Sunday, February 3, 2013

Jepson 20th Anniversary Gala

The Jepson School of Leadership Studies at University of Richmond is the only school of its kind in the world.  Bob and Alice Jepson believe in the importance and need to provide education in leadership studies and ethics. He felt with that foundation you would be able to contribute to society in a positive way and succeed in whatever career you chose to pursue. With this in mind, the Jepsons gifted the University, his alma mater, with millions of dollars to create the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.  Leadership moves the world.  That's why it's important, why we study it and why we strive to do it well. A Jepson education investigates leadership not only as a position but also as a process and a relationship among people. Students look at leadership as it was, as it is and as it should be.  Courses challenge students to think critically, communicate effectively and anticipate change.  Source
Jepson graduates go on to a variety of careers, but regardless of the field we choose, we are taught to see the world differently.  Those outside of "Club Jepson" as we were called by the haters, would make fun of us for pursing such a "hokey" field.  As part of our Jepson education, we were required to have a second major or minor. Mine was Spanish, but I was in classes with friends who chose art, biology, rhetoric and communications, political science and business among others.  We were also required to complete a 240 hour internship. It was at that internship (mine was in organizational behavior) where I learned first hand that there is a serious lack of leadership and the skills, concepts, and values I was learning were going to be extremely important professionally and personally. My Jepson experience afforded me opportunities to work with Congressmen, scholars, my peers, and homeless people. Such variety was valuable, eye-opening, and character building. I am forever grateful to the Jepson family for their generous gift to provide students with such a unique opportunity to explore the world outside of the "Richmond bubble" and make a difference by actively engaging in the world around us.   

It's been nearly nine years since I've spent almost every waking hour in Jepson Hall with my classmates/friends. Some of my favorite memories are:
  • Getting my acceptance letter and proudly accepting my certificate at the Induction.
  • Developing my motivation series geared towards homeless people with Patricia North.
  • Creating leadership curriculum for and working with students with severe learning disabilities.  The moment they realized that they, too, could be leaders despite their differences was so sweet!
  • Talking to Bubba Cathy (Chick Fil-A founder's family) on his personal cell phone.  He freely communicated with my friend, Melissa and I, for one of our projects.
  • Riding in a hot air balloon during Dr. Couto's class while he was teaching us about paradigm shifts.
  • When Dr. Wren ripped his pants and we were all trying so hard not to laugh.
  • Anything in Dr. Hickman's classes.
  • The encouragement from Dean Teresa Williams and how she (and everyone else) would forever mix up me and Jessica Moye Tallman.  One time, Jessica had hip surgery and had to use one crutch.  She was "Jessica with one crutch" and I was "Jessica with two canes!"
  • Graduation Day: All the Jepson majors remained standing for each other after we returned to our seat with diploma in hand.
  • Dr. Richard Couto: Without him, I may have pursued business instead.  He was my scholarship advisor and asked me if I ever thought about considering Leadership Studies. I hadn't, but he encouraged me to take the Foundations class....the rest is history!
I made more memories last night at the 20th Anniversary Gala. It was so much fun catching up with our professors and other Jepsonians. The black tie gala was held at The John Marshall Ballrooms in downtown Richmond, Va. We began the evening with cocktails and catching up.  During the cocktail hour, I ran into many people I haven't seen since graduation, and some familiar faces, too.
 Here I am with Dr. Gill Robinson Hickman.  She was my favorite professor and one of the founding faculty at the Jepson School along with Dr. J. Thomas Wren and Dr. Joanne Ciulla. Dr. Hickman helped me decide to pursue my MBA and has encouraged me along this new journey to law school by writing a recommendation.  She hasn't had me as a student in 11 years and is still so caring and supportive and willing to do whatever to help me succeed. How wonderful to see her!  She was just as excited to see her former students as we were to see her.

 Pausing for a photo op with Kimberly Bowers, Kristen Emerson and Suezy Keller.  In true Jepson fashion, this is the only time we were all together all night.  Of course, we were all assigned to different tables! Much of our Jepson education involved group work, but the Jepson philosophy is you don't get to pick the people you work with in the real world, so you don't get to pick your partners in group assignments. For a second, we all thought we could sit together. Silly us!
At my table was a current Jepson student on JSGA and Jepson Corp (a new association), Georgia Sorenson (a scholar and now professor at UMD Law.  Remember her?? It was kind of crazy to be sitting there eating dinner with her having remembered reading her books and learning from her when she was a visiting scholar), a visiting scholar from Claremont-McKenna College who teaches courses for their degree in Leadership (not a school but a major), and two adjunct professors.  We dined on delicious food and this fantastic cake! Notice the Jepson candy on top!

The program opened with remarks from Dean Sandra Peart who then introduced Admiral Michael Mullen, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ADM Mullen discussed failure and how he learned more from his failures than from his successes. He also reiterated what Jepson instills in us over and over, which is that you don't have to be in a position of power to be a leader and the concept of servant leadership.  President Ayers spoke and introduced Mr. Robert Jepson. Honestly, I don't remember much of what he said because all I remember was thinking how thankful I was that he gave such a generous gift for so many students to have this education. My Jepson experience is certainly paramount to my college experience and to my professional successes today. Most, if not all, of us who were Jepson graduates (major or minor) would probably agree that Jepson has been influential in who we are today. It's rare to say that your major (or minor) has played a part in shaping who you are. That's what makes Jepson so special.

At the end of the night, we were gifted 20th anniversary wine glasses.  The scholar next to me couldn't carry his back on the plane, so I now have two. Rest assured, I will toasting Jepson for a long, long time.

Maybe you're born with it.  Maybe it's Jepson.  - A slogan on a t-shirt in the 20th anniversary video.

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