A little over a year ago I had a meltdown during my International Communication class. I will never forget sitting in the second to last row and reflecting on where my life was going. I was 21 years old, had one semester left in undergrad, and had no plan. The majority of my friends were signing contracts with businesses, deciding which post-grad internship would help shape their resumes, or raving about the new cities they would explore while in graduate school. Meanwhile, I was breaking down. The only thing I knew was that I would be directing a summer camp, which would be over at the end of August.
So I did what any intelligent person would do. I pulled out my phone and googled “communication graduate programs.” To give you a little background I changed my major five times in undergrad before choosing communication. I learned at an early age that public speaking was my passion and talking in general was my favorite sport. I started as a telecommunication major but after a year of being told what to do, I decided to find a major that would teach me the art of communication and the freedom of expression. I stumbled upon a webpage with hundreds of potential programs. Did I mention that I was in the middle of Bowling Green, Ohio at the time? If you’ve never heard of it I totally get it because no one has. It was my hidden treasure and it was breaking my heart just thinking about leaving, but I had to make a decision and I was not ready to go into the work force — partially because I did not prepare and partially because I was not 35 and could not run for president. As I continued my search I knew that home (Cleveland, OH) was out of the question. I kept scrolling until I found a major that I loved and a school that I could not pronounce. The program was called Communication and Leadership and the school was Canisius College. I sat there stunned because I knew that communication was my life and leadership has always been second nature. For the rest of my hour and fifteen-minute class, I researched the program and got just enough information to answer all of the questions I knew my parents would throw my way.
The moment class was over I ran outside and called my mom. I didn’t even let her say hello and began explaining that I wasn’t ready to be a full time employee, how I saw myself continuing my education, and my desire to add more degrees to my wall. I told her that I found a school, a program, and I was determined to go. She didn’t even question it. In her wonderful mom tone, she said “Ok. Do what you’ve gotta do.” That was in October 2016. By March 2017, I had completed my application, visited Buffalo, and was accepted into the Communication and Leadership program while simultaneously scrambling to figure out how I would finance school (don’t worry I figured it out). Stay tuned for my next post to read about the 10 things graduate school has taught me thus far.
One of the aspects of the Communication and Leadership program that I love most is the integration of real life application of content with organizations in Buffalo. The real life learning extends beyond classroom assignments and semester projects. While catching up with a former colleague, small talk led to yet another opportunity to share my enthusiasm of the ComLead program. “Yes, I’m loving it. My focus is Managing Not-for -Profits.” Her eyes widened, “That’s wonderful! My husband and I are in the midst of starting our own non-profit!” Of course they were. Yet another reason why I love the small little world of Buffalo. There’s always a reason for why and when things happen.
Later that week I set up a coffee meeting to hear more about the non-profit. My hope was that even if I didn’t have the answers, I could help connect him to the people that did. In an hour’s time, Tom Jasinski shared not only his riveting life journey but also narrated the curriculum of my studies into the story of starting his non profit. Tom is a double organ transplant recipient. Do you know where New York State ranks in the nation for the number of registered organ donors per capita? I didn’t either. But we are last. Yep, last.
Driven by his personal experience and this staggering statistic, Tom Jasinski is launching ONE8FIFTY with bold passion and conviction to change not only this ranking, but to create awareness, increase registration and ultimately save lives. The ONE8FIFTY name is derived from the fact that “ONE single donor can provide up to 8 people with organ donations and greatly impact up to FIFTY others through tissue donation.” For more information visit the official website:
Until this conversation my knowledge of organ donations and transplant journey was minimal and my skills in starting a non-profit are not quite expert level. In this short meeting I was affirmed that I knew more than I thought in both arenas. I have certainly been inspired to share the ONE8FIFTY mission. I have definitely found the right fit in the Communication and Leadership program at Canisius.
I am so thankful for the chance meeting with my former colleague. It allowed for a valuable learning experience and making connections for Tom and the launch of ONE8FIFTY. After all, they say it’s all about who you know, and in the case of organ donation and saving lives, sometimes it’s all about the people you don’t.
Robert Schrecongost, former Vice Chairman and VP of Technology at GoodYear/Dunlop North America, spoke to the Leadership foundations class this month about leading in an international marketplace. Robert, who spoke from 39 years in the tire industry, has traveled around the world – collaborating on teams in France, Germany, the UK, Japan and beyond. In his talk, Robert demonstrated how leading ethically and authentically brings success.
Robert emphasized how crucial good communication is for leadership. “It doesn’t really matter what your skill set is if you can’t communicate,” he has learned. Robert’s mindset for communication stressed ownership: he explained that everyone hears what a leader says through his or her own set of experiences and opinions. It’s the leader’s responsibility, he believes, to get the message across in a way people will understand.
This is especially hard when culture is a factor. “Communication is culturally dependent,” he shared as he explained his process for collaborating successfully with international teams. In Japan, Robert learned both the formal and informal communication rules of business. Not only did he learn the appropriate times to bow or remove his shoes, he also learned how his Japanese teammates valued relationships, group success and strength.
Relating to his teammates in their own cultural terms and building relationships outside the office bonded the team together and brought success during the workday. In his view, “Language is a tool and, as any tool, it should be used properly.”
Especially in an international setting, self-awareness is crucial to leading well. “Know yourself and know the impact your personality has on others,” Robert advised. Robert, a self-professed introvert, knows he can tend to withhold his opinion out of shyness. However, he has learned that can be interpreted as arrogance. This self-knowledge has helped him be aware of how he acts, and to adapt to make sure he is leading effectively.
The worldview Robert shared emphasized integrity. He advised, “Don’t do anything just because someone told you to. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and it doesn’t matter who you are.” Instead, decide based on what will benefit the company’s bottom line and improve the lives of employees. “Give everyone the respect and dignity they deserve,” he said. Robert believes that everyone in a company adds value, from the CEO to the night janitor. In his view, everyone contributes and should be treated with respect. As a leader, he advised students to give credit liberally and to support other’s good ideas as if they were our own.
“Though it may not be what’s easy or comfortable,” Robert said, “at the end of the day, do what’s right.”