There is an expression which goes, “Those who think traveling for a living is glamorous, obviously don’t travel.” This week was the physical and emotional embodiment of that concept. I woke up early on Monday outside of Grand Rapids, had a great visit with Michelle Burke (O∆K’s National Vice President) and her colleagues at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), and made it home around midnight that evening. On Wednesday, I spent more than 15 hours traveling from Virginia to Nebraska to attend a conference with Andrew Cahoon, our brand new (his first day was Monday) O∆K Fellow. We don’t get home until dinner time on Saturday, but being on the road together has been an exceptional experience.
Michelle and her colleagues at Grand Valley were wonderful hosts. In addition to having a tour of their beautiful campus in Allendale, Michelle and I had a significant conversation about simplifying the extension process for those institutions that would like to bring O∆K to their campuses. More importantly, we discussed how our national volunteers and staff could do more to support the work of our existing Circles through providing assistance to faculty and student officers. We also chatted about further development of our Circle programming toolkits. We also explored types of other online opportunities that O∆K might be able to offer including webinars on leadership topics or great leaders in our society. Michelle also graciously hosted a luncheon where I had a chance to visit with a number of her colleagues, students, and alumni who are involved with O∆K at Grand Valley. I was especially pleased to have the opportunity to meet Valerie Jones, assistant director of Student Life (a member of O∆K National Advisory Council and the Faculty Secretary of the GVSU Circle), Krystal Wilson (the 2013 O∆K Leader of the Year honoree for Campus and Campus Service), and Andrew Brown (the current president of the GVSU Circle). I am looking forward to seeing all of them again in September when I hope to speak to their Circle and participate in the 9th annual Park 2 Park 5K.
Tuesday at the office was productive, but as I noted above, Wednesday morning started with being on the road again. It has been wonderful to spend several days with Andrew Cahoon and to experience his energy and enthusiasm. Today, it occurred to me that he was initiated into the Sigma Circle at Maryland nearly 30 years later to the day after the day I was initiated into the Beta Epsilon Circle at Louisville. Although it’s hard not for me not to feel old around him, I am inspired by the knowledge that he’s going to do a great job in representing our organization. I watched him charm and make a case for O∆K this week to two institutions – one in Kansas and one in North Dakota.
The conference that we attended was the Gallup Education Conference: Aiming at Career and Life Wellbeing. There were numerous exceptional speakers at the conference, but there are three that I thought were especially significant in terms of our work with Omicron Delta Kappa.
Shane J. Lopez, Gallup Senior Scientist, made the point, “Hope is a strategy.” He’s also known for being a passionate advocate for that the concept that “investing in the future pays off today.” Dr. Lopez’s research on the impact of hope in our lives may be found in his new book, Making Hope Happen. One of the gems from his research is that hope is a stronger predictor of college success than test scores and GPA’s.
Tim Hodges, Director of Research, Education Practice at Gallup, discussed the significant differences between engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged employees and students. Dr. Hodges, a proud University of Nebraska – Lincoln graduate, also make a number of good points about how engaged employees have a healthy approach to work-life integration.
Kenneth M. Bird, president and chief executive officer of Avenue Scholars Foundation, and an O∆K member himself (initiated University of Nebraska – Omaha), participated in a panel discussed the importance of personalized education, the power of technology, and how individual support to students facilitates hope, realization of strengths, development of self-direction, and academic success.
I am pleased to know that O∆K members are aware of their strengths, hopeful, and engaged on their campuses and in their communities. We also model these characteristics and behaviors to inspire others. This is the essence of leadership.
Andrew and I also had a chance to visit briefly with Ramon Hill, National Director of Institutional Development and Higher Education Partnerships (and an O∆K initiate from the University of Miami), who is O∆K’s liaison with Gallup. As many know, our organization has a partnership with Gallup and individuals who attended one of the 2013 Regional Drive-In Conferences had the opportunity to complete the Gallup StrengthsQuest assessment. If you are familiar with the instrument, my five strengths are positivity, activator, maximizer, futuristic, and relator. If you’d like to take the assessment yourself, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we’ll make that possible.
Lastly, on Thursday evening, Andrew and I had the pleasure to have dinner with Elaine and Chris Allen. Dr. Allen is the O∆K faculty advisor at the University of Nebraska – Omaha. I often comment that faculty officers are the glue of O∆K. They provide not only continuity for our campus Circles as our student leaders graduate and move onto other activities, but they also provide good advice and counsel to the currently enrolled students. The guidance they give is not only in terms of O∆K matters but also in terms of careers, graduate and professional school, and other life choices. This is one of the reasons that faculty involvement is one of the three purposes of O∆K.
The Allens took Andrew and me to see a number of the sites of Omaha including the largest geodesic dome in the U.S. located at the Henry Doorly Museum and Aquarium. Check out the photo.
Next week, as a staff, a number of us will be off to Albany, New York, to attend the summer board meetings for both O∆K Society National Board of Directors and the O∆K Foundation Board of Trustees. I am looking forward to seeing our national volunteers that I have not yet met and reconnecting with the leaders that I have the pleasure to work with every day.
If you are traveling anytime soon, travel safely, well, and glamorously as best you can. In many ways, the other expression about travel is so true. “It’s the journey, not the destination.”