Leadership Development

Leadership Lecture: The Dirty Dozen

As shown in a previous post, I attended a conference at Great Wolf Lodge with my LAS Cohort and some amazing staff members. This conference was the 2016 Connections conference, and it exposed us to many ideas, taught us useful skills that we could bring back to CMU, and helped us make new friends.


One of the sessions I attended at Connections was titled, “The Dirty Dozen.” This was an interactive lecture presented by the lovely Erin Smith-Gaken. In this session, Erin told us all about the twelve ways we justify our bad behavior. She gave us remotes to use during the session, and she put up a powerpoint and had us enter in our answers to the questions she was asking us. For example, Erin asked the question, “If you went into a grocery store and realized-as you were unloading the cart into your car-that you forgot to ring up a Vitamin Water, would you go back inside and tell someone?” We all entered our answers into the powerpoint, and she showed us the results. Most people said that they would not go back in and would just continue unloading the cart, while a small percentage of people said that they would go back in the grocery store and pay for the Vitamin Water.

Now What? This survey made me really stop and think about things. First off, not paying for the drink is stealing- but we would justify the fact that we “stole” the Vitamin Water by saying that we already left the store, and that it is too much of a hassle to go back inside. Second, I realized that our minds try to get us to rationalize anything that we do with logical reasons so we don’t feel bad about what we’ve done. Erin told us the top twelve ways that we rationalize our mistakes, and it was crazy that almost everyone could relate to most, if not all of them. It made me realize that sometimes I need to take a step back and understand that it is okay to make mistakes, because everyone is human. Heck, making mistakes makes us human, and we need to learn to accept them rather than try to justify them so we don’t look bad. I really connected with this session, and I even find myself (to this day) thinking about The Dirty Dozen.

Leadership Training

Making Connections

On November 4th, 2016 I headed up to Traverse City, Michigan for the Connections Conference. The two hour bus ride flew by, and everyone was super excited to visit the Great Wolf Lodge. After unpacking our things and settling into our hotel rooms, we had an opportunity to explore around the hotel. We went to the front desk and got a free pair of wolf ears, met Wiley the Wolf, and hung out by the fireplace and caught up with friends in our cohort.

Soon after we explored, the conference began. We received a name tag and a booklet with a schedule of activities in it. We were then sent to our first session, which was written on our name tags. My session was titled, “Coles Institute”, and I got to introduce myself to several new people. We did an activity that included thinking about what assets you bring to the table regarding culture, institutes, organizations, etc. It was such a cool experience, as I was able to hear everyone’s different ideas.

After meeting with our institutes, we went to dinner. We had to sit with the certain colored sticker that was on the back of our name tags. Personally, I absolutely loved this idea. Although it may be awkward to sit at a dinner table and make small talk with strangers, it’s also a ton of fun. I sat at the black sticker table, and I felt the energy radiating off of the people from the minute I sat down. We had no problem at all making conversation, and I got to meet people who are studying the same exact program and major as I am. I love making new friends and branching out, and that’s exactly what I had the opportunity to do!


After dinner, we had a few hours of downtime to check out the waterpark. My roommate Allie and I went down all of the waterslides and had a BLAST doing so. We walked around the water park and got to float down the lazy river and relax. After going to the waterpark, we had leadership “Speed Dating” in the conference room. This was an activity that pushed you out of your comfort zone and required you to introduce yourself to new people and find out some really cool things about your new friends. Speed dating wrapped up the end of the night, and we danced to music and then headed to the lobby to hang out. Instead of just going straight to bed, I got to sit down and chat and catch up with a few friends from my cohort that I didn’t usually get the opportunity to talk to. I was so genuinely happy while talking to everyone, and it made me smile to see everyone sitting around the fireplace, listening to music, sharing jokes, and watching videos. I felt so much closer to my cohort, and that was such an awesome feeling.


In the morning, we went to breakfast and then headed to two different sessions. The two I had before lunch were called, “The Dirty Dozen” and “Netflix and No Chill”. “The Dirty Dozen” was an interactive presentation that listed the twelve excuses we tell ourselves while making immoral decisions. Both presentations were fantastic, interactive, and super informational. I felt so inspired after these presentations, and I could honestly say that they were my favorites of the day. We then moved on to lunch and two more sessions. The third and fourth sessions I attended were titled, “Leadership Through the Eyes of Disney” and “Leaders In Action: Implementing Emotional Intelligence Strategies”. I thoroughly enjoyed the Disney presentation, and I was left singing Disney songs for the rest of the day.

After all of the presentations were completed, we did a debriefing session with our institutes, packed up our bags, and headed back to CMU. Most of us slept on the two hour ride home, and a few of us watched the movie that was being played on the TV screens.

Now What? Reflecting back on Connections, I had an amazing time. I learned so much and took away valuable information that I can apply to my other classes and to my community at home. I also got to talk to friends in LAS that live on different floors that I rarely get to talk to, and I am so thankful that I was able to go. I am excited to take the skills that I learned from this trip and apply them to activities in the classroom, such as intertwining leadership skills with things we do in our everyday lives while also presenting things that people can relate to. I love learning about new ways to be leader, and I love meeting new people. Connections really helped me branch out and -dare I say it?- kindle new connections!