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Why I am Grateful for Fall 2021: Lessons in Leadership

By Ian Flueck

As we rapidly approach the end of Fall 2021, I have been reflecting on my experience in the T&M Program this semester and I have a lot to be grateful for. Part of this blog will cover that reflection as a way for me to express my gratitude. Additionally, while reviewing the past four months, I identified some lessons in leadership that I feel would make a compelling story and provide a source of inspiration. My hope is that these anecdotal stories may offer generalizable themes that you may find relevant in your own adventures in leadership and personal development.

It has been a semester of tremendous change. We have welcomed Sam and Cari to the program and said goodbye to John, Beth, and Ilalee. We have redesigned the student leadership structure of the program. And, from the student perspective, we have returned to an in-person (occasionally hybrid) experience. One of the responsibilities of the T&M Student Board is to develop and maintain the culture and identity of T&M. I have found this to be a challenging task during this semester of change, particularly since my entire T&M experience up until this semester had been online. In managing that experience, the selfless acts of many individuals has been critical to adapting to change.

Lesson in Leadership: Embrace change

T&M loves innovation. T&M students learn about it in our classes, practice it in the program’s events, and apply it in our internships and careers. What I learned this semester is that accepting change must be a conscious effort. For example, as the administration, student leadership structure, and student experience changed, I needed to proactively establish new relationships, align on goals and expectations, and match my pace of innovation with the pace of change. Clarity on this task came from a T&M event. At the 25th Anniversary Celebration, I commented on the amazing story that this program has crafted over the past 25 years and the equally amazing one that will be built over the coming 25 years. Today is the inflection point to a bigger and brighter future that is accessible by embracing change.

The students in T&M are a remarkable group of students with high expectations, a competitive edge, and a source of intrinsic drive. We are actively engaged in many amazing opportunities across this campus. I learn something new every time I have a conversation with someone from the T&M ecosystem: peers, professors, alumni, or corporate sponsors. The T&M cohort motivates and inspires me simply by being in the same room together.

Lesson in Leadership: Personal development

You will work at your best when you feel at your best. Take the time to grow and develop as a person. Some of my favorite activities include journaling, meditation, listening to podcasts, and setting goals. A personal favorite: talk to another T&M student about a shared interest! During weeks that I actively engage in personal development, my stress levels are lower, I am more focused in classes, and I have more creativity and motivation.

From my perspective, it has been a challenging semester. Emerging slowly from the global pandemic is not easy. As a community, we have experienced challenges adapting how we live and dealing with circumstances outside of our control. There is increasing scrutiny regarding the impact of the past year and a half on mental health. I am proud of the T&M community for supporting one another during this difficult time and am personally grateful for the support that I have received.

Lesson in Leadership: Self-compassion

I remember a conversation that I had with Sam after a planning meeting for the 25th Anniversary Celebration. We were talking about how the fall was going and I shared that balancing academics, leadership, full-time recruiting, and my personal life felt overwhelming. This was her advice to me: “So many students carry around responsibilities that weigh them down. It is ok to set down something that feels heavy right now to take a break. You can always pick it up again.” Often we are willing to extend compassion to people around us, yet we withhold the same level of compassion for ourselves. This semester I practiced allowing myself to take breaks and set down the heavy things temporarily. I found this allowed me to shift to a growth mindset, critical for success in leadership.

I have enjoyed interacting with Class XXVII this semester and it reminds me of my own enthusiasm and growth as a T&M student. In particular, I am very lucky to collaborate with the remarkable leaders from the Junior class who have stepped up to serve their peers on the Student Board and Student Employee teams. These individuals remind me why I value leadership and why I wanted to be involved with the T&M Program’s leadership specifically. 

Lesson in Leadership: Servant leadership

As President of the Student Board, I have few defined tasks. My success is measured by the success of all the student leaders and the success of the program as a whole. With this framing, it is clear that my role is to serve the true leaders of the program: each and every member of the cohort. It is not a perfect model, but I think it encapsulates a fundamental part of my leadership philosophy. One way to practice servant leadership: ask more questions, spend more time listening, and learn from the people on your teams. Then reflect on what you can do to support them!

Take care of yourself and each other. Good luck with finals and I am looking forward to next Spring!

Ian Flueck

Ian is a Senior in T&M class XXVI and also the president of the T&M Student Board. Ian recently completed an internship with 3M this past summer and is very involved as a campus leader through his participation in a variety of organizations.

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