Illinois Leadership Center
This past school year, I had the opportunity to attend two different i-Programs through the Illinois Leadership Center. These programs focus on what it takes to be a great leader. The programs are free to university students and are typically held on Saturdays, and coffee, tea, and lunch are provided. Trained facilitators, alongside individual table leaders, guide attendees through program. Registration is available online.
Last December, I attended the Innovate i-Program. The day began with registration. As I picked up my name tag and made my way to my assigned table, I found something stress-inducing at my seat: a Rubik’s cube. I looked down at my cube for what felt like an eternity and, needless to say, did not complete it. By the time I gave up, I realized my table was full of other U of I students.
The conference was engaging and collaborative, and the day flew by. I found myself building relationships; the strangers who I started my day with are students I continue to keep in touch with. Oh, and the provided lunch was delicious, offering vegan options, sandwiches, salads, and soup.
Innovate focused on the way we problem-solve, the skills needed to create, and the strengths each individual brings to a group. Everyone problem-solves in different ways. When we all bring our strengths together, problems can be solved more effectively and quickly. Through the guidance of our table leader, we were able to work through conflicts and resolve posed problems as a team.
Having had such a wonderful experience at my first i-Program, I decided to attend a second program in February. Similarly to Innovate, the insight conference began with registration and assigned tables. While I did not find a Rubik’s cube at my seat, I did find a stack of post-it notes and was instructed to write my name on each. I then distributed my post-it notes around the room under large posters that read words like discipline, focus, and futuristic based on the results of my CliftonStrengths quiz.
Once again, I was impressed and excited with the day’s agenda. The activities were challenging, riveting, and refreshing. It is rare that I am forced out of my comfort zone, and this conference did just that. But the most incredible part of the conference was that, even when I felt the most vulnerable, my table members raised me up and supported me. Insight focuses on self-awareness, personal strengths, and career matching. I grew close to my table team and, much like the first conference, continue to keep in touch with the friends I made that day.
All university students should make the time to attend an i-Program; i-Programs will challenge your thinking, help you in your academic career, and allow you to spend time with students from all around the world. To register for an upcoming i-Program, check out the Illinois Leadership Center website!