By: Ali Oku Eastman, Biomedical Sciences ’17
When I got the letter that I would be the learning community coordinator (LCC) for the Honors Learning Community, I was filled with excitement and joy. I was a student in the learning community in the previous year and understood the importance of a learning community to incoming first-year students. Deep within this excitement and joy was also anxiety and fear since it was my first huge leadership position as an international student studying in the United States. With training offered by the Learning Community team and advice from the Honors Program staff and Zach Petzel, the previous LCC, I began my duties as an LCC. Working as an LCC enabled me to explore my skills as a leader, learn more about American culture and most especially, learn more about myself.
Since I began my education at Minnesota State University Mankato, I have taken several classes on leadership and mentorship. It was therefore interesting to put all the gained knowledge into practice as an LCC. My first duty during the first few weeks as an LCC was to create camaraderie among the incoming students. I was able to achieve this by creating events that fostered communication and dependence among the students. After this task was achieved, my job as an LCC became less intimidating and easier. The greatest leadership task I had as an LCC was to coordinate the Make a Difference Project, a service learning project that all Learning Communities on campus do annually. The Honors Learning Community helped conduct a food drive with the Echo Food Shelf. This event alone taught me more about leadership than I could have ever imagined. I learned the importance of trust, communication and future orientation. Without an effective strategy and reliable group members, it would have been impossible to conduct this event successfully. My experiences from this event allowed me to adjust my mentoring style to suit the students in my learning community.
In addition to developing my leadership skills, being an LCC helped me understand culture in the United States. Before beginning duties as a LCC, I used to think I was close to fully understanding the culture of Americans in Minnesota. I lived in Minnesota for about a year so I was quite confident I could handle any cultural situation I encountered in Minnesota. However, I was amazed by how much I didn’t know when I began my duties as an LCC. I could now see a culture that celebrated freedom in every aspect of life ranging from self-expression to academics. I could also point out cultural characteristics that were peculiar to students in the Honors Learning Community but not in other learning communities and vice versa. Without my interaction with the learning community, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see this.
My experience as an LCC is something I will never forget. I have learned more about myself in areas pertaining to my strengths and weaknesses. I believe that my duties as an LCC were also made easier because of the great support the students gave to me. At the end, I learned so much from them that it felt like I was a first-year student and they were all my mentors. This fall, I will be starting a new journey as an LCC for the new Honors Leadership & Civic Engagement Learning Community. I am very excited to utilize my previous experience to make the year a memorable one for the entire learning community and myself.