“You are a Gift”- Spring 2018 Graduation Speech

“Hello everyone. For those of you that don’t know me: ”  

  1. I am a lover of all things beautiful, I like surprising people with baked goods, and I am the person that genuinely gets excited when I hear the words “we’re going to do an icebreaker!” in group meetings.
  2. I pride myself in my planning abilities and find comfort in having plans made, and I am having a hard time deciding what I will be doing three months from now.
  3. I believe that our friends and family should always be prioritized in our lives, but am still learning how to take care of myself.
  4. I understand the work that needs to be done in this world to create an alternative future, but I have learned how to find joy in simplicity and use that to fuel my life.

“I have also found that it is much better when we do this work together, so I am so grateful that we are here today. To honor what we have learned and to celebrate with each other the joy of graduation. But I also believe that we are here to remember that we all hold contradicting truths about ourselves. Turns out graduating isn’t synonymous with figuring everything out. And that is okay. Because we have learned how to use our complex identities as the foundation of our leadership narratives. And we can use that to navigate through the ambiguities of the next steps we will take.”


“With my time today, I would like to share with you three lessons that I have learned that will help us all with our transitions.”


“The first lesson is that leadership is hard. And I’m not talking about back in the 3000-level course when we had the overlap between complexity paper and one community project hard. I’m talking about the push-back or skepticism we will face from future coworkers, bosses, and community members when we attempt to implement what we have learned and explain its potential for positive change. When we enter new environments and things aren’t running how we’d like we have two choices. We can tell ourselves “what the minor believes and what I have experienced must not be true.” OR we can say “Maybe they haven’t felt what I have felt and done what I have done, and I can be the one to show them.” And we know that being the one to create change is harder than adapting to the new system. But if you are choosing to take on the identity of leader, then you have to remember that leaders commit to taking on that work. You have to be willing to giving your time, energy, and intention to the places that need it most. Yes, leadership is hard. But thankfully, leadership isn’t too hard. And the good news is we have learned many skills to help us achieve change.”


“I was once told, “when you start see yourself as a gift, everything changes.” If you’re thinking to yourself, “wow, that is vague, poetic, and sounds like David Hellstrom said it” you are right. After trying to make meaning of this, I decided that a gift was two things: something unique and something that is given freely with asking of nothing in return. Once you see your strengths, skills, and knowledge as a gift, your confidence to take action becomes simplified. By doing this you give yourself permission to offer everything you have without fear of rejection. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” This is the second lesson: you are a gift.”


“I have one more lesson to share with you that will make leadership more possible. My favorite reading from the four courses was “Sacred Heart.” It beautifully articulates the abundance of opportunities for leadership in our everyday lives. And how we can choose to embrace these possibilities as we wish, knowing that the work is difficult. They conclude with, “May you enjoy with a full heart the fruits of your labor. The world needs you.” And it does. It needs your intention. Your time. Your care. Your passion. But it doesn’t need only you.”


“Which brings me to the third lesson: We must remember the importance of each other. And that everyone else is also a gift. We each bring a new light to the world. So go out and find the other people that care about the change that needs to happen. Margaret Wheatley’s book is not called turning to your textbook or turning to research. It is turning to one another. We have each other. The people in this space. Our fellow leadership nerds, our mentors, instructors, family, and friends. The people who love us and would do anything for us. And we will have many more people in our lives that we don’t know yet. Future coworkers, neighbors, and friends. But that’s only if we stay open to the possibility that they may care just as much as we do.”


“My hope is that you trust your intuition, knowledge and abilities to create a world you want to live in. And that you trust in people around you. That you remember you are a gift. You can be the sun that lights up the sky by being generous and kind. That you remember to find each other in moments of uncertainty and in moments of celebration. And perhaps above all, I hope that in your future endeavors, you remember to follow the joy.”




Tijen Petersen graduated in the Fall of 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Leadership.

She danced for the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Competition team for five years. She loves being a part of the Leadership Minor community and hopes to stay involved for years to come.



Swimming and Leading

I’ve never been a skilled swimmer.  I used to dread the week in elementary school when we’d load up on busses and trek to the district high school for swimming lessons.  I always tested into the “beginner group” and feared what my peers would think of me. Throughout the week, I remember feeling incompetent and embarrassed as I gobbled up water while trying to coordinate my arms, legs, and breath.

Lately, I’ve had recurring dreams (well, nightmares, really)  where I am back in the high school pool, and my elementary gym teacher is telling me to “go down and back” a few times.  Oh, and she will be timing me and everyone is watching, so I better do a good job. I wake up in a panic every time.

This semester, I am enrolled in a mindfulness course (CSPH 5807).  It is an amazing class, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.  Through the course and having undergone subsequent reflection, I have steadily

increased my  awareness of a few things:

  1. I am not balanced nor centered.  I am constantly looking to the future and this only heightens my anxiety.
  2. I am not living out my values. I work in Leadership, but I don’t currently see myself as a leader.
  3. I routinely feel as though I am back in elementary school swim lessons, unprepared and embarrassed, gasping for air.

So, what do I do with this information?  It is not a fun place to be, and I constantly teeter between two dominant voices.  One voice tells me this is an important phase of my life. I am learning, growing, and developing.  Growth isn’t comfortable, so keep on keeping on. The other voice tells me to take care of myself and let things go.  It isn’t healthy to feel this way.

Who do I listen to?  Do I perpetuate this “always busy, efficient, and productive” type of behavior so commonly awarded in our society?  Or, do I take a stand and actively choose to drop something in my life? If I choose this path, what do I prioritize?  What do I drop? I know what I would tell a peer or family member, but it is so much harder to be objective with myself. (Also, is it just me, or do you find yourself having similar conversations in your mind?)

As I continue to engage in this conversation with myself, I realize leaders can “step off path” every now and then; it is a natural human behavior, after all!  The key is how one responds and reacts.

Additionally, leaders take what they learn from self-reflection, consultation, and meaningful action and continue to apply it in the future.

What I will do now?  I am still not certain.  But, what I do know is this is not sustainable and if I continue down this path, it is because I actively chose it.  

Writing this blog post opened up space in my mind to introduce and play with creativity.  I’ve found a solution (and there are probably 100 possibilities) I am happy with, and I am pursuing that path for now.  Oh, how helpful the process of writing can be! Thank you for allowing me the space to work through this, dear leader friends!


Find Your Fresh Start


Good afternoon, everyone! My name is Governess Simpson, and I will be joining the Leadership Team as the new Information Technology Specialist and manager of the blog. I wanted to introduce myself to the community on the blog page. It is a pleasure to meet you all!

I am currently a freshman in the College of Science and Engineering as a Computer Science major with a minor in Leadership. I am involved in my sorority, Alpha Sigma Kappa, and the Association for Computing Machinery – Women’s Chapter. My hobbies include writing and reading slam poetry, weight training, and watching movies on Netflix.

Now that introductions are out of the way, I wanted to kick off my first blog post by discussing something I’ve been reflecting on over the past few weeks.

As we progress through a new year, I, among many others, created New Year’s resolutions with the aspirations of achieving something spectacular and focusing on self-improvement and development. Honestly, who could blame us; 2018 is the start of a promising story we desire to write, whether it be reaching financial security or developing sturdy and healthy relationships.

Personally, 2017 proved to be a very challenging year for myself. With transitioning to college–which came with its own unique set of obstacles–enduring a painful breakup with a loved one, and losing sight of my passions and interests, I ended the year feeling hopelessly lost, defeated, and concerned for my well-being. I felt like I was making the wrong moves for my future professional career. My emotional and mental health were in shambles.

Of course, many of those struggles did not simply disappear the night of New Year’s Eve. However, rather than wallowing in my situation, I made a decision that I want to share with the community with the hopes of helping at least one person who experienced the same thing I did.

I devoted more time to myself and started to truly reflect on what I could change and what I needed to accept in order to move forward.

There is not enough people talking about self-care and mental health. Whenever we undergo depression, anxiety, or downfalls in any aspect in our lives, we indulge in things that can distract us from the now, the things that are holding us back. It makes sense: in the moment, it seems too taxing to confront the real issue. We believe there is nothing we can do.

We need to break free of that pessimistic, destructive mindset if we ever want to reach a place that promotes health and happiness.

On New Year’s Day, I spent the entire day reflecting on what went wrong in 2017. I truthfully acknowledged things about my behaviors or attitudes that I needed to adjust–which is easier said than done, but when you spend the proper time with just yourself, those realizations will start to surface. With my newfound knowledge, I wrote down every single goal I wanted to accomplish in 2018 that would fix the issues I identified, as well as feasible steps to achieve said goals.

At the end of the day, it is all about self-love and catering to yourself to do what you need to do to become stable, happy, and healthy. One regret that I had in 2017 was not taking enough time with myself to address things when issues began to emerge–until it was too late. I refuse to make the same mistake twice, and you shouldn’t, either.

Once again, it is an honor to be welcomed to this community. I am excited to assume my role as the IT Specialist, and I am excited for what may come. Even though we are nearly two months in, that doesn’t mean you can’t find your fresh start.

Try something new for 30 days

Matt Cutts

We’re on the look for posts! We would love to hear your leadership story – click here for more information and to submit one! In the meantime, enjoy this video from Matt Cutts on trying something new. What will you try for the next 30 days?

Matt Cutts is an engineer at Google, where he fights linkspam and helps webmasters understand how search works.

Click here for some forced inspiration!

Maria Versteeg

The idea of leadership that I signed up for is one of hospitality, connection, and love. And I just can’t help but ask… Why does this idea of leadership often leave me feeling alone, hurt, and tired?

Leadership has so much to do with being present and paying attention to the world around you, and yet, there never seems to be a day that goes by without hearing about a hurricane, an enraging policy change, or even a mass shooting. Every day I am reminded that being fully awake in the spaces around me is opening myself up to a literal world of pain and human suffering. Continue reading “Click here for some forced inspiration!”

Give Yourself Grace

Josephine Jones

I am sitting here drinking my coffee at 7 am on a Wednesday morning, thinking to myself, “How did I get here?”. This semester has been the hardest few months of my life. I am not referring to how stressful college classes are or how prevalent my lack of sleep is, but the difficulty I found when I realized I had hit rock bottom for the first time. The unexpected became a reality in my life. I found myself broken, like a shattered mirror unable to put the pieces back together. Despite how I let myself get to that place, on Tuesday February 28, 2017 I found myself on an 8 pm flight back to Green Bay, WI. For anyone who knows me, the very thought of skipping an entire week of college classes would give me an anxiety attack, yet I was doing it. Although completely out of the norm, I knew I needed to do this. At this moment, I decided to take my place of complete vulnerability as an opportunity to find resilience and build myself back up from nothing. I cannot begin to believe how much individual growth I have found in the last 3 months despite the hardships and burdens that were weighing heavy on my heart. My journey to finding this individual growth all started when I realized to give myself grace.

Continue reading “Give Yourself Grace”

In a World of Debate, Practice Makes Perfect

Kristin Economos

a-night-time-view-of-the-capital-building“Which candidate did you support in the most recent U.S. Presidential Election?”

I asked the question prompt to a group of 16 students who each looked back at me with looks of concern and shock. Why would we discuss something so polarizing, in a service learning class, no less? Continue reading “In a World of Debate, Practice Makes Perfect”

As You Begin…

Orientation LeadersWelcome back for another school year! We look forward to growing and experiencing another year along with you all. With that, we are bringing the blog back for another year! We would love your voice to be featured, so please click here for some info on writing for us! And now, without further ado, please enjoy our first post of the semester!

David Hellstrom

My 18-year old son went away to college this year.

Before he left he said to me “isn’t this where you sit me down and tell me everything I need to know before I leave – you know, the words of wisdom speech.”

My first response was to laugh. “I don’t think that’s how it works, son. My guess is you need to find out all of those things by yourself. I am not sure how helpful I would be.” Continue reading “As You Begin…”

Unapologetically Infusing Social Justice in Leadership Studies Curriculum

Jason Jackson

Resilient CampusTime for a quick break from our summer hiatus! We invited you to listen to the most recent episode of Resilient Campus, where Leadership Minor Instructor Jason Jackson shares his experiences and insights as a queer man of color and the influence of his own femininity as a professional in college and university environments. Within his role developing curriculum in the Leadership Studies minor, he is able to infuse social justice content and identity-based work into faculty training. Jason shares strategies for self-care, staying in the work, and finding joy, laughter, and humor to sustain our personal and professional wellbeing. He shares a beautiful piece of writing from James Baldwin’s book, “The Fire Next Time” and a podcast that frames the work Jason is able to do in college environments. Listen below, or view this post on our website if you’re viewing this via email. Continue reading “Unapologetically Infusing Social Justice in Leadership Studies Curriculum”

The Second Post in As Many Days

Harley – the Leadership Minor Mascot.
Harley – the Leadership Minor Mascot.

Well, this is almost unheard of – this is the second post this week! This one’s a little different, though. Similar to our end of fall semester-break, Views from the Leadership will be going on hiatus for summer.

But that isn’t the only news I have for you today! After much planning and behind the scenes work, Views from the Leadership will be transferring over to http://lead.umn.edu/blog/ beginning today. Don’t worry – you’ll find all the same posts there, and the old links will still work. This means a few things, which our team is excited to announce:

  • A new design! The VFTL website now matches the Leadership Minor website exactly.
  • More recognizable! The domain change adds credibility to the site by having it appear on an University domain

We look forward to returning in the fall semester with new posts, thoughts, and perspectives. If you’d like to get yourself on the fall schedule for posting, click here! We’d love to hear from you! Continue reading “The Second Post in As Many Days”