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Center for Leadership returns to Lithuania for summer program

The Elon University Center for Leadership, in cooperation with the university's Center for Public Affairs, took part this summer in a series of workshops and training events at the 5th annual International Human Rights Law Summer Study Program in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Elon University leadership students with a U.S. Embassy representative in Lithuania.

Five students from the center spent 18 days in Vilnius. Accompanied by Associate Dean of Students Rex Waters, it marked the second year students from Elon have traveled to Lithuania to help facilitate leadership development workshops for the students partaking in the summer program.

Members of the Isabella Cannon Leadership Program – sophomores Ashley Fowler, Sara McLaughlin, Ottavia Pomazon and Gloria So, and junior Samantha Simunyu – were joined in Lithuania by Betty Morgan, an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Public Affairs.

“The contribution this team makes to our program is simply immeasurable,” Morgan said. “They are so prepared and professional that the international students in the program respect them, look up to them, and clamor for their advice and guidance. They provide training and education that is simply not available to these students in their educational systems and their efforts, quite literally, change lives."

Preparations started in the spring as students familiarized themselves with information by reading The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, and by studying the fundamentals of the workshops they would be presenting. Under Waters’ guidance, they taught the five practices of The Leadership Challenge, giving and receiving feedback. They also practiced public speaking as part of a moot court contest that concluded the experience.

Participating universities at the conference included Kiev National University in Ukraine, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Universite de Rouen in France, European Humanities University banished from Belarus, and Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius where the summer school was held. While in Vilnius, students attended lectures in the morning and organized trips in the afternoon to off-site locations where they could experience the culture and the history of human rights in the region.

Elon’s students attended several lectures and visited locations such as the KGB Museum, 9th Fort, Lithuanian Parliament, Foreigner’s Registration Center in Pabrade, St. Joseph’s Children’s House in Paparciai, and Trakai Castle, as well and were able to expand their view of human rights and history in addition to the knowledge they gained in leadership. The students ended their experience with a four-day excursion to Latvia and Estonia, where many more historic and cultures sites were explored.

Students also created a photomap to display what they had learned. Information was gathered by interviewing the student participants and other figures in the program. Through these interviews, as well as various other interactions with people, the students said they began to see how the definition of leadership differs from culture to culture and how it is unique to each individual.

Students learned a lot about the history of the people [they] were working with and were exposed to things that [they] would have never had the opportunity to learn about in The United States,” Fowler said.

For So, the best part of the trip was “getting to know students from all over the world who shared a passion for human rights.” She said she hopes to take passion back with her and become involved on campus in programs such as Amnesty International.

The leadership team observed and supported how leadership is incorporated into all aspects of life through the interactions between the students as they prepared for a moot court case and through the cross-cultural experience working with people from around the globe.

“It was such a powerful experience on so many levels,” Waters said. “It is one thing to study leadership and discuss with peers on a retreat, in a classroom, or organizations on campus, but it’s quite a different experience to take that knowledge and apply it in a cross cultural context and achieve positive change. The students seem to grow in confidence and competence before my eyes as they worked with the students from the different countries.”

- Story by Ottavia Pomazon '14

Eric Townsend,
8/17/2011 10:36 AM