Culver Academies Leadership Education Instructor Nancy McKinnis and Culver Girls Academy Leadership Team Leader Angie Strobel ’98 were originally to present on CGA’s leadership program at the National Coalition of Girls Schools’ annual conference in Philadelphia on June 24.
But when the conference turned into a virtual program due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCGS asked if they would cover how CGA moved the leadership education model online.
After brainstorming with some student leaders, Strobel and McKinnis recorded a 40-minute presentation featuring senior Cady Clark (Minneapolis, Minnesota), junior Sherry (Yichen) Xie (Shanghai, China), and sophomore Sophie Nash (Columbus, Indiana). McKinnis and Strobel introduced the video and were available to answer questions following the presentation.
Each girl covered the general leadership responsibilities at the senior, junior, and sophomore levels, and how some leaders adapted to fit the unusual circumstances of being together online for meetings but apart for daily routines like meals, room inspections, and study periods.
Clark, who was the CGA Council chair during the time period, talked about the “organic growth” that occurs under the leadership system, allowing the girls to take on more responsibilities as their knowledge grows.
Specifically, she discussed how different committees adapted to their new roles. One example was the wellness committee posting tips on staying well physically and mentally on Schoology. Another was the safety and security committee making announcements at the weekly dorm meetings on how to stay healthy and safe at home.
The seniors spent their time helping prepare the juniors to take over this fall and educated the freshmen on what happens at Culver during the spring, she added. The seniors also shared their feelings about missing their final spring during a special online “coffeehouse” session. “We grew together and grieved together,” Clark said.
Xie said the juniors worked with the seniors on the leadership transition for the fall and focused on “our strengths” during this time. That work included devising the vision and goals for the coming school year. She also talked about the Asia/Pacific students and her responsibilities as one of the hosts of that group.
For Nash and the sophomores, their time was spent learning more about their upcoming leadership responsibilities. This included interviewing for their respective positions next fall. Normally done face-to-face, the interviews were conducted online, she explained, which some of the girls found easier to do. During the virtual dorm meetings, the girls devised various ways to stay connected. One dorm downloaded a star-gazing app on their phones, which allowed them to find constellations and planets together.
The girls also reflected on how their leadership experiences have changed them personally. Clark said she has been able to overcome her introverted tendencies. Xie explained that she has learned to become a better listener. Nash said her leadership style has gone from “overbearing” to being a more thoughtful servant leader.
Clark summed up the session, saying CGA members will become leaders when “they take advantage of the opportunities.”