Even though we’ve already formally met, I’ll introduce myself anyways! My name is Ashley Palin. I’m 18 years old and am going to be a senior at Northern Illinois University. I’m majoring in International Relations and have a double minor in Community Leadership & Civic Engagement (CLCE) and History. As well I’m considering adding a certificate in Social Entrepreneurship from the business school. In terms of extracurricular activities: I am very involved in both the University Honors program, as well the Political Science departmental honors program. I am the treasurer of a new Non-Governmental Organization for Leadership and Development (NGOLD) affiliated organization called NGAGE and am involved with various other activities as well. I also feel that I should mention I am a transfer student. I transferred from my local community college, Rock Valley College in my junior year (after getting my associate of arts degree). While I absolutely love being a member of the NIU community, I still take great pride in my educational start.
Now that I’ve introduced myself, I want to say that meeting everyone on the first day of the program was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Without much prior information I was not sure what to expect or who I would be working with. All I can say is that I was delighted! Everyone involved with summer research is intelligent and kind. Though we haven’t been here long, it is easy to tell that friendships will be formed.
While I prepare to do research (and learn about appropriate methods!), learn how to present myself to the best of my abilities and relate to individuals in other fields, I have to acknowledge those who helped put me in this position. Of course there is the McKearn Fellowship team and all other faculty members who helped to make this program possible. As well, I need to think Benjamin Bingle and Nancy Castle who both graciously agreed to be involved in my McKearns Fellowship experience (despite some uncertainty). However, there are four people that I think deserve special mention.
The first is Thomas Bouril. Regardless of our relationship status, over the past three years, he has been an inspiration and a source of support. His intelligence pushed me to better myself and his support helped me to attain my goals. Second is Professor Robert Brathwaite of the political science department at NIU. I had the pleasure of taking one of his classes during my first semester at NIU. Since that point, I have developed a close relationship with him. His experience has allowed him to give me advice on a professional level. In fact, he was the professor who I consulted when writing the proposal for this fellowship. The last two individuals, Professor Crystal Dinwiddie and Dr. Martin Quirk of Rock Valley College, deserve special mention. I became acquainted with these two individuals while participating on Rock Valley College’s Model United Nations team. During the three years I spent in the program, these two individuals taught me proper research methods and how to present myself confidently in a professional setting. Much of what I take pride in today can be traced back to a lesson learned from them. They are amazing in their dedication, both as professors and advisers and I am ecstatic to be able to refer to them as teachers, advisers, mentors and friends.
Having spent so much time discussing myself, I am very excited to be able to speak to all of you! Though we have just met, I feel privileged to have the chance to work with every one of you. I am confident that I will be able to learn from your respective strengths and weaknesses. As well, I hope that you’ll be able to learn from mine. In terms of advice, all I care to venture is that we shouldn’t be afraid to lean on each other. I know this is something I struggle with sometimes, so I’m sure it’s something that many of you have a hard time with too!
Considering there has been so much conversation regarding leadership during this program, I should admit that I never gave the concept much thought until I came here. For me to willingly and successfully follow someone, there are a multitude of things that I look for. Compassion and passion are both incredibly important to me. As well, I look for a leader to have dedication, organization, realistic outlooks and the ability to plan for the future. All of these are qualities that I believe I possess as a leader. Preparing for the rest of the program, there is one skill that I believe is essential to effective leadership and takes time to build. I want to learn how to recognize and cultivate the talents of others. When combined with the ability to delegate according to everyone’s skills and passions, this can allow an organization to run efficiently and make everyone involved feel valued and intelligent.
I really look forward to working with all of you over the next eight weeks!