Leadership Mentor Jazmin Reynoso Ortiz ‘20 traveled to New Orleans with Gettysburg students Chakriya Ou ‘23, Shanze Sarwar ‘21, and Martin Bai ‘20 for the National Student Leadership Diversity Convention. NSLDC is the largest national gathering of student leaders to address topics of diversity and social justice challenging campuses today.
Have you ever come across a quote and written it down immediately? That was the case for me when a good friend shared these words with me from the American academic and political activist Angela Davis:
“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”
What strikes me about this quote first and foremost is its honest admittance that transformational change is (almost) impossible. Second, the quote evokes an essential and consistent commitment to work towards change, despite the odds. Davis beautifully recognizes the difficulty of making a difference, while also inspiring the reader to do so.
This sentiment could not be more relevant for us as aspiring leaders today. Surrounded by constant examples of racial injustice, including the horrific killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, it is hard to see how positive change is possible. But as Davis’ quote underscores, leaders must believe in a brighter and more just future, and work “all the time” to achieve it. At Gettysburg, that’s what we call great work. These beliefs are embedded in our institutional mission, and they challenge us to uphold “the value of ethical leadership that is inclusive, collaborative, and directed towards effecting change for the greater good.”
I'm vividly aware that the GLC have a great responsibility to support our institution’s work in the fight against racial injustice. I’m proud of the positive steps we took in 2019-2020, such as enhancing the training and development our staff; instituting the Intercultural Development Inventory in our Leadership Certificate for all students; sending students to the National Student Leadership Diversity Conference; and financially supporting the student-run global peace conference CONAPP, to name a few initiatives. But we must do more. We have to do this work all the time.
The GLC’s primary mission is to equip Gettysburg students and young alumni with the skills and tools to lead ethically for the greater good. This endeavor is more important today considering the seemingly insurmountable challenges our society faces. Now that we plan to return to residential learning this fall, I am both excited and hopeful we will be able to play a significant role in the College’s efforts to ensure leadership development is accessible to all students, to engage students in culturally relevant leadership learning, and to help students recognize their responsibility to lead change. Further, I have connected with the College’s Chief Diversity Officer Jeanne Arnold to offer our support to her work with the Bias Awareness Resource Committee (BARC), which has been tasked by the President to provide our community with recommendations for change. We also plan to work more synergistically with the Center for Public Service and the Eisenhower Institute to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and instinct to have a meaningful impact on the civic life of their communities. I will also be engaging my team in conversation this July to further evaluate GLC practices and develop strategies to promote diversity, inclusion, and social justice. I will share more information soon about our plans this fall.
Ultimately, there is a lot of essential work to be done. It will require ALL of us to contribute. If you are interested in helping me and my team this year, please contact me directly at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading and I wish you well in your leadership practice.
Executive Director, Garthwait Leadership Center