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Key to Leadership is Making it Your Own, Students Learn

Alyssa Abraham and Nicholas Tawse were dropped off at an unknown location in the dark with only one compass and two flashlights, and told to complete a scavenger hunt and find their way back to the campsite. Fortunately, they had friends with them and were able to use what they had learned during a strengths-building retreat in a real life situation.

unique fish“This helped us as individuals to identify how we can build upon our strengths to become better leaders,” said Abraham, a freshman planning to major in marketing or supply chain management.

Tawse, a freshman planning to major in MIS agrees: “This caused us to rely on one another and share our ideas and collaborate with each person because no one person is of better quality than anyone else.”

Abraham and Tawse embarked on the scavenger hunt and retreat as part of the McCombs Leadership Program, a four-year organization that trains students on a different aspect each year of their undergraduate education: individual, organizational, community and global.

During their spring retreat, the group learned how people will witness a stressful event and shutdown. The Leadership Program training teaches students to use this energy to make a difference and create a positive outcome out of a negative event.

“Even though we are learning ‘individual leadership’ we are learning information that allows us to become a better person as well as a better personal leader in a group,” said Tawse.

During the first year in the Leadership Program students begin to discover strengths, define individual values, examine the concept of self-leadership and gain tools to manage stress. 

“I strongly believe that success comes from the relationships and experience you gain,” said Tawse. “The Leadership Program allows you to interact with students so that you can build friendships that could last inside and outside of the classroom, and be successful in life, school and a job.”

Abraham also thinks positively about the students she has met so far: “The students in the program are all incredible and it is very humbling to be among great students. The majority have strong aspirations for the future and are in the program to learn more and develop as a person.”

Along with the StrengthsQuest retreat, students in the first-year of the Leadership Program gain outside leadership experience. They read books, attend lectures and conferences and serve as officers in student organizations. Tawse has found his experience in the program to be influential outside of McCombs.

“Throughout this first year I have learned many aspects that will influence my personal leadership style in organizations, group projects and the workforce,” said Tawse.

Ezequiel Calderon Jr., a freshman intending to major in marketing, said the Leadership Program has allowed him to learn through other people and also appy his skills to other organizations. Calderon explained that he has become aware of his values through the program and that it has taught him to communicate better and establish relationships with others. He is an officer of Longhorn Singers and president of GBSA (GLBTQ Business Student Association).

“I can use my leadership skills to drive my responsibilities in efficient ways to reflect my values," said Calderon.

He added that the relationships the students have with each other are just as important as the curriculum of the program.

“Leadership is personal; it’s not a concrete subject you can learn from a textbook,” said Calderon. “Once an individual is aware of whom they are as a person and know what they believe in, they can begin to lead towards their goals.”

Abraham agrees with Calderon: “Leadership is an evolving process. You learn best from experience. Someone can only teach you so much before you have to try it out on your own.”

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