One of my favorite things about CMU is the plethora of opportunities that have been available to me because of attending school here. One of those opportunities has been to sign a second major at CMU during my third year here. In addition to my original degree in Recreation and Event Management, I am also pursuing a degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration. My specific passion within this degree is the nonprofit aspect, as I wish to work for a nonprofit someday. Along with that major, there is also the opportunity to be involved with the Nonprofit Leadership Student Alliance, or NLSA. NLSA is an RSO on campus affiliated with the Department of Political Science and Public Administration.
The perk of being involved with this academic organization is receiving the certified Nonprofit Professional credential, or CNP. For one to receive their CNP, there is a list of criteria that must be competed. Criteria involve items that are pertinent to working in the nonprofit sector, like fundraising experience, leadership experience, and service experience. The CNP also required that individuals attend the Alliance Management Institute, or AMI, each January.
Another perk of being involved in the organization is that we get to learn from actual nonprofit professionals that come to present on subjects such as board governance, grant writing, and fundraising. We have had presentations from local nonprofits such as WCMU, Girls on the Run, Art Reach of Mid Michigan, and United Way of Gratiot and Isabella counties. The amount of lessons and information I have learned form these speakers has been very helpful in my decision for eating to be involved in the nonprofit sector. Once I graduate in December of 2018, I will have eared my CNP, and officially will be, “Allison Kistler, CNP.” This is all thanks to NLSA and the faculty Advisor, Emma Powell.
As apart of the Leader advancement Protocol, we are required to be at least 2 registered student organizations (RSO) and hold a leadership position in one. One of my favorite organizations that I have ever been a part of is Campus Grow. Campus Grow is an RSO affiliated with the Biology Department, that focuses on food security, growing plants and urban farming. Working at the CMU Greenhouse has taught me so much about plants, so I have learned to love bring in this organization. Not only have I been in the organization for two years, but I have been the President/Garden Coordinator for 1 year.
Being the President and Garden Coordinator has been one of the most rewarding and most challenging experiences of my collegiate career. I have loved being able to help teach individuals about plants and gardening. I have also loved being able to plan events and coordinate the community garden and see it come to fruition.
While I have loved being the President and Garden Coordinator of Campus Grow, there have definitely been some challenges that have accompanied it. This was my first time as a president of an organization, so it was a bit of a learning curve at first. Along with that, when I became president/ garden coordinator in May 2017, the previous president left me with only the email passwords, and the key to the shed at the community garden, and there was on one else on e-baord at the time. So, I was not left with much guidance, which is difficult in any leadership position. Other than the faculty advisor, there was no one else responsible for Campus Grow other than me. This definitely taught me how to build an organization from the bottom.
My first community gardening season was successful with over 50 gardeners, and plenty of volunteer help. We made it through an interesting Michigan farming season, especially with the imfafous flood of 2017 that decimated much of our garden. When the school year started, there was enough interest to fill the entire e-board, and we had weekly general meetings educating students about food security, planting, and urban farming. While there has certainly been challenges, I would want want to trade my leadership role and experience gained at Campus Grow with anything. I have learned that not everything leadership position is equal. This experience has taught me many lessons that I will find useful, especially starting a career in the nonprofit sector.
Campus Grow is Mount Pleasant and CMU’s own community garden open to the public. I am a newer member to the organization, but have loved the time I’ve been involved. Campus Grow is a heavy summer RSO, since our Michigan winters don’t allow us to garden outside in the cold months. Since I work for the CMU Greenhouses and Fabiano Botanical Garden, I became involved with the RSO this school year. I have discovered recently that I really enjoy gardening and being with plants in general. Being in this RSO not only allows me to garden, but it also allows me to showcase some of my leadership and coordinating skills. This summer, I will be the Summer Garden Coordinator. With this position, I will plan different gardening events, organize the plots and plot rentals, and handle the business and financial aspects that go along with the organization. I have never managed anything to this large of a scale before–Campus Grow has over 60 plots available to plot renters.
I am excited to be able to showcase the leadership skills that I have learned throughout the years, as well as educate people on the benefits of having a plot and eating food that your grew yourself. While I haven’t had much experience in this position with this RSO before, I am excited to see what the summer will bring. I am eager to create a bigger community of local gardeners and farmers.
This year, I have done most of my volunteering though the Isabella County Restoration House. This organization offered this really cool program during the cold winter months in partnership with the local churches in the Mount Pleasant community. What they offer is a rotating homeless shelter that rotates between the local churches each week. This serve relies solely on volunteers from each of these churches. There are volunteers for cooking breakfast each morning, cooking dinner, hangout time after dinner, and overnight monitoring. There are at least 2 people signed up for each volunteer shift. The rotating shelter, like I said, is heavily volutneer-dependant. For St. John’s, which has a smaller congregation made up of mostly retired individuals, I figured they could use the help. I sing in the church choir for St. John’s Episcopal Church, so I found out about the volunteer opportunity through their weekly e-news letter. Each time I volunteered I signed up for the overnight monitoring shift which runs from 11pm-6:30 am. I figured that since I am young and able-bodied I would be the best fit to work the overnight shift.
I loved each time I volunteered. The rewarding feeling of helping out a great cause definitely made up for the lack of sleep. the only downside to volunteering in the night was not being able to interact as much with the guests since they were all asleep. I did get to connect with a few of them though during my time. Hearing about the interesting lives of some of the guest was really cool and a good experience. For me, volunteer for the shelter really forced me to humanize all of the homeless individuals. It’s easy to feel bad for homeless individuals in general, but once I got to connect with one of them one-on-one, it really changed my perspective and opened my eyes to their situations. Each time I worked the shelter this year, we were either at, or close to our capacity for guests we could take in. While that is great because people are taking advantage of our service, it is also too bad that there are so many homeless people (and families with young children) that need to utilize our service.
My experience made me have a greater appreciation for our loving community and the efforts we are making to aid the homeless community. I will continue to help with the rotating shelter for as long as I am in Mount Pleasant. Without these programs and the volunteers involved in them, there would be no stable shelter for some of these individuals in the cold weather months. The rotating shelter, along with programs like People Helping People, are what makes Mount Pleasant a great place to live and provide awareness for community members of the huge, underestimated problem of homelessness in our own community.
This year, I was apart of the LAS in the D LEAD Team. This was my second time going on this service trip. The first time, I was a participant, and this time I was going as a facilitator. There were about 12 or so of us on the LEAD team. We departed early on a Saturday to Detroit. Our first stop was to Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. There, my fellow facilitators and I led small groups with CMU and JRLA students with different ice breaker and team building exercises. It was cool to experience this as a facilitator this time, instead of a participant. I don’t get to lead those types of activities very often to small groups, so this was a fun and challenging experience for me. It was awesome to see how our CMU freshman interacted with the JRLA high school students.
Another “highlight” of our trip was our tour of Quicken Loans. This was an interesting portion of our trip for me. The Quicken Loans facilities were incredible spaces and it seemed as if there were a lot of opportunities there. They bragged about their awesome internship programs over our dinner of local catered Detroit pizza. They also bragged a lot about their roll in “turning Detroit around” and how a majority of the buildings in downtown Detroit now being to Quicken Loans. Their employees were friendly but all seemed to have weird, made up positions. I’m still not clear on what most of them did during their work day. It was interesting because while they were bragging about their facilities and seemingly made up posititons, I was curious what good they were actually doing in Downtown Detroit. What were they doing to help the homeless? What kind of loans were they giving to people? It seemed a little fishy. I was not entirely pleased with this part of the trip, especially if there was unethical leadership behind it all. And since the only reason we visited Quicken in the first place was because CMU wants more money from them was slightly irking.
Anyway, on a more uplifting note, on our second and final day of service, we volunteered with CASS Community Social Services. There, some groups sorted donated clothes, some made food in their kitchen, and others sorted recycling in their unique recycling facility. This experience was my favorite part of the entire trip. I cleaned toilets for most of the day, but it was so rewarding. CASS has this large recycling facility down the street form their main building. There, papers get shredded and formed into hay bail-type things to be sent to be made into new paper. This was something I had never seen done before. Recycling your paper is one thing, but to see what happens to your recycled documents was something entirely more awesome. We sorted though all sorts of cardboard and shredded many papers and really reduced the amount of recycling they had in their facility since we had so many volunteers helping. Visiting CASS was particulate awesome because you could tell that the people working there were all very authentic people working with a very ethically and morally good non-profit.
Like I said two years ago when I went on this trip the first time, I was quite surprised with the different atmospheres we visited during our time in Detroit. We visited JRLA, a school that was not overflowing with money or resources, then we visited Quicken Loans, a business with facilities that had money seeping out of every square inch of it, then CASS Community Social Services, a huge non-profit, doing they best work they had with the resources they had, just to make sure that people homeless individuals had food and shelter. It was another eye-opening experience for sure.
My involvement with the Student Environmental Alliance started last spring semester when I started to go to meetings with my friend Brennah. This year, when I don’t have any work conflicts, I attend the SEA meetings, and try to attend all of their events. Protecting the environment and educating myself on important environmental issues is something that is very central to me, and being apart of SEA allows me to do both of those things. SEA offers a variety of different experiences at their meetings. They show documentaries, have guest speakers come in, and discuss/plan upcoming events at their meetings. My favorite part about this group is that they don’t stop at advocating for environmental rights to the students, but they have held meetings several times with President Ross and other administrators to talk about issues, like CMU’s controversial investments, and the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. I am excited to continue to be a part of this organization, and am especially excited to see what is planned for Earth Week coming up in April!
Members of SEA participating in the Million Student March on Campus.
To fulfill my volunteer work throughout the semester, I spend much of my time at St. Johns Episcopal church in Mt. Pleasant singing in the church choir. While the majority of the choir is made up of paid music students from CMU, the rest of us are volunteer who love to sing and love going to St. John’s. We rehears every Thursday evening and attend the service every Sunday morning. Throughout each semester, I average about 48 hours of service at St. John’s, and that’s not including the extra rehearsals and performances for additional services, like for Holy Week and funerals, etc. My favorite part about St. John’s (aside form the making of beautiful music) is the extremely inclusive and welcoming environment that this church fosters. I have never felt so well received by a congregation before my time at St. John’s and am very proud to be a member of the church choir.
We packed up for the weekend after weeks of preparation, got on a big bus and went on
our way to Detroit for the weekend. The weekend would be packed full of service, learning, and FUN. My Leader Advancement Scholar Cohort and I were so excited to go to Detroit and serve the community. When we got to Detroit, our first stop was at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA). There, we facilitated different leadership activities and taught the students how to facilitate in the future. Next, we toured the Lowe Campbell Ewald building and the Ford Field Stadium. After that, we went to a local pizza joint and ate some delicious food. Then, we went to the Detroit Institute of Arts to browse artwork for a while, and our final stop for the night was the CMU office located in downtown Detroit. So, yes, that means all 50 of us had to sleep there, on the floor of the office. But hey, at least it was carpeted! We got up early the next morning and drove a few minutes to the Motor City Bight Busters headquarters. After we got a brief history of the group, we helped them out by spreading large piles of mulch around a field, in preparation of what would later be a farming field. After that, we were on our way home.
The most eye opening part of the trip for me was the huge dynamic change in the different parts of Detroit we were in. When we were in JRLA, the power went out twice. This is an actual school we were in, and in my experience, unless there was a big storm or catastrophe, the power never went out in my school. This was surprising to me and the rest of my cohort, not only because it happened while we were there, but that the students said the power goes out at least once a week at their school. That blew my mind! A school so tight on money that supplying the whole school with electricity was so hard. Later on during the day, though, we visited Lowe Campbell Ewald, and boy was that a dynamic change from JRLA. The building was just elaborately and magnificently designed. I don’t remember the exact digits, but the amount of money that went into building and supplying that building with electricity everyday was absolutely astounding. Thousands a day. Also, the amount of money that went into building Ford Field and the amount that people are willing to spend to get a good seat for a game was also mind blowing.
Honestly, this really irked and upset me. The people in Lowe Campbell Ewald are just rolling in money, spending nearly as much as my college tuition a day on running their building, and the students of JLRA (not even 20 miles apart) can’t go a week of school
without a power outage. There is absolutely no doubt that there is something wrong in this picture. I guess this part just really changed my perspective on a lot of things. As a society, we are so materialistic and put so much focus on monetary value that we are just oblivious to the fact that some people in the same county as us are struggling for something guaranteed for us: electricity.
The founder of the Motor City Blight Busters really stood out to me as a leader during this trip. He told us the story of how he was trying to raise his family in a bad part of Detroit. One day, he got sick of it and did something. He started making the neighborhood a better, friendlier place. He didn’t stop there though, because now, the Blight Busters reach out to many areas of Detroit with the help of a wide variety of volunteers. The organization strives to turn Detroit around, and make living environments available more suitable. I think this is a perfect example of Servant Leadership. The Blight Busters founder really works hard for his organization and puts in the work necessary to get jobs done, all while organizing volunteers to come and help out.
After this trip, my outlook on Detroit has changed a little. I guess now, I am just more aware of how things actually are in Detroit, but I do know that there is hope, and things are definitely getting better in that City. With the Motor City Blight Busters creating farmland and cleaning up houses, and the promising students of JRLA learning about leadership and thinking about college, I know that Detroit is already improving. Soon, I hope that Detroit wont be associated with the word “ghetto” and that people will think highly of the city.
The most important thing this trip has taught me is really how important service work is. Like I said, I have done volunteer work before, but my experience was limited to making blankets, or packing lunches for students. I have never really gone out of my own city to do any type of service work, and I am so glad that I got this experience. Even though what we did (shoveling piles of mulch) may have seemed like a small effort, I don’t think many of my cohort members realized what a big difference that made for the Blight Busters. A little really can go a long way with volunteer work. After this trip, I plan to increase the amount of service work I do, and to take up any opportunity to serve my community. I am also so much more aware of the situation in Detroit. After seeing the completely different environments between JLRA and the Lowe Campbell Ewald building, it just made me realize how much monetary things aren’t necessary, contrary to what we are programmed to think. I really don’t want to live my life measuring my life’s success on the amount of money I make, when there are so many people who would love to have half of what I have already. This trip just really opened my eyes to the things that really matter, and I really think that I will have a different outlook on life afterward. I am so grateful that I got to go on this trip because it opened my eyes so much, and I got to spend a great time and build so many memories with the people I love.
In preparation for our service trip to Detroit within my LAS cohort (which I am super excited about) we have a pre-trip blog post to reflect on Detroit before we get there. This trip will be a wonderful experience for everyone involved. we will get to facilitate leadership exercises with students from the Jalen Rose Leadership academy, and help out with labor work for the Motor City Blight Busters.
I’ve been to Detroit plenty of times in my life, but mostly to attend Tigers or Wings games, or visit the DAI. So I really haven’t been really seen the “bad” parts of Detroit. I do know that Detroit has a poor reputation and derogatory terms such as “the ghetto” are often associated with the city. I know there are plenty of underdeveloped poor areas within the city, but there are also some very nice areas that may not be as populated. There are also many homeless people around the city. Whenever I attend a sporting event, there area always plenty of people on the sidewalks that might have signs asking for money on the way to the games. In err of all the negative aspects of Detroit, I do know that they are in the process fo rebuilding the city, and returning it to its former glory.
The vision and purpose of the Leadership Institute are what drives what the LI does and what the goals are.
PURPOSE: Central Michigan University is committed to preparing Michigan’s students and citizens for leadership roles in an increasingly complex and challenging society.
VISION: The Leadership Institute prepares the next generation of individuals who will act responsibly to improve the quality of life, state of the economy, and communities in which they live and work.
The service work that we are going to be doing on this trip really relates to the purpose and vision of the Leadership Institute. Obviously, there are changes happening in the Detroit area, and that brings challenges and complexity. That is one of the main reasons we are going on this trip. That relates to the Purpose of the LI. WE need to be prepared to handle challenging situations with poise, and this trip is definitely going to prepare us to someday handle this as a leader. The trip also relates to the Vision because one of the biggest reasons we are going on this trip is to better the Detroit community. I hope this trip will teach us the importance of service, and we can carry this value with us into adulthood where we can all incorporate service into our future communities.
I am so excited for this trip, not only to spend the weekend with some of my favorite people on the planet, but because I can wait to experience a great sense of giving. I have done volunteer work in the past, but I haven’t really gone to other communities, especially like Detroit. I’m excited to learn about and dive into this different culture and atmosphere, and I really do think that it will help me grow as a person just by being involved in a different scene than CMU. I can’t wait to experience this service with my LAS cohort, and I am so excited help make a better Detroit.
This reflection today is written over a blog of my choosing from Seth Godin’s website. I had never heard of him before, but his blogs are really quite interesting and insightful. The blog I decided to reflect over is titled, “‘Connect to’ vs. ‘Connect’.” This piece was about how it’s easy for companies/people/teachers to ‘connect to’ their clients/friends/students. He says this creates a “vertical connection” which creates a window for communication. Less common/simple is to ‘connect’ clients/friends/students which builds “horizontal relationships, person to person.” “It’s what makes a tribe,” he explains. He says that companies are scared to connect because they don’t want to have less control over what happens when the customers like one another more than they like the company. I was slightly confused at this point, when reading, because I felt that there was a lot to think about regarding the little bit that he wrote. But his last sentence really brought his idea together for me: “Of course, connecting is where the real emotions and change and impact happen.”
This entry reminded me of the Ted Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” by Simon Sinek and my reflection on it. Sinek’s video was all about how if someone has a reason for why they do what they do, and make it known, they are more likely to be successful than someone who doesn’t know why they do something, but rather only know how or what they do. I thought these two pieces were similar because when Godin referred to the organizations who only “connected to,” it reminded me of when Sinek talked about companies who only know what they do and how they do it, but not why they do it. These vertical connections made by ‘connecting to’ are only the ‘what’ and ‘how’ part of the equation. When we dig deep down get to the ‘why’ part, that’s when the personal, horizontal connections start to happen and relationships start to form. Using an example from Sinek’s presentation, he said: “MLK gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, not the ‘I Have a Plan’ speech.” With that, we could say MLK didn’t ‘connect to’ his audience, but rather he ‘connected’ his audience, creating strong army of people all advocating for the same thing, with the same “why” in mind. Real emotions, change and impact all happened here all because MLK connected his audience because he knew why he was giving his speech that day.
These two post from Godin and Sinek I think really taught me a lot about what great things, and not so great things, can happen depending on how I portray myself and influence others. Godin’s post relates to things on a bit of a bigger scale than just me, but the concept is still applicable. We need to not be afraid to connect other people because, like Godin said, thats when the real emotion, change and impact start to happen. Making connections and building relationships with people is a big part of how we grow as people. Think of all the “horizontal connections” you’re missing out on because you’ve been confined to only making those “vertical connection.”