The Impact That We Make
As leadership educators, we often don’t know just how well we are doing until our graduates make us proud. Here is what I mean. In 2011, Texas suffered one of the worst droughts on record and as a result, one of its worst wildfire seasons. Almost 4 million acres were consumed in 30,547 fires. Over 6,000 homes and other structures were destroyed. Two leadership majors from Texas A&M were literally thrown into this fire. Melanie and Patrick had just joined the Texas Forest Service (TFS) in the Spring of 2011 as Wildland Urban Interface Specialists (WUIS). Their job is to educate landowners and communities about how to protect their property from wildfires. But with as many as a dozen major fires burning at the same time, Melanie and Patrick were called upon to interface with the national media, coordinate communications between multiple state and federal agencies, continue to educate communities and landowners not yet affected by fires, while at the same time, helping families and landowners who had lost everything negotiate the many agencies that could provide them with resources. Their supervisors in the TFS commented that these young people performed admirably and that if we had any more like them to send them to the TFS.
I understand that we (leadership educators) can’t take full credit for how our graduates perform once they leave us, but I like to think that we gave them some of the knowledge and skills that helped make them successful. Patrick and Melanie both came to our department as young people of good character and a strong work ethic. Would they have been as effective in their roles if they were from another major that did not emphasize how to work with others, teach them team member roles, and how to think critically? The TFS definitely saw them as a product of our leadership major.
We don’t always see the fruits of our labors, but I know from the few examples that make their way back to our department that we are producing leaders that are making a difference in their communities. Keep up the good work.