When Kim Keefer, director of Furman’s Shucker Center for Leadership Development, decided in the fall of 2015 it was time to replace the five-day Outward Bound Wilderness Leadership Program Shucker Fellows had long attended, Disney’s Youth Education Series seemed like the perfect direction to turn. And it was—only maybe not right away.
“We were first-timers last year, and though the students enjoyed the trip, they were also critical of the class content. They did not take as much from the experience as we felt they should have,” Keefer said. “We decided, this year’s group needed to be better prepared to receive that great Disney teaching content.”
To ensure that would happen, Keefer charged her Shucker Lead Team with developing a more comprehensive plan for the Shucker 2016 Disney Experience. Student Director Lexie Harvey ’18 and Assistant Director for Programs Jackson Pearce ’18 led the revitalized planning effort. They were more intentional in selecting Disney sessions that would be a better match with the SLI mission, and students were required to read and pass a test on Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, written by Lee Cockrell, who has been responsible for guest operations at Disney World for 10 years.
“That was a step toward mentally preparing this group for what they were about to experience in the classroom sessions at Disney,” Keefer said. “Jackson in particular spent a lot of time on that. He really held the group accountable on the front end for being prepared. This time around we took a group that was primed to embrace the teaching content so they would be better able to apply it to their own leadership development journey.”
Disney’s College Education Programs are part of its Youth Education Series. Twenty-four sophomore Shucker Fellows led by three Junior Fellows attended three workshops including Leadership Strategies; Techniques of Teamwork; and Creativity: A Leader’s Role. For Chambers English ’19 the emphasis on effectively communicating your ideas was particularly relevant to the work he is doing for the Shi Center for Sustainability, the Mere Christianity Forum, and his Shucker Leadership Challenge Project.
“Communication has been the focus of our Shucker class and for me as an individual because without effective, consistent, and personal communication any effort is bound to fail,” he said. “Communication, while it’s really simple and really broad, is one of the Disney principals which can lead to innovation. It’s one thing I’ll definitely be taking from the experience.”
“Words of appreciation can go a long way and help encourage everyone to put their best foot forward,” Marina Sorial ’19 added.
Approaching leadership with imagination and effort is a concept Caroline Daly ’19 brought back to South Carolina.
“I learned the importance of stepping up rather than just showing up. To be a good leader you have to be willing to jump in and lead by example,” she said. “I also learned why creativity is such an asset and how purposeful delegation can get a task accomplished efficiently and well.”
For Laurin Bixby ’19, allowing the entire group to participate in the team’s direction is a critical first step for the person in charge.
“I loved focusing on the idea of sharing the vision in order to establish consensus,” she said. “Sharing the vision often seems to be brushed over in an attempt to get down to business.”
Sessions ranged from two to five hours long, leaving plenty of time for fun in Disney’s theme parks, and the Fellows got first-class treatment while staying at the All-Star Sports Resort.
English, an environmental science and philosophy major from Macon, Ga., said an alumni networking event on the trip’s final day was as useful as the Disney activities.
“Monday night we went to downtown Orlando and met several dozen Furman alumni from the area. Some drove two-and-a-half hours (to get there),” he said. “I had a long talk with an alum who is an attorney about different perspectives on environmental law. As an environmental science major, I often only look at the protective aspect of environmental law, but his experience also showed the importance of defending corporations who might be wrongly accused of violating environmental or human rights. Definitely an interesting interplay between law and policy and scientific research, which is a theme in the courtroom. It was a great evening.”