Saturday, November 6, 2010

Inklings Into Ideas

One of many swallows flitting about near the Science Library

It was even colder today than yesterday – but I made do with three layers of sweaters. We had breakfast all together in Wilson Hall and then broke into panels with four young people who were farther along in their Action Plans than we were. I was amazed by the range of ideas and the amount of success that these people had – and they had started out just like me! One young woman had started out with the simple idea of raising awareness of the genocide in Darfur and ended up representing the entire North American continent in talks about legislation in Europe through a large nonprofit organization.

After we asked questions of the panelists, we split into our content-specific areas. I was worried that my plan wouldn’t quite fit in with the “Identity” group, which is where I was placed, and I was debating whether I should switch to the “Conflict/Violence Resolution” group. But Lexi (the organizer of the Symposium) and Dean Rose allayed my fears, and I stayed in the “Identity” group. That turned out to work really well, since the main leader of the content group is the director of the LGBTQ resource center here at Brown. The woman helping her lead the content group emphasized that she wanted us to keep in touch so that we would have a continued support line, so I’ll definitely do that.

Two other students had Action Plans relating to LGBTQ issues. Moriah from Cleveland is trying to hold a benefit concert to raise money to buy or rent space for a youth LGBTQ center. David from upstate New York is working on generally strengthening his school’s Acceptance Coalition (similar to El Cerrito’s Gay-Straight Alliance). The others ranged from working on issues of body image, gender inequality, trust among young women, and interfaith youth groups. Just by talking about and troubleshooting each other’s plans, we learned so much that we could apply to our own. At lunch (I had a slice of exotic black bean-avocado pizza on Thayer Street), I stuck with most of the students from the content group and got another chance to talk to them in person about the differences and similarities between our strategies.

L-R: Irene (myself), David, Moriah

The next workshop that I was signed up for was titled “Transitioning Your Project.” There we discussed how to pass on leadership to people that will continue working on our projects after we can’t anymore (because of college, new schedules, etc.). Again, towards the end we returned to troubleshooting our individual Plans and learned from each other. I frantically wrote down notes and completely covered 4 pages in blue ink. The ideas ranged from ways to motivate and identify emerging leaders in a group to making a binder with all the information for our organization to pass on to the next person in charge. The third workshop was focused on communication and how to effectively convince different audiences to be involved with our projects. That was also helpful but we didn’t have time to discuss our individual Plans with our peers. It also didn’t delve as deep into the subject as the other two, so I personally didn’t enjoy it as much. However, even during the third workshop I was jotting down ideas every few seconds.

After a quick break and a stop back at the inn where we are staying, it was time for dinner. Dinner was relatively uneventful, but I did sit with the group of friends that I met during the summer and two new friends.

At dinner - Lindsey, Safiya, Lina, and I were all in the same Women and Leadership class this summer. I met Emma and Nora this weekend.

Before going back to the inn for homework and rest, most of the people at my dinner table and I went on a quest to find chocolate cake for sale somewhere on Thayer Street. We failed miserably (partly because it was about 8 PM by then) but enjoyed some Ben & Jerry’s instead. Later we ended up sitting in a circle at the end of the hall in the inn, helping each other with homework like calculus and advanced Spanish while sharing our favorite songs.

Whimsical decorations on chairs at Ben & Jerry's

I loved the past 30 hours or so at Brown, but I have so many ideas for my Action Plan jumping around in my brain that I can’t wait to get back to El Cerrito and start working on them. I’m so, so, so thankful that I got to be here and be involved with the whole Brown Leadership Institute community.


  1. Irene,

    I so enjoyed yours (and Lydia's) entries to the blog. With all you had to do logistically, the time change, and the activities in which you participated, I was amazed at the completeness of your comments. It was a pleasure to read your reactions to the various events, how you benefited from the experience and the wonderful photographs!!! Thank you for letting me a part of it! Lucy Carroll

  2. Thank you so much! It was so helpful in every way possible.

  3. Irene,

    How could you all possibly cram so many wonderful events into such a short period of time?

    For a few brief moments I felt like t was summer once again reading the blogs from the Leadership course and wishing I could participate.

    Please tell me that because you couldn't find any chocolate cake that you're not crossing Brown off of your list of potential schools to apply to.

  4. Don, I'm not even sure how it was possible either. It was something of a jolt to come back to El Cerrito and have to settle into a new routine again. I feel like I was at Brown much longer than 3 days (and that's a good thing).

    No, Ben and Jerry's definitely makes up for the lack of chocolate cake. Actually, My (our RA and TA for the summer class) told us that there was a place we could have bought cake, but that it was just a bit farther up on Thayer. Oh well!