Indiana University Northwest is dedicated to creating a culture that is rich in diversity, intellectual development, and opportunity. It is an institution that is in constant pursuit of knowledge and new ideas, and above all the betterment of its community. This was evident in a meeting on November 20 at the John W. Anderson Library Conference Center.
It was the Chancellor's Commission for Community Engagement Meeting, and community leaders, business owners, and other engaged individuals came to take part in the meeting of minds. The premise of the meeting was to focus on creating and maintaining skillful involvement in the realm of leadership in order to shape and support the future economic, social, and environmental health of the surrounding communities.
Lunch was served to all who attended, and during that time IUN's Chancellor William Lowe welcomed everyone and started the meeting off.
"Civic engagement has been a continuing theme of our Chancellor's discussions," Chancellor Lowe said. "As you recall, IUN was a sponsor of the Indiana Civic Health Index in 2011 and since then discussions have focused on civic health. We devote a great deal of civic attention attention to the future of Northwest Indiana...There is a new generation of regional leadership emerging who will bring their own perspectives, commitments, and energy to enable Northwest Indiana to avoid the well-traveled cul-de-sacs and show us ways in which, together, Northwest Indiana can position itself for a future in which shared values help us to embrace change for its power to transform communities."
A panel of young leaders from Northwest Indiana were brought to the front of the room The panel personnel were: Alfred Martin of Urban Suns Community Development, La Porte Mayor Blair Milo, Andrea Proulx Buinicki of Giving Focus, and Daniel Timm of Comtineo.
Moderator for the discussion was Joseph Ferrandino, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at IUN, and the topic under discussion was "Collective Leadership for NWI: Young Leaders Reflect on our Region's Future – A Discussion with Recent NWI 20 under 40".
Two questions were posed to the panelists, and they each had time to answer aloud to the group. The questions were:
- What are the most significant social, economic, personal, and community challenges to effective collective leadership and how do you work to overcome those challenges?
- How can the community better support a collective leadership approach that will simultaneously promote growth an equity?
Alfred Martin's answer: "One of the things that we have to realize when we talk about overcoming these challenges is that we have to have real doubt...and we talk about 'real' is when we talk about conviction, when we talk about things that stop the growth like: we're not affiliated with the same party, you're not in my tax bracket, or you're not my skin color. But when we talk about a progressive way of thinking and being progressive in change, you have to be able to work with people from different walks of life. And for one thing as a region, we have to have a region mindset. What can WE not I do? As a coach, I say, 'There is no I in team.' So we have to adopt that type of mindset and philosophy. But do we? We can have these panels and ongoing discussions, but if we're not doing whatever it takes collectively... I have a saying: Don't talk about it, be about it. You talk about trying to achieve all of these goals, but what are you doing to get there?"
Daniel Timm's answer: "We bumped into people who didn't want to let chance be effective. We have great resources in this region, we have a beautiful lakeshore that not only benefits tourism but business as well, and we have a great transportation infrastructure. We're close to Chicago an if anything is going to go through the country, it's probably going to go through Indiana. We have all of these positive things, and our own minds are stopping us from changing. There were people who are hesitant to give up leadership roles...and we have all of these great role models to look to not only in Porter County but in Lake and La Porte Counties. It's just a shame to me that we have all the opportunities in our hands, and the region is an amazing place, but it could be so much better if only we could all just put aside our differences and work together to effect the change that we know needs to take place...It's hard enough to find young people that want to lead, and fur us to turn them away that really when they want to change things is a real disservice to our region. Putting aside our difference and working together is important and when we find a young person who wants to lead, we need to foster that."
Mayor Blair Milo's answer: "It's important that we address the challenges that we face overall, but too often we place too much emphasis on the challenges that we face. They are always going to exist, but I think that they present opportunities for us to have some chance to earn some success in different areas where we want to gain achievements. I see challenges as opportunities for us to grow in different ways. You're giving them too much credit to them as negatives where they are really more like chances for us to grow overall. Are there areas for improvement? Absolutely. But my philosophy has been to try and address the the things that are going well and continue to try and do more of those things so that then it starts to expand and address those challenges without giving them more credit then they are really due. From my perspective, I try to approach things as: how do we keep growing from here? At a recent TEDx presentation we talked about how we can grow as a region and progress as a region particularly in the idea of being a happier region overall. The idea is that happiness is a deep-seated, long-lasting feeling of contentment more than just a spurt of what I refer to as 'joy'. Something like when you win the lottery or the big game, that happiness is not long-lasting and there will be something to replace it. If you help to create that feeling of happiness and make people feel happy overall and you have growth for a region from that happiness by focusing on areas of earned success...and then also the chance for individuals to add value to the world around them...This empowers each individual person's passion area and allows them to add value to all these different subsets. The adds to individual contentment. You can create a region where people want to come and be part of things because they feel that they matter and that they've made their mark on this world...We can address a whole host of issues just by empowering individuals."
Andrea Proulx Buinicki's answer: "When I got the invitation in the mail to be on this panel and I saw the questions that we had to answer I thought, 'How am I going to comment on this?' I was scared. And so I did my research so I could find out what our biggest challenges are...There is no shortage of good ideas and there is no shortage of resources...maybe there is a shortage of progressiveness, maybe there is a shortage of creativity, maybe there's a shortage of leadership - I don't know. But there is certainly a lot of stuff out there that we can use to make a difference. So what are the barriers? Shared vision and fear. We all have great ideas and great actions, and it takes us that little extra push of getting over our fear in order to do something about it. 100% of what we want for our region is just outside of our comfort zone...every single human being, everyone who causes trouble, everyone who provides a solution, at our core we desire transformation. The solutions to the barriers is: do it afraid and pick something great that we can all agree on and worked on it. What if we all got together and concentrated on one thing that would contribute to the betterment of our region?"
All of the panelists provided thought-provoking ideas and answers to the tough questions asked of them. The young leaders of today can and will have a great impact on what happens tomorrow if we just listen to them and shout them out instead of shut them down.