than we might notice on any given day buried inside our work. This program served as a constant reminder that relationships form the roots of all meaningful change.
To drive home the point, after the back-slapping and promises to get together again, I returned to my office to find an email from a now-former colleague. On his last day at the university, he had taken the time to connect me to someone who designs mentorship programs for educational success. Then, just moments later, my professional coach came by and we chatted for nearly an hour. She left me with a concrete plan — three manageable steps in the next week — to scale this mentor program up to its next iteration: a larger research-focused initiative that connects doctoral students and faculty with promising undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds.
5:00pm on a Friday. I’m off to attend a parenting workshop put together by a woman who joined in the last Kitchen Conversation at my house. Attending tonight fulfills one of the commitments I’ve made to strengthening connections with other women leading in my community, particularly women of color.
And the final sweet gift of the day? The minister of my Unitarian Universalist congregation called and asked if I would share a story as part of our “Reimagining the Possible” annual giving campaign. On Sunday morning, I’ll be speaking at both services. He’s not only given me the opportunity to write about what lives closest to my heart, but to give those values a voice.
With colleagues and mentors, with neighbors and friends, in my work and in my community, I begin again to use the power I have in the service of what I say I believe.
Any of of this day’s blessings would have been sufficient.
This day, waking.