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Elon leadership program returns to Lithuania

The Elon Center for Leadership, in cooperation with the Elon Center for Public Affairs, has concluded its first series of summer workshops and training events at the 4th annual International Human Rights Law Summer Study in Vilnius, Lithuania.

From left: Associate Dean of Students Rex Waters, Caitlin Clarke, Sam Yow, Jessica Elizondo and Anthony Pratt.

Students from the Elon University Center for Leadership, led by Associate Dean of Students Rex Waters, consulted with the International Human Rights Law program and provided leadership coaching and evaluations.

Isabella Cannon Leadership program sophomores Caitlin Clarke, Jessica Elizondo, Sam Yow and Anthony Pratt worked with students in the law program in Vilnius Lithuania to develop personal leadership skills, advocacy and team building.

Betty Morgan, director of the Center for Public Affairs, coordinated the Lithuania program.

 “Leadership development and training in the region is critical to the long-term stability of the political system, the economy and society,” she said.

Waters said he was surprised at first when the conversation of being a leader was questioned. “A number of the students in the law program viewed a leader as political identity,” he said. “A genuine curiosity emerged from the students once we began to unpack the concept of leadership as potential to learn, impact change, and develop skills and competencies that enable us to work more effectively with others. The Elon students had a great experience and I witnessed significant growth in their understanding of leadership and the world.”

Pratt said he was initially hesitant to take this course and go on the trip because it was unlike anything he had ever done. He said he now believes it was the best decision he could have made.

"Not only did I explore different countries, I was able to look into my Lithuanian heritage," Pratt said. "I met many different people from around that world through this program as well. My whole leadership and global perspective changed as result of this trip."

While in Vilnius, Elon’s students visited numerous historic and cultural locations: the Lithuanian president’s palace, the 9th Fort, the KGB Museum, an orphanage, the U.S. Embassy and the Seimas. The group also took a trip to Riga and Tallinn on the final two days of the experience.

Students and faculty participating represented institutions such as the University of North Dakota School of Law, Elon University, Universite de Rouen in France, Belarusian State University, The Caucasus University, Georgia, and The Human Rights Monitoring Institute of Lithuania.

“I am excited by the potential to connect more of our students with this program in the future,” Waters said.

The team began preparing for the trip in spring 2009 by reading The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. The text served as a foundation in the development of workshops on effective teaming, professional presenting, communications, and developing oneself as a leader.

Additionally, each student conducted interviews on leadership while on the three-week experience to begin a discussion and reflection paper on leadership in an international context. The students will fulfill their Experiential Learning Requirement and help develop materials to promote the program for next summer.

"The trip to Lithuania was one of the most rewarding experiences, because it challenged me not only as a leader but also on a personal level," Clarke said. "As a whole, there are not enough words to describe the memories we made. If I had to choose, the best part was being able to connect with students from all different countries, despite the obstacles, and inspire them to be better leaders back home.”

Eric Townsend,
8/12/2010 9:23 PM