Spotlight - Hamsini Balaji - Student
July 07, 2017 (Friday)Senior - Biochemistry major
College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
SCLE 4812 - Montgomery Leadership Program - Capstone semester
Semester: Spring 2017
This course features the practice of advanced principles of leadership through class instruction and development and implementation of student-led service initiatives (capstone leadership project).
Comments from Ms. Hamsini Balaji:
1. Tell us about your service-learning project.
My capstone project is a studio based service learning undergraduate course that incorporates healthcare and servant leadership. Students in this class are required to perform a minimum number of shadowing hours in local hospitals under physicians, nurses, PT's, OT's etc. depending on their concentration (pre-med, pre-pharmacy etc.). The students are also required to read a book that is related to the healthcare field which highlights ethical, leadership and administrative issues present in the field. Students are required to work as teams to discuss and present a case study of their choice that is related to leadership, communication and other soft skills required to be a successful healthcare professional. The most important component of all, students were required to reflect and introspect on all assignments and maintain a journal where they answered reflective questions after each shadowing visit to reflect on their experience of that visit. Additionally students were also required to draft out personal statements and receive critique from their peers.
2. What advice do you have for other students considering to take a course with a service-learning component?
I believe that I was able to get the most out of my service learning experience because I was willing to learn. I acknowledged and accepted that there was a lot I don't know and that is not anything to be ashamed of instead is an opportunity to learn and increase my skill set. As part of MLP, I was also required to reflect on my service experiences and through the reflections I was brutally honest with myself. I was made aware of my strengths and my not-so-good qualities. I accepted all of it because I realized that it was the only way I could work to improve on my weaknesses while capitalizing on my strengths. This also allowed me to obtain a holistic perspective of the issues in the community which helped me be a better person and leader.
3. What was your favorite part of the project?
For me, the favorite part of the project was the people who supported me in making this happen. Mrs. Carmen was the first person to hear the idea and she helped me work with a timeline and maintain consistent, persistent efforts to make it happen. Dr. Ashli Brown took up this project and was the professor who facilitated the class. This class requires a lot of discussion and introspection and the students who took the class were absolutely wonderful. They opened up and we had some really thoughtful and eye opening discussions.
4. Name something that you have learned (as a student) through your work with service-learning.
As part of MLP, I was given the opportunity to serve three different groups in the community. During my first semester at MLP, I served middle school children with the Transformers program at Armstrong Middle School. Alongside, I learned basic leadership theories starting from great man theory to servant leadership while reflecting and introspecting about my leadership style and thoughts before, during and after my service. During my second semester, I served intellectually disabled residents at a day care nursing home while mentoring a group of six freshmen. This was by far my best semester as I learned by service how to be compassionate, empathetic and lead with the intuition in my heart. This service was supplemented by learning why people follow, analyzing my strengths and personality traits as well as realizing how to tie all of this into my style of leadership. Most important of all, I learned how important it is to balance my logic and emotions when leading people because if I did not approach the team with empathy and compassion I would not be able to attain their trust which is the most important component of leading. Similarly, if I don't know when to be practical and rational then decision making and problem solving as a team would not be efficient.
I also learned how important it is to realize when to step down from a position of leadership. During the planning stages of my capstone, I worked behind the scenes with Dr. Brown who went through with the paperwork and represented the project to university officials. This was the best decision I took during the planning stages because some aspects of the course were out of my scope as a student and I was happy to hand it over to Dr. Brown who led the approval and the facilitation of the course.
5. Highlight a specific aspect or moment from this experience that prepared you for your future career.
Before I was part of the MLP program, I used to think that involving emotions while leading was a sign of weakness. This thought changed when I served intellectually disabled individuals at Caring Days. Every time I was there to serve, there was nothing but a smile on the faces of those residents. They loved having my team and I spend time with them. As cliche as it sounds, this really warmed my heart and without really realizing I was connecting with them personally and I looked forward to spending time with the residents as well as my team. This moment hit home to me that leadership requires the balance of knowing when to be empathetic and when to be rational. This changed my approach towards my team as I was able to motivate and empower my students by accepting them for who they were because each one was unique and awesome!