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 North American Leadership Institute

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2007 Program Evaluations

The North American Leadership Institute provided me with an opportunity to become a better leader in the struggle to defend human dignity by means of the classes, the cultural experiences and the friendships I forged with everyone who I met.

The philosophy classes allowed me to consider and question the reasons that I believe in the dignity of each person and, therefore, be able to share this information with anyone who asks me about it. The leadership seminars allowed me to learn first hand how to practically apply my own values in the world. These values are difficult to live, but that is what makes them even more necessary. They were my favorite classes. The Mazahua culture classes helped me to see another culture and how people who may live completely different realities are actually not so different. They deserve the same respect as everyone else. Legal history was very interesting to see how the history of Mexico has affected the people, culture and country.

Most importantly, by living with a group of people from many different cultures and backgrounds I was able to see each one as a friend and “another self,” as Aristotle taught us. We will always find differences in some things, but when it comes to what is important, we are all people who deserve to be treated with the same love and dignity.
It is now my responsibility to be a leader in our world, sharing what I have learned and helping others to see themselves in each person they encounter.

Third Year Biology Major, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
  I've been meaning to write and thank you for the marvelous course you organized in Mexico. I learned very valuable lessons that will help me with my everyday life and my improvement as a person. (…) The philosophy classes were really intense and those discussions helped me to discover new insights about human dignity. Those classes were not easy for me, but they were most instructive. I also had a great experience during the five-day visit to the Mazahua communities along with the great members of our group and program staff.

First Year Economics Major, Universidad de Anahuac, Mexico City
  There are some leaders who don’t know how to live with other people. There are leaders who don’t know what it means to be a friend or even a member of a family. This course has helped me to understand what it means to be a real leader. Real leaders are the ones who deal with everyone as persons with dignity and rights.(…) Part of being a leader is to give your entire self, dedicating your own life for others.(…) This course has taught me to live with my new friends as members of my own extended family.

Third Year Philosophy Major, Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City
  This is my seventh year as a Campus Missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students and my four year as a team director. It was good for me to take time away from ministry and to reassert and refocus what it takes to lead people. Spending time with some of the brightest upcoming leaders in Canada, Mexico and the United States helped me to reinvigorate my desire to serve; not out of duty and obligation, but out of love and honor. (…) The social melding over meals and class time helped, in more than one regard, to broaden my borders.

Graduate in English, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska
  Human history is full of great leaders who have pursued different goals. For example, we have Mahatma Gandhi working peacefully for the independence of India or Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., struggling in the same fashion for an end to racial discrimination or Mother Teresa of Calcutta serving the poorest of the poor. Their common greatness as leaders may be attributed to three characteristics: first, the complete gift of themselves for others, second, a common effort to defend human dignity and truth, and third, unconditional love for others.

I believe that the North American Leadership Institute has a profound commitment to promoting these three characteristics among the participants. Everything about the course was intended to help us grow deeper in these themes, be they the classes, the philosophical and pedagogical concepts, the diversity of ideas and openness to dialogue, the interactions with the Mazahua indigenous community and the leadership training.

Third Year Architecture Major, Universidad Anahuac, Mexico City
  The North American Leadership Institute helped me to become a better leader in many ways. By working and studying with people who I had never met, I became challenged to work out various differences and to accept and embrace our similarities as well. A leader needs to make situations as pleasant as possible for all involved. This program helped me to get a better understanding of that. Our Leadership professor taught me how crucial it is to treat others in the workplace like humans and not simply as workers. He also insisted on the fact that one’s family is more important than any job or line of work. In addition, our Mazahua professor demonstrated to us by his passion and integrity that leaders should take risks when their cause is noble.

Sophomore Legal Studies Major, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  My experience at the North American Leadership Institute has been one of great growth and joy. From day one as I arrived to the Mexico City International Airport the Mexicans who greeted me were welcoming and informative. Their immediate friendship increased my desire to gain a deeper understanding of the Mexican culture and to work on my own leadership skills.

Reading, contemplating and grappling with the ideas of great philosophers and visionaries is necessary for young people to better equip themselves as well as for their own intellectual and personal development. This has been the case for me. In my own experience, logic and reason are potent tools in defending truth. Perhaps the only tool greater than these is example. Understanding who each one of us is our purpose in life. We need to gain the necessary attributes so that we might fulfill our vocation. By practicing virtue we help to bring about a culture of dignity.

The academic aspect of the course greatly contributed to my development as a person. However, it was during our visits to the rural indigenous communities of the Mazahua that I realized their unequal status and lack of opportunities. These people are too busy surviving to have the spare time to philosophize about the dignity of the person. Instead, they went about living this ideal by means of their generosity and kindness to us.

Thank you to the North American Educational Initiatives Foundation for this wonderful experience of learning and growth. I have been challenged to incorporate virtue, friendship and leadership in my everyday life.

Third Year Fine Arts Major, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick
  As a student of philosophy, the leadership course proved to be a very enriching experience especially because we were constantly being challenged to put what we were learning into practice. This happened during our daily conversations both in and out of the classroom and whenever we were serving one another. Amidst this cultural and personal fusion, I observed that despite our many differences we shared a common goal, namely, an openness to true dialogue. Regardless of our country of origin, everyone came to a better understanding of the importance of the “common good”. We also learned that achieving human excellence involves both an individual and a social commitment to justice, charity and truth.

Graduate in Philosophy, Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City
  Most of my life I have committed myself to developing skills and abilities. Our leadership professor challenged me by means of his anecdotes and principles of behavior that technical skills and knowledge are only one half of the characteristics needed to lead successfully. In addition, we must develop the “soft” skills or competencies that engender healthy human relationships. While it requires much effort to acquire these habits, this course has provided me with ample motivation. For example, emotional intelligence, one of these competencies that is vital to true leadership, will not only yield tangible success, but it will also foster a truly human community.

Upon finishing this course, I am encouraged to lead people rather than manage them. I hope that a greater understanding of both the practical and theoretical sides of authentic human leadership will help me to lead people towards the common good such that they will flourish.

Graduate in Economics and Philosophy from Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas
  Concepts such as philosophy, legal history, Mazahua culture and leadership training don’t seem to be related. They appear as separated realms of knowledge, especially if you want to become a better leader. The truth is that these concepts can work together to make you a better leader, maybe not in a complete way, but almost.
With regards to philosophy, a good leader is someone who seeks wisdom and truth. He should be striving to achieve the common good. Our course on legal history of the indigenous peoples of North America helped us to learn about previous mistakes committed by our forefathers. The course on Mazahua culture and language made us more sensitive to the experiences of this oppressed and marginalized community. The leadership course reinforced the ideal that the most successful leader is he or she who conscientiously treated fellow workers as valuable organizational assets.

Third Year Philosophy Major, Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City
  Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermo-dynamics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

What is a leader? Is a leader the Jewish David, courageously leading his people into battle? Is a leader Nelson Mandela, passing 20 years in prison on his “long walk to freedom” not only for himself, but also for his fellow countrymen? Is a leader the single mother who raised Canada’s Michael Lee Chan, the man who today has risen to speak to the needs of his native Jamaica?

Regardless of your own personal definition of leadership, the principles of Solidarity and Individual Virtue are a prerequisite for quality leaders. The North American Leadership Institute has a unique perspective in this respect. Here at the Institute, leadership is interwoven with the themes of Friendship, Family and Community.

The Course approaches leadership from two directions, an academic component, designed by a well known American Philosopher, and field studies. The academic element starts with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It then walks each student on an intellectual journey through the ideas of our society’s thinkers and leaders. These are men and women engaged in the struggle for an equal and just society. (…)

The balance of courses in Philosophy, Mazahua Culture and Language, Legal History of Mexico and Leadership seminars keep these studies practical and, for the most part, relevant. While each professor was excellent, many students believe that our Leadership Seminar professor speaks most deeply to the necessity and viability of personal integrity.

The final five days of this course were dedicated to field studies. Here students study an entirely different kind of leadership among the rural Mazahua people of Mexico State. Of course, every experience was different. For me, the first day was spent tending to a field with a lady who once had a much larger plot, however, she has recently developed diabetes, a common ailment in Mexico, and was now too old and too sick to work hard any longer. Her field was meager, as was the crop. It was with Iloilo and her grandchildren that I learned to re-attach the splintered handle of a hoe, using scrap wood and a rock. They also taught me that chickens are easier caught by children than adults. I was reminded of the importance of the universal language of soccer and playfulness.

The second day was passed embroidering, horseback riding, and searching for wild mushrooms with a family who remarkably managed to live quite cleverly on one hundred pesos a month. They spoke about the low market value for their wool, milk, eggs and beef because of the bureaucracy in municipal government. This small family had obvious talent. The father is studying agriculture via an Internet university and is highly knowledgeable, particularly in regards to nature. His wife embroiders traditional designs on bags, cloths and clothing.

On the final day of field studies, our team visited a community of silversmiths. It was in this community that the spirit of solidarity and leadership found its purest illustration. Here in the “town of silver” family homes and workshops are combined. My host, an artisan of considerable ability, told our team that they no longer have to search out markets for their intricate earrings, which, incidentally, can take one to three days to complete a single pair and more if the design is particularly complex. Merchants know about this band of artisans, in person, or by fax and phone, international buyers now come to them.

If there where one conclusion to be drawn from these studies, it would be the simple, self-evident statement that leadership takes on many forms. The overall challenge of this North American Leadership Course is to develop virtue in the participants and to help us recognize that community makes us stronger. Perhaps human dignity can be nurtured through developing a simple awareness of one another and a willingness to look for ways to encourage. Be the Change you desire to see in the world. Mahatma Ghandi.

Graduate in Communications, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
  This coming fall I will be assuming several leadership roles at my university. Coming to the North American Leadership Institute has helped me to prepare for those tasks. Take, for example, my founding and directing a new “Ethnic Culture Club”. By means of this organization, we will bring together and celebrate all of the cultural diversity at DeSales University. We will discuss different events and backgrounds of these cultures so as to better understand each other. With the leadership classes, I have learned what characteristics I must have to become a better leader.

As the founder and head of this club, I will have to help my peers understand my vision of bringing each human being at our university together as one community. By learning the culture and language of the Mazahua indigenous people… and by spending quality time with them in small groups or by myself, I have grown in my respect for other cultures as I have become more open to their traditions and languages. Culture is to be a key feature in the “Ethnic Club” and learning the Mazahua culture has helped me to experience first hand what I want us to be learning together.

Lastly, my favorite class was philosophy because it reminded me that a leader has to begin with self-respect. We must understand ourselves and our virtues before we become authentic leaders. I have discovered how to become a good leader by reading documents written by great thinkers such as Aristotle and Martin Luther King, Jr. Good leaders must first of all be good persons. No matter where we come from or what our background may be, we are all human beings who have a purpose on Earth. We must always respect one another. Thanks to the North American Leadership Institute, I can spread these tips and characteristics to my university and peers through our “Ethnic Culture Club”.

Sophomore Dance Major, DeSales University, Center Valley, Pennsylvania
  During our classes and activities in Mexico City we prepared for our five-day visit to the Mazahua villages three hours north of the capital. We hoped to arrive not just with nice ideas and feelings, but with the cultural and linguistic tools that would enable us to practice what we preached. Happily, the Mazahuas received us into their homes as Aristotle’s “other selves” rather than foreign tourists. (…) I think that every leader should become aware and respectful of the many cultures that surround his or her own community.

Third Year Philosophy Major, Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City
  2005 Program Evaluations  

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