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Thinking Globally and Acting Locally

GTI group 2016

Hannah Shapiro, a junior Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology major, with a concentration in Conservation Biology, recently spent a week at the Global Leadership Institute (GTI),  a workshop bringing together student leaders from a variety of countries for an intensive week of leadership training and cross-cultural exposure.  For Shapiro, the experience was very enlightening since she had never worked or learned about how to be a successful leader in a cross-cultural context. “As a conservation biology major, I want to travel the world, but I hadn’t realized how different working with another culture was until I participated in this program,” she said.

As an active student leader in the Leopold Wildlife Club, FER Scholarship recipient and a former Engaging Leader, Shapiro is invested in developing her leadership skills and hopes to use her knowledge from the GTI experience in her new role as an advisory board member for the Engaging Leaders program, where she works regularly with other members to shape and grow the Engaging Leaders Program.

Tell us about your experience with the Global Leadership Institute. The Global Leadership Institute was a 1-week program where 22 students from NC State, Zhejiang University (China) and SKEMA Business School came together to participate in a leadership program. The purpose of this program is to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses as leaders and to provide hands-on training in cross-cultural management and communications. There was a lot of team building exercises both inside and outside of the classroom. We went to the NC State Ropes Course at Schenck Forest, volunteered at the Goodwill Community Farm, went to Centennial Campus to talk with the VP of ABB and visited the Sonoco Recycling Plant.  We also had multiple workshops given by NC State’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics, and Public Service (CSLEPS), the Office for Institutional Equality and Diversity (OIED), and the Shelton Leadership Center that focused on everything from cultural sensitivity and diversity, persuasive communication, goal setting, and learning how to work with people from different countries.

One of the most important things I learned during this program was that it is always possible to learn in any experience.  I have had a lot of leadership training in the past, so I was skeptical that I would gain anything substantial from this program. However, being with the Zhejiang students and learning about leadership together taught me a lot about how to become a more well-rounded leader. Despite some of the workshops being the same as previous experiences (e.g. goal setting, strengths test, etc.), the context in which I learned the information transformed the experience.

What did you enjoy most about your experience? The toughest and most rewarding part of this experience was creating a video project with a group of NC State and Zhejiang students. On the first day of the program, we were tasked with creating a video project that would encapsulate what we learned throughout the week. The project groups were picked based on our leadership strengths. While it was great being a part of the workshops and team building activities, it was amazing to be able to practice what we learned. There were many obstacles our group faced. The most recurrent obstacle came from what we considered to be consensus. The NC State students were fine when the majority of our group agreed upon an idea; however, the Zhejiang university students wanted all group members to agree. I personally was not used to this type of group work, and I had to adapt how I usually work on group projects to accommodate this unique culture. I originally thought that meeting people from another country one day and then a week later presenting a project with them was overwhelming; however, the dedication, patience and work-ethic that both the NC State students and Zhejiang students showed was unlike anything I had ever seen.

Would you recommend your experience to other students? I would highly recommend this experience to other students. There is a good chance that no matter what job you are in, you will have to work with someone from another country. Throughout university, there are very few opportunities to learn about how to become a global leader, and to actually practice the skills it takes to become one. Getting to learn about the differences between Chinese and Western culture as it specifically relates to leadership and group work was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had to this point.

Would you recommend your major to incoming students? I would highly recommend my major to incoming students. Many people don’t know that NC State has a Conservation biology program. I have talked with many people in Zoology and Biology who said that if they knew about my major, they would have surely switched. The faculty and staff in my major are all extremely supportive and knowledgeable in their respective fields, the classes prepare anyone for a diverse array of careers and the extracurricular opportunities are plentiful and rewarding.

Any advice to incoming students thinking about your major? I would let people thinking about my major know that Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology is one of the most hands-on majors on campus. Both my major and the College of Natural Resources in general makes sure that its students do not leave with only theoretical information, but that students have gained practical skills that will aid them in their careers. I would also advise people that my major has a lot of opportunities, from clubs, classes, research, and internships; and to take advantage of as many as possible. Although doing well in classes should be a priority, it should not be a sole focus. Participating in a diverse array of experiences is what will ultimately lead you to discovering your career path.

What do you plan to do after graduation? After graduation I plan on attending graduate school.  My goal is to have a career researching and developing community conservation plans that help solve human-wildlife conflict.

How has your student experience prepared you for life after graduation? Attending the Global Leadership Institute allowed for me to see how important cross-cultural leadership training is, so I plan to seek out more opportunities to build my communication and leadership with different cultures. It will also help with my life after graduation because I have gained an awareness for cross-cultural sensitivity that I did not have before I participated in the program.  I plan on going to graduate school and both my major and the College of Natural Resources have given me plenty of opportunities to conduct research, which is an essential part of applying for graduate school. I participated in the Bahamas study abroad program, and from it, I published one paper and another is in review. I am also presenting at The Wildlife Society Conference in Raleigh. Without the support of the faculty within my major and the college, I would not have the knowledge nor the confidence to pursue either of these avenues.