Reflections on the Dungy Leadership Institute

Here I am a full month after the Dungy Leadership Institute (DLI) and reflecting on that experience still puts a smile on my face. When I returned home tons of people would ask “How was Washington?” and I would respond “Washington was great, but DLI, the conference, was amazing!” DLI was five days of enlightenment of oneself, higher education, professionalism, and about 25 other topics.

Replaying the experience in my head for me the connections began on the plane. As I was reading through materials, another NASPA Undergraduate Fellow Program (NUFP) Fellow was sitting next to me and noticed the read. What are the odds? When we got to Tacoma, Washington the connection began quite smoothly. We were greeted by the great Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) staff, from the moment we were picked up from the airport to the last day in Washington. The PLU staff was polite and informative, and open to questions. They definitely set the tone for the five days.

Personally, this was my first NUFP experience away from my own campus. At our first session, it was hard to tell that we were all pretty new to each other. Everyone was already chatting and laughing! At the intro session we were introduced to our incredible faculty members. This is where you start to realize the amazing connections that could be possible within the five days.

The real fun started when we had to bust out the dance moves. After large group introductions our faculty members assigned us a song to form our small groups, using this song we presented our moves to the whole DLI as our first small group test, it wouldn’t be the last. They quickly gauged our teamwork and creativity skills. 

Our next small group challenge came when about 36 hours into the five days we had to dedicate to working on a case study assigned by our staff leaders. My lead staff, Heather C. Lou and Dr. David Surratt, were very helpful outside of those hours, by slyly providing information but never giving us a direct answer. While 36 hours may seem long, after long days of filling our brains with emotions, information, and sights of Tacoma it was a challenge at times to say the least. Nonetheless, each group gave flawless performances on various topics in higher education.

At the end of our experience, I was elated, shocked, and at a loss of words when I was chosen by my peers to encapsulate our DLI experience. I knew that no matter what words I used I couldn’t possibly fit the connections, learning, and individual experience into my speech, but I tried my best. I made sure to continue to togetherness by including some of my peers’ reflections within my speech. After those five days I knew that the shared connection for continued change for minorities and giving back within our communities with keep us together and our experience for a lifetime within the DLI family and to this day we continue to build and expand those everlasting connections. 

Read Shaq's DLI Graduation Speech Below:

Our inner compass are attempting to guide us as one of the main reasons I believe most of us chose to attend DLI is because we feel need extra guidance into student affairs. However, I feel a lot of us are leaving here more confused than we came in, and I think that's okay. In this case, I believe that because we are leaving with more answers than questions we can come up with ourselves.

The amazing DLI staff prepared this program very intentionally in ways that I never thought about in student affairs. As they continuously stated they are educators and they definitely showed that these five days. This staff made sure that they upheld their profession to the highest standards with the things that they educated us on. "Making sure that we are comfortable with the uncomfortable" because we will encounter uncomfortable moments with our colleagues, students, and higher ups but we have to be comfortable with that experience.

We also learned how to "use our marginalized identities and positionality to navigate through the white supremacist institution that is higher education" through case studies and etiquette dinners - who knew free food would be an integral part of our profession? Some of us also learned how to use our identities not only for ourselves knowing "we don't just speak for ourselves, we speak for other people and that's why we're doing student affairs" and knowing that our identities shouldn't only define us but knowing that "I am more than myself, I am not just where I am from, I have stores and they all have value" so don't be afraid to share that.

DLI was able to challenge us all but ultimately "affirmed my passions and my capacity to succeed" as I have quoted my colleagues throughout this speech because these are some of the highlights of OUR DLI experience together and as a collective we are leaving with an abundance of knowledge and leverage and I can say that if no one agreed with anything I said they can agree with that they learned at least one thing from this entire experience and I am forever thankful for this opportunity to "start my life long journey of learning.”

Interested in supporting the Dungy Leadership Institute? Consider hosting the 2019 DLI on your campus, leading the institute as DLI Director, or supporting Fellows as a member of the 2018 DLI Faculty.