I’m not a fan of leadership camps.
It usually feels artificial, manufactured just for the sake of its lofty, almost impossible to reach end goals. Perhaps being part of similar programs made me a bit cynical about such activities.
However, I can say that the Multicultural Leadership Institute (MLI) this past weekend was different from the rest, succeeding from the beginning to the end. In fact, I can confidently say the MLI helped me rekindle my trust in our communities again, especially within our campus.
The MLI eased us into an atmosphere where we were free to contribute or discuss important current events and issues, without making it feel forced. Whether it was through ice-breakers or discussing the subject on hand with different “families,” the entire process felt organic, like how I would normally converse with my friends.
What shocked me was the subject matter that was being handled. Usually, we see organization-led activities steering clear of sensitive social topics or current event for sake of staying out of the limelight. The MLI didn’t hesitate to dive deep into the core issues such as social injustice and discrimination.
I’m not saying the conversation lacked direction by any means. Each subject topic had specific objectives in mind, and each group did an excellent job of creating dialogues that brought unique perspective and insight into a subject that was extensively covered already.
The scope is a difficult metric to precisely set or measure. It’s why we see countless programs overpromise, but underdeliver. This wasn’t the case for the Multicultural Leadership Institute, which clearly communicated its scope to the participants and delivered accordingly.
This was mainly because of the lead coordinator and intercultural program coordinator for the Center for Diversity & Community, Lena Tran. Her passionate, kind demeanor helped quickly break down the barriers between the leaders and the participants, helping us understand what was needed to be said and to be discussed.
I would say her focus toward building relationships between students helped vitalize both our activities and conversations in a visible form. People who avoided conversations started to share their experiences and their emotions. People who stood off to the side began to actively participate in the activities.
The overall result of Tran’s vision was something tangible: a closer, tightly-knit community. What Tran and her crew created through this program is something to be applauded for, and be imitated.
That isn’t to say it was without its shortfall. While the activities were paced appropriately, I felt that some participants were left behind whether that was through social interaction or stamina. I saw some express discomfort or downright discontent with some of the activities.
However, what I saw with great delight was that each time this happened, the community stepped in to help, despite having no obligations to do so. I experienced and witnessed what our community can do and the scopes that we could achieve.
While I’m not a fan of many leadership camps, I can now say that I would recommend the Multicultural Leadership Institute to anyone.