Pictured front, left to right: Morgun Henson, Tressa Linson, Madisson Williams, Taylor Donnerson, Angelina Anderson Spohrer. Pictured back, left to right: Cassie Morin, ShaNae Snow, Matthew Kirkpatrick, Damon Akin, Cassidy Mitchell, Keifer Hartwig, Brooks Harral, Ridge Hestor, Tanner Harris.
On Tuesday, April 4, Lyon College’s Introduction to Leadership class traveled to Little Rock to visit three exemplary leaders.
Instructor Annette Castleberry and students first met with Gretchen Hall, ’09, at the newly renovated Robinson Center. A Sheridan native, Hall currently serves as president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) as well as on the Lyon College Board of Trustees.
After shaking hands with Hall outside the Robison Center, students followed her to the Gail David Conference Room for a one-of-a-kind presentation describing the renovation. Hall took students through the project from conception, reality, projected economic impact and to-date economic impact.
After the presentation, Hall treated students to a guided tour of the facility, relaying the challenges the LRCVB met during the project and detailing each solution.
“It’s exciting to see what alums from Lyon do,” said psychology major ShaNae Snow of Cave City.
“It proves there’s no limit to what can happen in life with a solid education.”
From the Robinson Center, students headed west to Cajun’s Wharf where they met Arkansas State Senator Joyce Elliot for lunch. Due to the legislative session drawing to a close the previous evening, this was a rare opportunity.
Students listened to Elliot describe her path from teaching to politics and her dedication to education in Arkansas. The senator shared her story of growing up as a poor, African-American girl in rural, segregated Arkansas. Determined to become a leader from an early age, Elliot was one of the first African-American students to integrate with the local all-white high school. She soon graduated and went on to earn her bachelor and graduate degrees.
Reflecting on her visit with Elliot, sophomore biology major Cassandra Morin of Paragould said, “One thing that stuck with me was that as a leader, we should always try to collaborate instead of compromise.”
Morin emphasized that after talking with Elliot, she felt as though she could do anything she wanted.
“She was a gentle reminder of how a strong personality is not something to be afraid of, but embraced.”
Keifer Hartwig of Ward, another sophomore biology major, added, “She left us with a quote that I wrote down: ‘Success is slow, but don’t make it slower by quitting.’”
Students bid Elliot goodbye and headed to the River Market District, where they met their final leader, Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service. A former instructor at Lyon and current member of the Board of Trustees, Rutherford shared snippets of wisdom through his past experiences and expressed the importance of taking advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.
Damon Akin, a 2017 Lyon graduate, noted how after students thanked Rutherford for taking the time to talk to them, Rutherford responded that he was just an “old man” who wanted to help young leaders find their paths and purposes.
“That spoke volumes to me,” Akin said.
“Humility is a trait that few leaders hold in today’s political and social climate.”
Akin recently earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in outdoor leadership from Lyon. He is enrolled in the recreation and sports management graduate program at the University of Arkansas and was selected as a graduate assistant for the 2017-2018 term.
The trip culminated with a visit to the William J. Clinton Library and museum and a special tour from Ann Kamps, manager of volunteer and visitor services at the Williom J. Clinton Foundation. Kamps is the mother of Leanne Kamps, ’02, and David Kamps, ’00.
The LED 201 Introduction to Leadership class is a one-hour experiential course designed to give students opportunities for in-depth conversations with leaders around the state. The course emphasizes the value of perseverance in leadership as well as the human qualities successful leaders employ: humility, collaboration, empathy and the drive to pay it forward.
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