Make Your Mark

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October 9, 2020

College is a laboratory to learn skills that you’ll use your whole life. Denison offers first-year students the opportunity to develop leadership skills to implement their personal goals throughout four years of college through the D.U. Lead program. Malina Infante ‘24 shares her experience.

Why is it so cold? I wondered, unable to cross my arms as I carried my journal, my clunky water bottle, my phone, and my gift bag all in my hands. My bright orange t-shirt was failing to conserve my body heat, and at 8:30 in the morning, I really wasn’t in the mood to be shivering.

In all honesty, it was probably around 68º Fahrenheit. But that day it felt undeniably chilly to me. So not only was I going to have to spend at least 12 hours at this program, but I was also going to have to be cold the entire day as well.

It’s safe to say that I didn’t have the best attitude as I entered Moon Hall to attend D.U. Lead. In normal years, D.U. Lead is a three-day intensive program for first-year Denisonians to begin to answer the question, “How will you Make Your Mark?”

The students get to leave campus and partake in a weekend full of games, large group discussions, and small group activities all centered around developing strong leadership habits. And it’s all free of charge! But in the time of coronavirus, no such retreat was possible. So instead, the D.U. Lead participants were divided into half and the entire program was crammed into a single day.

To put it simply, it was quite the day. From the early hours of the morning until after dark, I was a member of the “Orange Club,” also known as “Denisorange:” ten first year students, including me, as well as two upperclassmen leaders, Libby Dickerson ‘21 and Chris Zhu ‘23.

I don’t know if we were all extremely tired or just feeling somewhat awkward around one another, but Denisorange was incredibly quiet at the beginning of the day. Only Rese Rauch ‘24 was truly willing to step up and answer our leaders’ initial questions. So much for a group of leaders, right?

The group dynamic began to change once the socially distant games began. We started to laugh, we became more vocal, and, without realizing it, began to work as a team. As we attempted to transport “chicken” balloons with thin sticks and worked to decode the pathway through the dot maze, Denisorange was unknowingly functioning as one.

The day wasn’t full of sweet group camaraderie, however. There were times when we went back and forth in our small group discussions, and even times when we openly argued with one another. There were loads of disagreements in the college admissions exercise, and it was almost impossible to come to a group consensus during Win As Much As You Can. Every member of the group had their own opinion and at times it was difficult to listen to arguments.

All of these different activities ﹣the small group discussions, the games, the larger group gatherings ﹣were designed to take us on a journey to become active, responsible, and effective leaders.

While we were only participants in this program for a single day, we emerged from it having a new understanding of what a true leader should look like. We grew into leaders that valued the 7 C’s of Leadership for Social Change: Citizenship, Collaboration, Common Purpose, Controversy with Civility, Consciousness of Self, Congruence, and Commitment.

And at the very end of the day, we proudly proclaimed our newfound leadership goals, our Mark Mantras, to the entire group. We learned what is truly required of a meaningful leader, and we committed ourselves to becoming such leaders during our time on The Hill.

I’m ready to begin.

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