By Jessica Macias-Bochatay, MBA 2013
Thunderbird’s “Leadership Education and Development for Greater Effectiveness”, or Leadership EDGE, is an extra-curricular program designed to help students discover and develop their leadership skills. Led by Dr. Kay Keck, The EDGE Program builds self-awareness skills by running various self-assessment tools and related leadership development workshops.
Each year, EDGE leaders participate in a Ropes Course at Chapel Rock, Prescott, Arizona, where they mentally and physically challenge their core ‘being’. Along with 28 other T-Birds, I was one of the fortunate ‘EDGErs’ to participate in this year’s retreat.
Dr. Keck and Dr. Finney accompanied us to a journey of developing a deeper leadership understanding in ourselves and in others. We studied Kouzes & Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, and understood how we should apply them at the Ropes Course for our respective teams to succeed. From jumping off telephone poles to climbing walls blindfolded, the adventure enabled me to overcome my inner critique, and reach beyond my self-perceived limitations in challenging and rather ‘scary’ situations. Divided into three teams (“Orange Machines”, “Amarillos” & “The Blue Ninjas”), I witnessed how the adventure transformed my peers and their teams in a unique way, and how different each experience truly was. What better way to celebrate my peers’ successes but by directly reading their unique and own experiences?
“Thunderbird friends are friends for life!” Reid Drossos said as he was jumping across wooden planks 40 feet above the ground. The EDGE retreat allowed us to bond and learn from each other. The strength, encouragement, and support each one of us provided for one another affirm that ThunderFriends are the best friends anyone could ever have. This retreat 100% confirmed Reid’s words. The obstacles we faced on Saturday challenged us mentally and physically. We were pushed to overcome our doubts and fears. I think a lot of us will begin the new module with a new sense of confidence and affirmation that we can do anything we set our minds to.”
~ Steven Arjonilla
“The Ropes Course, I can confidently say, was one of my greatest learning experiences at Thunderbird. As a person who fears heights, I was aware that this Saturday would be challenging for me! Climbing a pole and a wall, walking on a beam 40 feet above the ground, and sitting on a platform in the air contemplating about whether I should take a shot at the zip-line, were things I would have never chosen to do as a recreational activity. This weekend gave me the opportunity to push well beyond my comfort zone. The practical learning about how trust and teamwork are such critical aspects of leadership was invaluable!”
~ Anisha Vinny
My biggest take away from the rope course is the idea of “setting yourself up for success.” As we achieve our incremental goals, we are opening ourselves up for the possibility of success. Sometimes, we might miss a step or catch ourselves off balance, however, that is not the end, but the beginning of re-accessing the situation and trying again. The fact that we set ourselves to succeed in the beginning already opens the possibilities to allow us to fail, refine our strategy, and improve on the next try.”
~ Javier Cheng
“It was my first time rock climbing, so I used my arms’ power to climb up and quickly felt exhausted. Mark and Jessica shouted out to me: “use your legs’ power, not your arms…”. This was a critical tip that made my first climb much easier. Josh and Jordan timed their climbs and made it between 25-27 seconds. Watching them inspired me to climb once again. Despite my exhausted arms, I made the second climb in 70 seconds compared to 3 minutes of the first round. My Blue Ninja team had an incredible collective team energy through trusting, supporting, encouraging each other. A united team can help each individual go beyond his/her limits. I realized I can do a lot more than I thought with the support from my team.”
~ Giang Pham
“The program was a great experience in helping each other to be more mindful of ourselves and to one another. It fostered an environment of camaraderie, collaboration, and enthusiasm that will serve as an example for how I will try to conduct business and act in my personal life.”
~ Philip Dudley
“I had a fantastic experience. It is truly about how to conquer your fear and challenge yourself in an unfamiliar environment. With all the support and encouragement from my team (and other teams), I overcame my fear and got myself out of my comfort zone having the courage to do something I had never thought I could do in my life.”
~ Jade Tantidilokkul
“It was an opportunity for us to broaden our horizons and push our physical and emotional limits – a perfect platform for us to imbibe the five tenets of leadership and create a context where we, as a team, could succeed. There were some of us, including myself, that had prior experience with the Ropes Course. For us, it was more about pushing the envelope and challenging ourselves even further. It was really satisfying to see some of my teammates conquer their fears and walk across a 15 feet pole about 30 feet above the ground. I think they were the ones who went the furthest in terms of self-discovery and risk-taking.”
~ Shreyas Gore
“The Ropes Course was a great opportunity to get to know fellow students outside the classroom and outside group projects. The course created a supportive environment of encouragement and the celebration of small steps and big leaps, reminding us all that great leaders focus on the positive instead of waiting for something negative to happen. It also created a bond between the students who now know what it’s like to rely on someone else to make sure you don’t fall off a beam 40 feet off the ground.”
~ Allison Martyn
“The Ropes Course was one of my best T-Bird experiences. As a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, my adrenaline had completely drained off a body, and my face was as pale as ever when I stood half a foot away from reaching the top of a 20+ foot tall telephone pole. The whole world seemed still to me and my body was as stiff as a twig struck over by fear and uncertainty. My team, The Blue Ninjas, shouted words of support to calm me down. Though I asked to be brought down multiple times, the belief they had in me kept me up there. I do not know how, but I was suddenly on top of the pole ready to take the ‘leap-of-faith’ and grab the trapeze. I jumped and, almost caught it. I left the activity knowing that whatever tough situation I might find myself in, my fellow T-Birds have my back!”
~ Arun Thomas