One ordinary day, a member of Teach, Refine, Advance, Inspire, Navigate — a student-based leadership group — decided to cut his losses and jump out of a plane that was unable to land. This, according to Beau Blumberg ’11, is what the game jetfighter is all about.
In the activity, the group members have to pretend they are landing a plane given various codes and symbols.
“You can only feed your information to certain people, and they feed it to some people, so that not everyone is speaking to everyone,” Blumberg said. “It’s very effective at showing how some people take on a lot, while other people only work for a few minutes at the very beginning, so you imitate that organization structure. ”
Jetfighter is one of the games that TRAIN knows best. TRAIN, a campus organization dedicated to helping student organizations develop better leaders, provides workshops for on-campus student groups to strengthen different types of leadership skills. The workshops are led by fellow students, who have also gone through the workshops themselves.
“Since we go through the workshop first, it allows us to work on our feet,” Elizabeth Miller ’11 said. “If we’re running a program and it starts to head in a certain direction, it allows us to adapt to the situation and tailor it to meet the group’s needs.”
After participating in all the programs they run, the teachers can better judge the effect they will have on the groups they facilitate.
“[The jetfighter program] was incredibly frustrating,” Blumberg said. “I finished doing my job really early, and then I had nothing to do but sit there. One [player] is given the opportunity to jump out of the plane, and when it came time to do it, our person did jump, and that was a bit intimidating. But we did actually land the plane. The whole experience was very eye-opening.”
TRAIN officially got off the ground last fall after evolving from the Recognizing Achievement in Leadership committee.
“We thought leadership competencies for leaders, as well as organizations, were a need on campus,” Assistant Director of Student Activities Jennifer Leung said.
Leung, along with Betsy Shorts, serves as a faculty advisor to TRAIN. Programs like jetfighter are due in large part to the advisors.
“We are very much involved with the group; we develop the programs and teach them to the students so that they can facilitate the programs for other student organizations,” Leung said.
Aside from the workshops, TRAIN is committed to distributing the RAIL award to one exceptional student leader per month.
“It’s an intense process,” Miller said. “We spend well over our normal hour [deciding about RAIL].”
Part of what makes RAIL so difficult to decide upon is the nature of the award. Each RAIL recipient must be nominated by a member of his or her organization. The nominees are then discussed at TRAIN meetings. The Outstanding Student Leader of the Month award is meant to encourage exceptional leadership in all types of organizations around campus.
“We want to spread the love, if you will,” Blumberg said, “So we try not to give [RAIL] out for just big, highly publicized events … RAIL is a really nice way to recognize someone who has gone way above and beyond.”
Despite the difficulty of the decision, Miller says it’s worth it.
“With RAIL applicants there are a lot of [nominees] you don’t know, but you read the applications, and some of these people are so amazing you just want to be friends with them,” she said. “And the people who nominate their leaders say such nice things. They’re so nice to read.”
TRAIN’s programs are designed to help a wide range of organizations, and this year members have facilitated events for everything from Greek organizations to AMP. This month, TRAIN is attempting to branch out to the rest of the campus by providing its first open workshop.
“[The workshop] is color-based, and I mean actual colors,” Miller said. “The color you are given determines what kind of leader you are.”
Depending on the student turnout of this workshop, TRAIN may begin to offer more campus-wide programs.
“Our hope is that by offering a couple of workshops this semester, student leaders on campus will gain an understanding of what TRAIN has to offer and will begin to invite TRAIN to facilitate workshops for their organizations,” Shorts said.
Although a relatively new organization on campus, TRAIN strives to make its presence known to all students and organizations. Recent advertising efforts to generate RAIL nominations have included tri-folds in all the dining halls.
“I’m really proud of the work TRAIN does,” Miller said. “We’re going to keep on chugging. [Laughs] We spend so much time coming up with train metaphors.”