Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A River Runs Through US

A video with speaker / author Maude Barlow, A little hard to see but the words 'and message' are clear.

Catherine Stewart-Mott

Forward Momentum Services

Woodstock, ON


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Travis Lewis - Leading by Example

Travis Lewis
'You Tell Me' YouTube Video
You may or may not have heard of Travis Lewis, but I hope you too will check out his story and give him a thumbs-up for his efforts.  Not everyone takes a ‘hands on’ approach to tackling a challenge, especially when there are powers-that-be with which to contend.  In fact, some individuals are so intimidated that despite being disgruntled or discouraged, they remain passive.  Passivity does not result in action.  Inaction does not lead to positive change.  

But what happens when the institution with which you have to contend is a university; a university you attend as a student, in fact? One might think that a university would presumably perceive leadership potential within a student as a cause for pride. Instead, it led to a bone of contention, primarily due to the fact that the university itself was asked to take an honest look in the mirror, so to speak.  Now for a bit of history. 

Upon seeing a news article link about Travis (via the ever-popular Facebook), I learned he was at risk of losing his position as a Residence Don at Brock University.  Why?  For casting light on a faulty recycling program.  I was hooked.  As someone who believes in managing our resources wisely and in also acting prudently and proactively,  I was curious as to the ‘story within the story’. An hour or so later, I had a better handle on the details and a great deal of admiration for this young man’s spunk, practicality and insight.  I was compelled to call and chat with Travis. 

From a young age, Travis believed in taking matters into his own hands when something needed to be done, or when his curiosity was piqued.  One such curiosity was politics.  At the age of twelve, he helped out with a local election campaign to learn some of the ins and outs of politics.  He had not  literally ‘chosen’ a candidate to support; he simply wished to experience the mechanics behind politics.  Even at a young age, he decided the mechanics were faulty. Rather than seeing true leadership and democracy in action, he observed a system in need of repair.  This early revelation in part led to him focusing upon political sciences at university and it also helped inspire him to be an advocate for common sense actions as well as positive and practical change. 
Upon applying for and becoming a Residence Don in his second year, Travis took his responsibilities seriously.  One area where he felt change was due was in the less than stellar handling of waste and recyclable materials generated within the university residences.  I would come to learn that the university was lagging in establishing a more efficient and user-friendly waste diversion system, despite the fact that new recycling containers had been purchased and were collecting more dust than post-consumer waste.  With the end of the school fast approaching and him planning to live outside of residence the following year, Travis wanted to assure the waste management issues did not remain idle as had been the case for several months.  And as he was the one to light the fire under this issue, he wanted to see it through to fruition. 

A video was filmed and placed on YouTube featuring Travis and a considerable amount of student residence ‘post-consumer’ waste; the footage clearly depicted a significant amount of recycling that was unfortunately and needlessly destined to enter the waste stream.  Travis, at the conclusion of the video, asked in a calm and rational voice if viewers saw a problem.  "You tell me, is there an issue?"  Simple, to the point, and not the least sensational nor insubordinate in his approach. Compelling, yes. The university however, decided he was being insubordinate and chose to retaliate. 

Leadership Defined: 
What I like about Travis is that in addition to him taking action, he encouraged others to step up and speak out as well.  At the time of writing this blog post, his YouTube video was working its way upwards to 23,000 hits, with predominately positive feedback and support for his actions. Several media sources also covered the story. Social media was abuzz with action.   Funny thing is, one key indicator of leadership is the confidence to challenge the status quo.  In this case, the status quo obviously needed changing.  A response article written by the university was an effort on their part to save face and deflect the topic.  It saddened me to think that the university essentially fought back by trying to  'make an example' out of Travis, rather than commending him for 'leading by example'.  

Travis, you are not a 'potential leader', you are a leader. The indicators are clearly there!  You have not only challenged the status quo; you have done so in a manner that truly depicts visionary thinking.  You also accept calculated risks but don't let it stop you from taking action. You foster trust and respect in (most!) of those around you.  

I will be keeping my ears and eyes open as to your future; I suspect you will have a bright one! And perhaps, even if the 'powers-that-be' are not yet ready to admit it, you have made a positive impact upon the university.  You certainly have outside of it!  I even found you showcased on a Facebook page entitled: 'Today's Favourite Human'! 

This end-note is for Brock University.  Another sign of leadership is humility; if you are a leader within academics, it would be wise to choose humility and grace over false pride and denial.  

Related Links: 
Travis Lewis: 'Brock University-Recycling Issue' Youtube Video
Today's Favourite Human Feature - Travis Lewis
Macleans Magazine Story Coverage

Catherine Stewart-Mott
Forward Momentum Services
'Embrace your Future with Forward Momentum' 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Experiential Learning - Sink Your 'Teeth' Into It!

I have always been one to enjoy a bit of adventure here and there.  That often means allowing yourself to be open to happenstance occurrences and where they might lead you, if you maintain an open mind.  So when I encountered an unexpected tooth crisis while in the process of establishing a business, I was faced with how to handle it from a cost effective point of view. 
Coincidentally, at that time I happened to sit on a city sub-committee upon which a dentist was also a member.  In sharing my ‘woe is me’ tooth story, he suggested the Schulich School of Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario as a possible option.  He has served as a Clinical Professor there as well as being a student some years prior.

As my career has involved helping individuals choose their own fields as well as supporting them on occasion during their studies, I saw this as a great opportunity to observe a student first-hand in the process of learning and applying his or her future trade.  Following Dr. Steele’s lead, I inquired not only about the clinic handling my tooth crisis but in possibly completing some more routine dental work that had be shelved for a little too long.

And then my journey began. I have had the pleasure of working with a gentleman named Grant, who is a student in the Schulich School of Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario.  A follow up blog will include a story featuring him, as I have had the opportunity to get to know Grant as he takes his third year journey.  For me, it has been a wonderful experience despite a freezing injection here and there to accommodate a couple of otherwise painless appointments!  I have not only watched Grant in action, but I have had the opportunity to observe other students learn their related trade, namely students coming from Fanshawe College’s Dental Assistant and Dental Hygienist programs.  And as happens in real life, sometimes there are cancellations or no-shows, so I would on occasion have an audience as other students ventured over to watch Grant put his dental procedure knowledge to the test. On more than one occasion, they even took on the role of assistant!

Even though the pace is somewhat more relaxed due to it being a learning environment where steps and actions taken are reviewed by the clinical professor on duty, I have been very pleased with the progress to date!  And I must say the coordination and cooperation between everyone involved is admirable.  Hearing the ‘buzz’ of approximately 90 to 100 students in action as well as hearing the communications between professors and students is worth the trip to London!  That may sound strange, but for someone who enjoys both teaching and learning, I love that I too get to listen in on the fascinating world of dentistry.  I almost feel like I am getting a free education!  

Sadly, I don't think they will let me graduate with the class though.  Such is life! 

Related Links:

A Dentist in the Making Article - Story of a Student's Journey
Schulich School of Dentistry Website - Check it Out!

Catherine Stewart-Mott
Forward Momentum Services
Email: forwardmomentum.contact@gmail.com