|The Pledge Signed by The Members of LDP|
The 17th of January marked the first day of the spring semester for SIU, but the 15th of January was day one for the LDP. By coming back from break early, our goal was to improve team cohesion–something the senior members decided needed improvement. Never being a group that backs down from a challenge, preparation started in the fall to plan a day that would bring everyone closer through some tough but fun challenges.
Cody Johnson reaching for a milk bottle during one of Mr. Calabrese’s team building activities.
Development of technical leaders for the 21st century has become a critical need for the United States to maintain its global leadership in a technology-based economy. The highly successful LDP under the direction of Dr. Bruce DeRuntz in the College of Engineering (COE) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) has demonstrated the ability to build a professional STEM workforce for tomorrow to help meet this need. For the past nine years, the COE LDP has shown success with a 95% pre-graduation placement record, significant increases in timely graduation and increased corporate sponsorship for this program and its graduates.
It can be said that Mike Murray has been the LDP’s longest supporter. According to Dr. DeRuntz, it was Mike who recommended him for the director’s position nine years ago to then dean, Bill Osborn. Since then, Mike retired from SIU in 2008 as the College of Engineering’s Foundation representative, but continues to stay very engaged with SIU and the College. Recently, Mike lauded to the Bates Foundation the mission of the LDP and its success in preparing the United States of America’s future technical leaders. They then made a generous donation to support the LDP. A hearty thanks to Mike for all of his Saluki pride and great work in continuing to support and advance SIU.
On January 25, the students of SIUC had the amazing opportunity to listen to Mr. Peter Gregory present on his life and the steps he took to turn his little start-up computer technology company into a world-class organization. Mr. Gregory’s presentation coved almost every possible skill and trait required to help anyone become successful in his or her career. However, there was one trait that Mr. Gregory accredited his success to, and that was his tenacious drive and grit to become the very best. Mr. Gregory was filled with stories about his life, including his greatest accomplishments, but those of his greatest failures were the most important. Mr. Gregory gave countless examples of his failure, with having seven different jobs in only ten years and being fired personally by Steve Jobs to be just a few. Any normal person would have probably given up, but Mr. Gregory took his losses and learned from them. He put all of his time and effort into becoming the best computer programmer in any room he entered. Mr. Gregory shed light on what can be accomplished even when all odds are against you and taught that having tremendous grit and dedication will pay off in the long run.
2016’s MLK day presented an interesting opportunity for me; leading a community service project in conjunction with SIU’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). However, after the ROTC was not able to participate in the project, I had to learn some of the largest aspects of leadership in a very short amount of time. The first thing that became very apparent to me was that failures happen, and you have to be flexible and able to adapt to anything that gets thrown at you. I also learned that the LDP truly is a one-of-a-kind organization that offers endless assistance. On several occasions I found myself at a point in which my situation exceeded my experience, and my superiors were more than willing to help me as soon as I asked for it. Reaching out for help is an incredible tool that many often overlook, and this resource is even missed by many professionals.
In my opinion this project was one of the more impressive projects as the team and I were able to see everyone come together to achieve a common goal. Another very important thing I learned is that planning makes a project. Planning every aspect of the project, and contingencies for those plans are things that made this project a success. This experience was unforgettable and made me realize that true advancement only comes when an ordinary person is put in an extraordinary situation. That is when the leadership skills of that person are truly tested; not when things are going smoothly, but when things are strained. As far as the project is concerned, the results were phenomenal. The team displayed incredible energy, camaraderie, and initiative during this project, and having such a well-groomed team made it easy to trust them to make decisions and leave them to work without me being a manager, leaving me to oversee the entire project, and making it easier to delegate tasks and take care of the fine details of the project. The skills I learned during this project will follow me into next year’s projects, and into the real world, both professionally and in my everyday life.
When I first joined the LDP, I was skeptical about how much I would get out of it. I wondered if I would be in it for the rest of my college career or if I would leave after a year. Regardless, I knew it was something I had to try, and I am extremely grateful that I did. I have learned more about myself with the LDP than I have in any other time in my life. I have been tested physically, mentally, and emotionally and have grown exponentially because of it.
Within my first year, I had the opportunity to lead the IMTS trip, the SAE Saluki Baja club, and was set on a path of learning that will carry on throughout my life. I have not only improved personal discipline and communication skills, but have also learned what it takes to be a great leader. In this last semester I have had the opportunity to watch a new group of LDP members go through the same challenges I have been through. I feel privileged that I was able to impart as much of my knowledge and experience on them as I was able. I believe that mentoring the younger members and helping them succeed has been the most fulfilling part of my LDP experience and is something I would like to continue to do in the future.
Because of the LDP, I feel well prepared and confident about entering the workforce. Ironically, I feel like I am farther away from my true potential in comparison to how I felt before joining the LDP, only because I now know that I have only scratched the surface of what I can do and learn. I am leaving with more questions than answers about leadership and self-improvement but am confident that LDP has given me the tools to reach my full potential as I enter the workforce in the coming months.
On November 19, Mr. Chuck Kuhn, Vice President at Aisin Electronics, came to SIUC to talk to students about his company and the way they create an environment for such a successful company. During Mr. Kuhn’s presentation, two things became became very apparent: first, in order for a company to be successful you have to be willing to adopt change; and second, the belief in ‘the little guy’ has to be held at all times, in all parts of the company. This means that no matter where the employees fall on the hierarchy of the company, their opinion is just as important as anyone else when it comes to matters of improvement or quality of craftsmanship. Mr. Kuhn gave several examples of how his company has gone above and beyond the standards of the industry, and has provided near perfect products to their customers for many years. He also gave several examples of how workmanship of the final product is totally and completely dependent on the floor workers; how pride is the largest contributor to quality.
Mr. Kuhn gave everyone a new prospective on building a team or community that is both very in tune with the way things are being run, and open to change and new ideas. Quality is something that can always be improved, whether it be product, assembly, manufacturing, or customer interface; any company desiring to be the best must constantly improve.
On the 12th of November, the LDP took a tour of Aisin Manufacturing, in Marion, IL. Aisin is an international company which produces various automobile parts, such as sunroofs and sliding doors. We were led around the manufacturing floor by our tour guide, David Albright, who told us about the different processes and innovations that Aisin uses to lead the industry.
He also described how well the company treated its employees, talking about all the bonuses one could earn for working hard and contributing ideas along with how this plant had never laid off an employee in the last ten years. Aisin is originally a Japanese corporation, and David explained the work ethic of the Japanese employees which positively contributes to the spirit of the North American plants. It was an exciting tour for the whole group, and we would like to thank Cheri Romonosky and David Albright for giving us this opportunity.
On Sunday, November 8, the LDP held a taco and smoothie social event hosted at Dr. DeRuntz’s house. This event brought the team together as David and Roberto demonstrated their culture by showing their teammates how to make authentic salsa and tacos, along with playing authentic Mexican music. Not only did the team eat well, but they also received proper vitamins and nutrients in Sheldon’s homemade fruit smoothies. Since this is a staple in Sheldon’s lifestyle, it was nice of him to show the rest of the team how to make an easy, delicious, but most importantly, healthy food choice in our lives.
This event wasn’t just about the tacos and smoothies, it’s about the team. To have a great team, you have to have a great connection. To have a great connection, you have to develop a relationship within the team. These social events are an excellent approach in building the relationships needed to have a great team.