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Review of The Road to Character

A guest blog post by Ian Fignon (Legacy 16) and some of his cohortmates who all read The Road to Character by David Brooks this summer as part of the Leadership Legacy Experience. 

On September 13th at 7pm in Laurel Hall 102, David Brooks will discuss the development and multifaceted nature of character as part of the Legacy Leadership Speaker Series at UConn. The American public generally knows of him as a political commentator from his OpEd column in the New York Times, where he has written on foreign wars, American culture, economic concerns such as income inequality, and Medicare. His talk will revolve around the more philosophical and moral questions posed in his book “The Road to Character”.

Immediately within the novel there is a line drawn between the two archetypes of Adam I and Adam II. Adam I is a productive, work-driven individual who rationally evaluates the surrounding world according to self-interest. The external world both encourages and directly rewards this extrinsic thinking, yet Brooks argues this way of building one’s own self fails to construct lasting and enduring personal meaning. Adam II, on the other hand, is a self-guided individual whose inward values and search for metaphysical fulfillment lead not to riches, but to a life of character. Though the world we live in directly rewards the accomplishments of Adam I, the manner and attitudes embodied by Adam II focus on personal moral improvement for its own sake. Rather than continuing an abstract and philosophical discussion of character, Brooks quickly dives into various historical figures of significance as exemplars of different moral ideals.

“Struggle”, Legacy 2016 Cohort Member Caitlin Briody

The character that continually returned to my mind is Dorothy Day. I found I could relate to her younger self- her restlessness, her adolescent pride, her interest in counterculture, and her desire to be ‘good’ without knowing exactly how. As much as I admire the reticent, self-controlled characters, I have to admit that Day’s wild side made her sympathetic.
Day’s commitment to Catholicism despite its flaws intrigued me as someone raised Catholic but who personally chose to leave due to institutional ideology I don’t support. Unlike many, Day did not merely write about improving the soul – she spent each day actively trying to live a pure life through service. Her practicality and tirelessness impressed me, and I appreciated that she approached service by living in the same conditions as those she served. She was not condescending or self-congratulating; she simply lived life according to her beliefs. This pure and genuine commitment to others is something I hope to cultivate in myself. Her care for Nanette was particularly touching, though she approached it so matter-of-factly. Additionally, despite my hesitancy toward religion, I was attracted to the way she devoted her life to serving God. Day constructed a very practical life in a very spiritual context, and found a purpose. I like that despite the suffering she wed herself to, her spirituality came from a place of thankfulness. Even with the hardships she endured, she was grateful, and that’s something I aim to be better at.

“Self Examination”, Legacy 2016 Cohort Member Ian Fignon

My favorite character is essayist and writer Samuel Johnson, born crippled and disfigured by scarring. Curiosity and intellect, combined with brutal honesty, prevented wonderment over the world’s complexities from clouding Johnson’s keen judgment. Unlike others, Johnson feverishly interrogated his own perceived decencies to understand them. He could not fix his chronic medical ailments, but, through willpower and conviction, he could mitigate and navigate them. Despite dropping out from Oxford, Johnson pushed forward. Years later he had not only written hundreds of works spanning dozens of topics, he had single-handedly compiled “A Dictionary of the English Language”. Whereas similar efforts for other languages had taken dozens of scholars even longer, Johnson’s unforgiving discipline demanded a breakneck pace that finished after nine years. Regardless, Johnson would sit in the pub and buy the everyman a pint. He opened his own doors to the downtrodden and to drunkards, and himself embodied the paradoxes he found so amusing and interesting. This strange combination of cutting intellect, harsh discipline, and compassion was what drew me to this character as my personal favorite. By facing reality head-on, unabated, Johnson forced himself to wrestle with life’s most meaningful questions. Though his search did not always glean the most universal or revealing of truths, it certainly bought Johnson some degree of peace. Only by constantly testing ourselves and by meeting our own demands to achieve more can we ever truly look back and be satisfied.

“The Summoned Self”, Legacy 2016 Cohort Member Marissa Piccolo

I would consider Frances Perkins as my favorite character discussed within Brooks’ novel. Perkins devoted herself to her chosen cause of pushing Progressive labor reform and was very aware of the unique role she had the ability to play in furthering the movement. Having felt called to use her educated, middleclass upbringing for the public good after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Perkins began locally and eventually moved upwards past New York state politics. As soon as she knew what her calling was, she immediately became involved. Perkins considered her cause and values to be greater than herself, and therefore was always looking forward, and often on a much longer and greater scale than others. It was never about her personal reputation, the offered salary, or the possible connections. Eventually, she worked within FDR’s cabinet as the Secretary of Labor and was largely responsible for cornerstones of the New Deal, such as Social Security, wage and safety regulations, and public works programs. Throughout her entire life, however, Perkins was always willing to place the cause above her own pride and person and take on less public roles. Largely as a result of her years in public service, Perkins only became more committed to the various causes she became involved in. The fights she weathered toughened her, and she stayed true to her beliefs and values in the face of challenges.


Brooks’ rich commentary is able to frame historical figures in an easily accessible, yet deeply meaningful light that provides context for distinguishing between Adam I and Adam II. “The Road to Character” provides insight that is rooted in both the abstract and in reality. On September 13th, Brooks will explore various traits and virtues like shame, reticence, duty, grace, and more through lives of various people to understand personal character and individual integrity better.

You Better Recognize: Student Leader Recognition Week 2016

We often joke in our office that April is the month of Banquets; that we could probably go the whole month without having to grocery shop. As the year winds down and folks get ready to finish up the year, we all take this time to celebrate our efforts over the academic year. We get dressed up, we eat some food, and we reflect together on what we’ve accomplished.

But so often this celebration focuses on the big things: the successful program, the service project, the transition of positional leadership, and the farewells to graduating seniors. We don’t always take the same time to recognize and appreciate the little acts of leadership and commitment that have contributed to our successes (perhaps because we don’t think they directly connect to our successes). The member who has never missed a meeting; the one who remembers birthdays. The member who steps in to help when help is needed; the one who trudges along silently, doing all that is asked of them.

While I like a good banquet, a good awards reception, a senior night, I love the smaller, quieter notes of recognition we give to each other. The genuine words of thankfulness, of appreciation, of gratitude. That’s why we started Student Leader Recognition Week, about three years ago. It was our attempt to recognize and appreciate the humble acts of leadership that happen on this campus everyday.

So this week, April 11-17th, the staff in the Leadership Office are attempting to recognize as many student leaders on campus for their dedication and commitment to the university and to the community.

Please take a moment to fill out this very brief form here to recognize a few of your peers for their leadership in all that they do.

If the link does not work, simply copy this link into your browser:

Throughout the week, we encourage you to tweet, post, and/or Instagram when you see student leadership happening on campus using #UConnLeads. A collection of the best photos, posts, and tweets will be compiled and shared on our social media sites. Visit our facebook page or follow us on twitter @UConnLeads to see if your contribution makes it!

Building Trust, One Marble at a Time

Trust, in the most basic sense, is placing confidence in another person, and in return, them placing confidence in you.

In Brené Brown’s novel Daring Greatly, she shares a story of her young daughter losing trust in her best friends and her subsequent decision to never trust anyone again. Brené uses the analogy of a marble jar to help her daughter understand how trust is built. As people share stories about themselves, marbles are added to their trust jar. The more stories they share, and the deeper those stories are, the more marbles you are able to add to their jar. It is easy to trust someone whose jar is overflowing.


It is important to note the aspect of reciprocity, as oftentimes this isn’t necessarily the case in today’s society. Trust either is given very freely, or oftentimes, not at all. It would be simple to state that I can’t trust someone if they haven’t filled up their jar of marbles, but if someone were looking to share something meaningful and difficult with me and the marble jar they have for me is empty, it’s natural for there to be a lack of reciprocal trust.

Why is this important in leadership?

Trust in our culture is declining. Research shows that even in 2009 only 49% of employees trusted their senior management, and only 28% believed CEOs were a credible source of information. With financial difficulties in our economy and turmoil in the political world, people are putting less and less trust in those who hold positions of power. In discussing leadership, oftentimes our conversations ask whether or not it is necessary to have followers in order to be a leader. If your answer is that you do in fact need followers of some sort, then finding ways to develop trust with those individuals is critical, particularly in today’s society.

As a leader looking to build trust, here are a few tips to work towards adding marbles to others’ jars: hold yourself accountable and prove your reliability; be clear and honest in your communications, but make sure to hold in confidence that which should not be shared publicly; choose what’s right over what’s comfortable – practice your values, not just profess your values; and come at situations with a non-judgmental and open mind. As stated before, trust is about give and take over a period of time. Be comfortable with being patient. Give a little to get a little. If you are brave, generous, and honest in your actions, people will start to trust you in return. It’s the small steps that will get you there.

Trust is not some big, monumental, life-altering action. Trust is a jar of marbles. What are you doing to fill other people’s jars?


Emily Pearson, Outdoor Leadership Programs Graduate Assistant, Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s program ’17

A Facilitator’s Secret

A guest post by Ayush Mittal, a Leadership Certificate Series facilitator for Discovery Leadership.

Being a facilitator is a lot like being in on a secret with your friend and then slowly revealing it to a larger group of friends. Now when I say that I mean it in the nicest way possible, and you may be asking yourself if this sort of setup is immoral or if facilitators are lying to their groups by withholding some information at the start. As skeptical as I was of the entire process, I came to understand that this method of activity-based learning can be one of the best ways through which participants gain memorable insights and experiences from workshops.


To start off with a description of the workshop I facilitate, Discovery Leadership is directed at those seeking an initial exposure to the world of leadership. Each week’s activities can be seen as a module in itself representing an underlying theme important to the principles of Discovery. One such week’s theme is communication, during which a game called “Around the World” is played. Participants are told they will be going on a trip around the world and are asked to contribute something which they would like to bring. Unbeknownst to them, there are right and wrong answers to items that they may bring, as vetted by the facilitators who are in the know. At the beginning of the activity, almost no one has the correct answer for what to bring, and the whole group is befuddled as to what type of thing is best. Is it food? Shoes? Non Perishables? Etc. Eventually by sheer coincidence someone decides to bring an item starting with the letter W. Suddenly there is a lead and the participants mop up any doubt they had about the no go list. As more participants become in the know they are skipped to give others a chance to figure it out until we have gone around the world as a group. If you haven’t already guessed the objective is to spell WORLD with the items the group brings.


As corny as this little game can seem, when one is actually doing it, the results of whether or not they figure it out actually matters. During the debrief, participants are given perspective into the intricacies of communication and what misunderstanding can lead to, both here in the workshop and elsewhere in the larger world. It is with this activity and many more in mind that I see workshop activities as a sort of game, one which allows participants to have an A HA! Moment and a fun memorable experience for all.


It’s About Them, Not Me

A guest post by Jackie Ruszczyk, a Leadership Certificate Series facilitator for the Student Leadership Challenge.

Two years ago I was blessed with the experience to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico and live abroad for a month. Oaxaca was a culture shock for me; it was not like the everyday life I was use to. Like a flip of a switch, I went from speaking English to Spanish. The people, however, were so friendly and made me feel welcomed and confident in my Spanish abilities. While I was there, I taught English to two college students, ate unforgettable food, saw beautiful waterfalls, and grew as an individual. My leadership opportunities were abundant during my trip abroad; I lead students on their journey to become fluent in English.

After a month away, I was forced back to my reality; I came back to Storrs, Connecticut where I would soon learn that my leadership opportunities would not end after Mexico. I first became a facilitator for the Discovery leadership program here at the University of Connecticut and then transitioned to become a facilitator for the Challenge this semester. Being a facilitator for the Challenge this semester was a new opportunity, but most importantly a challenge for myself as a facilitator. This is only my second semester as a facilitator for the program, but I have gained a lot of knowledge. Where has the majority of my knowledge come from, you might ask? The answer for me is simple: I have immensely learned from the participants in the program. Therefore, I don’t want this blog post to focus on myself, but rather to focus on them. The participants are actively learning and asking great questions throughout this semester. They have really put themselves out of their own personal comfort zone. I am proud to say that these participants are the future leaders here at the University of Connecticut and I will continue to make sure they have successful journeys, just like the students I taught in Mexico. As we are already half-way done with the program, there is so much room for growth and I can not wait to see where this program takes each and everyone of my participants.

Getting a Great Job: Involvement Ambassador

We’re Hiring! Student Involvement Ambassador – One of the best jobs on campus!

Are you looking for an engaging, creative, and fun job on campus next year? Have you ever wanted to know what happens “behind-the-scenes” of Student Activities at UConn? We are accepting applications for the Student Involvement Ambassador position in the Student Organization Support & Involvement (SOSI) Office.

To give you an in-depth look at the position, we’ve interviewed the current Student Involvement Ambassador team to answer questions about what it’s like to work here!

Q: Hey Ambassadors, tell us about you!

A: {Olivia} Hi! I’m a psychology major and a junior! I’ve been in the office since I was a freshmen!

A:{Ola} Hola! I’m a senior about to graduate with a dual degree in Marketing and Communication.

A: {Ryann} Hello!  I’m graduating this year with a dual degree in Human Development & Family Studies, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality.

A: {Katie} I am currently a senior working on my degrees in Political Science and History while minoring in International and European Studies.

A: {Dana} I am a senior majoring in Physiology and Neurobiology.  Sadly graduating this year!

Thanks ladies! Now let’s talk about the job!
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Q: How did you get involved as an Ambassador?

A: {Ryann} My first interaction with this office was actually when I became the president of my RSO, Gamma Phi Beta.  I had gone through the RSO trainings but my sorority sister recommended I try for the job.  I can honestly say it was one of my best decisions because I was able to take part in the re-creation of our leadership workshop series and now I get to be the one supporting new student officers in their leadership development!

A: {Olivia} I got involved with the SOSI by working as a Student Admin my freshman year. Often times I would work with the ambassadors and consequently get to know what their job was like. I was interested in having a larger role in the Involvement Fair and by the end of my sophomore year I was ready for a little more leadership!

Q: What do you actually do as an Ambassador?

A: {Ola} Our position varies depending on the time of the year. All year long we meet with new officers who wish to start a new student organization on our campus. We also teach leadership workshops to RSO leaders that help to enhance their skills in regards to running a group. Not only do we teach workshops, but we create them too. At the end of each semester we prepare for the upcoming Involvement Fair! It requires a lot of planning but it is also enjoyable to see our hard work come together for the students of UConn.  As a Student Ambassador your main role is to be a resource for student leaders and help them have a successful RSO.

Q: What is it like working as a Student Involvement Ambassador?

A: {Dana} Working for SOSI is always fun and exciting. There is always something interesting going on in the office. Each day presents a new challenge, but all of the staff are super friendly and always willing to help with anything that you might need.

A: {Katie} Working in the SOSI office is fantastic, the staff and student workers are close and the environment is friendly. It’s more than just an office job; the individuals who work in the office encourage you to strive for your best, encourage you to grow, and are there to help with work related questions and overall life advice.

Q: What is the time commitment?

A: {Ryann} We tend to work more hours the first two weeks of a semester because we teach more workshops then and we participate in running the Involvement Fairs.  Otherwise, the average work week is about 8 -10 hours, which is very manageable with almost any school schedule and extracurricular activities.  Both Dana and I were actually presidents of our organizations when we started!

2016-01-27 15.16.09

Q: What are the benefits of becoming an ambassador?

A: {Dana} I have gained a lot of professional experience through working on fun projects like the involvement fair and creating workshops. Also, a huge benefit is the staff that we work with. All the staff in the office is so friendly and helpful that they make it fun to come in to work each day.DSC_0149

A: {Ola} I have learned more than I thought I would during this job. I have gotten a lot of experience with software such as Microsoft Access as well as InDesign. I also have gained an incredible amount of leadership skills. From teaching workshops to helping individual student leaders, I have learned how to communicate well with all different types of people. I also improved significantly on my public speaking and presentation skills.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: {Olivia} My favorite part of the job is having New Organization meetings. When a student on campus wants to start a new club they submit an application and set up a meeting with us.  I love to see how excited these students are to get their organization started and I get to help support them in their startup.

I have also loved working as a part of the student ambassador team because it really is a team. Collaboration and teamwork are two of the most often used skills you’ll need in this position.

If you are interested in applying for this position, please go to You can find the Job Description as well as apply directly through StudentJobs site for “peer counseling specialist – 352” – the Student Involvement Ambassador.


Have Fun,

and Get Paid

Gain leadership skills  and provide opportunities of growth for your fellow students while getting paid. Find out how here –

My Impact Delta Experience

A guest post by Sydney Morrison, a Leadership Certificate Series facilitator for Impact Delta.


This semester I have the privilege of facilitating the Impact Delta workshop. It was a little challenging at first because I was never a participant in the workshop; however, the topics were not brand new to me. My first experience confronting privilege and social justice was when I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa two summers ago. To say it was an eye-opening experience is a huge understatement.

The evidence of Cape Town’s history was never lost on me. I was able to engage in meaningful discussions about the history of apartheid and the lasting effects it still has today. Also, we were fortunate enough to be able to visit sites such as the District Six Museum and Robben Island that were both impactful and informative. I learned that there is much more to the world than what we are used to or comfortable talking about everyday.

The word ‘ubuntu’ always comes to mind when I think of my time in Cape Town. I learned the word when I first visited several of the townships outside of the city. Ubuntu translates to “I am because you are.” It truly encompasses the importance of community and fits in rather well with the social change model. Having facilitated three of the sessions already I am beginning to see how huge of an aspect the model is to the Impact Delta workshop. It is through working with others towards a common goal, feeling passionate enough about an issue and understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses that change is able to happen.


Opportunity for Growth Through a Job

One of the amazing parts of going to college is the abundant amount of opportunities that you can grab hold of, and run with, while spending time on your campus. For some, that is joining a student organization, going on an alternative break, doing research, or taking part in a variety of programs open for you to attend. For many, that opportunity also comes in the form of a job. Paying for all of those text books, credits, dealing with housing, and feeding yourself, among other expenses, weighs heavily on your wallet. Alleviating that pressure with a bi-weekly pay check makes college life a bit more manageable.

Have you also considered the other potential gains from a job rather than the new money in your bank account?

Finding that Unique Job

At this very moment you will find that there are 523 job openings at UConn. Ranging from basic clerical work to assisting in research in the neurobiology lab. It can be somewhat daunting to find that unique job that not only brings in the money but provides an experience that truly allows you to grow as an individual with an abundant set of transferable skills ready for the real world after graduation. The best part is you can find some of the greatest jobs out there that not only help you accomplish that goal but can be a ton of fun.

Possible Solution

I may be personally biased but I believe Student Activities houses some of those best jobs that you will find on any college campus especially here at UConn.

Hiring_WebBannerFortunately enough for all of you there is currently a set of three openings that not only provide an amazing environment to work in but are all uniquely qualified to assist in you personal growth (plus don’t forget the pay check). You would be doing yourself a disservice for at least not checking out these fantastic opportunities.


For Example, why should you consider working for Four Arrows?

Do you like the outdoors? Have you ever been on a ropes course? Have you taken part in any of our programs here at UConn and thought how does another student have this job? Well you aren’t the first to think up those questions nor will you be the last.  We asked our current student staff a variety of questions to give insight to some of those interested in learning about working as a Four Arrows Facilitator.

Why did you apply for this job?

  • First I get to work outdoors, second I get to work outdoors, and third I get to work outdoors.
  • I completed a program with my learning community and for the first time I had fun with an outdoor experience. I immediately asked afterwards when they were hiring next.
  • It was just so different then all of the other available jobs.
  • I was drawn to the leadership opportunities in facilitation.

What is your favorite part of this job?

  • Work with a fantastic staff which many if not all of us would call family.
  • I get to teach people about everyday skills by just guiding them through an experience.
  • Getting people out of their comfort zones and into their growth zones.
  • Seeing the journey participants go on from when they first arrive to the end of a course and how much growth has occurred for individuals and groups.
  • Building connections!

What is your favorite memory working at Four Arrows?

  • Jumping up the wall and grabbing hands with a fellow staff member was seriously epic.
  • First time completing the trust fall since I didn’t think I could do it but then learning I can overcome my fear.
  • When one of the participants in my group had an Ah Ha moment that I planted a seed for at the beginning of the course.
  • That time I received a hand written thank you card for giving others “the best experience ever”!
Some additional insights from our staff can be found on the Four Arrows Instagram AccountInstagram



Have Fun,

and Get Paid

Gain leadership skills  and provide opportunities of growth for your fellow students while getting paid. Find out how here – 

Everyday Leadership

A guest post by Joseph Ferraro, a Leadership Certificate Series facilitator for Discovery Leadership

When everyone hears the word “leader”, people that come to mind are presidents, famous business people, and activists who gave their lives to for a cause that changed the world. It is true that these people are amazing leaders, but what about the rest of us? Are these people the only ones that can be considered good leaders? The answer is no. Most of the change that occurs in our society is made by everyday leaders, regular people who decide to step up, take charge, and make small differences in the lives of the people around them. Even the most seemingly insignificant act can have a resounding impact on the lives of people we don’t even know.
In Discovery, we watched a TED Talk on the very first day titled “Everyday Leadership.” In this video, Drew Dudley discusses the importance of being an everyday leader. Some people believe that if they are not making a huge change, they are not doing anything at all. The video counters this idea by explaining the importance of “lollipop moments”. In the video, Drew explains that when he was in college, there was this girl who was terrified and was convinced before she even began that college was not for her. Then, right before she was about to leave, Drew came out, handed a lollipop to the boy next to her, and told him to give it to the beautiful girl next to him. Everyone laughed, and she said that it was that moment that made her realize that she could do this and that she was home; a few years later, that boy became her husband. This was a moment that Drew admits to not remembering; even though it was an insignificant act to him, it was a life changing moment for her. Drew encourages everyone to display good leadership practices all the time, because you never know what people will respond to and when your “lollipop moment” will happen.
One of the things that I loved about participating in the leadership series is that they encourage and prepare people to be good, aware, and informed individuals. The skills that I learned as a participant made me more aware of how I communicate and behave around others, and has made me a more effective leader. I know that at any given moment of any given day, I could have my lollipop moment. Encouraging everyone to take on the challenge of being an everyday leader can change the world just as much as a president could. By trying to make small changes in the lives of those around us every day, we as a people can help to inspire real, lasting change in our world.


Recognition: More than Just Gold Stars and Platitudes

The University’s Student Life Awards, which take place in April, recognize outstanding leadership and service by individuals, student organizations, and faculty/staff. Those who are recognized as recipients of the awards and those who are finalists all represent the outstanding values and characteristics of our institution, and more importantly our UConn community:

Scholarship. Advocacy. Innovation. Service. Pride. Community. Leadership.

From personal and academic integrity to the spirit of inquiry, outreach and service, to the celebration of diversity and respect for all individuals, these values have been personified by the actions of students, student organizations, and staff across campus.

Recognition only works when it is authentic, meaningful, and earned. Honors and Awards must be honest expressions of appreciation for a commitment to values, to hard work and effort, or to the dedication of a group to cause. Public celebrations allow the community to recommit to shared values, to highlight the best of us, and to inspire the rest to meet that bar.

Taking the time to recognize outstanding contributions to the University Community is a central responsibility of leadership; one of the five practices of Exemplary Leadership (Kouzes & Posner) is to Encourage the Heart by celebrating our values and victories. We all must take on this practice and celebrate the contributions of our fellow Huskies.

Think about a significant accomplishment that your student organization achieved. What impact did your group have on the community? What cause did you champion? What program was a resounding success? Who led that effort? Who supported that cause? Who worked hard even when no one was watching?

Reflect on your learning community experience. Who impacted your time there? Who challenged you to grow and to develop?

Think about the mentors and role models you have here at UConn. Have you recognized them for the impact they’ve had on you? Have you thanked your advisor lately? Your Teaching Assistant? Your supervisor?

The nomination process for the Student Life Awards is open until February 26th. Encourage Someone’s Heart and nominate them today. The form can be found here.