Week 8: The End

It is hard to believe that it is all almost over. 8 weeks seems like such a long time; looking back it was some of the fastest weeks of my life. Having not previously done research, the hardest part for me was to learn the process and methods of doing formal research. Learning how to research was one skill that I will be able to carry with me forever. The most exciting for me was to meet with all the accomplished alumni. They all had a uniquely refined point but the same underlying message. 

            I learned important networking and interviewing skills that will be applicable to my future. Knowing how to conduct myself and handle business interviews will be very helpful as I look for the job that will make my career.  I have been able to hone both my research and leadership skills. This has been done through peer review, group experiences, and mentorship. Without my fellow cohort and the excellent leader we have had, I would not have gotten as much out of this experience.

            The single most important thing that I will take away from this program is that prioritizing and goal setting will allow me to accomplish anything I set my mind to. I learned how to prioritize and manage my time, so I would not fall behind. Prioritization is applicable to every single aspect of my life, both personally and professionally. I want to thank everyone on the McKearn staff, John and Cassandra McKearn, and all the alumni that we visited to make this program possible. Without their vision and support to create a program such as this, I never would have had the experience of a lifetime.

That’s all for now.

-J.A.K.

Project Reflection

The biggest obstacle/challenge that I have encountered up to this point in my project has been time. Time seems to be slipping through my fingers; it is now week 7 and definitely crunch time. I feel confident that I am on schedule, but I also realize that it is going to be a long few weeks. As the program continues, I am learning to manage my time better and use it more efficiently.

My mentors have been extremely understanding and patient with all my questions. They know what it is like to be stressed and nervous about project completion, as they have all been through it before. The other Fellows in the program have also been invaluable to me. Without them being there to listen and talk to, I don’t think my project would have come this far along as well as it has.

I am most proud that all the interviews I have conducted and the conference I attended will have real meaning in what I hope to accomplish. It is a great feeling knowing that all the hard work I have put into this project is going toward something useful in the world. I am most nervous about presenting my work; I hope my presentation can do all the work I have put into the program justice. I have learned that although I had previously lacked formal research experience, I am adjusting quickly and learning. Through this program, I have learned how to research and I hope to continue to apply it in the remainder of the program and in the future.

-J.A.K.

Leadership Reflection

The section I chose to examine is “Encourage the Heart”. For me, this is the most difficult of the 5 practices and the hardest one to change. Knowing how to express my gratitude toward others for a job well done has always been a challenge for me; sometimes I just do not know what to say. I need to work on this aspect of leadership development, as I am only now realizing how important of an aspect that it is.

This program is helping me realize that encouraging the heart is a necessary step to being a successful leader. Having nine other people in the same position that I am in helps greatly when I need encouraging; I hope I am learning to reciprocate encouragement. People need to feel connected to one another. That is the function of this leadership practice: to make connections between people.

We recently attended a workshop put on by Dino Martinez called Leadership Academy. In this workshop, we examined each of the 5 leadership practices and worked on how to incorporate those into our own leadership style. He answered any questions or concerns that we had, and went into detail about each practice. He helped us gain an understanding of what type of leader we want to become, and how we can achieve that as we develop personally and professionally.

The McKearn Fellows Program, while allowing us to develop our own research programs, also helps us develop personally and professionally. They are helping us to become the leaders of tomorrow, which is something that I strive for. I hope that as the program continues, I learn just as much as I have so far.

-J.A.K.

Retreat Reflection

Hello friends,

I would like to start by thanking everyone involved in setting up this weekend: the McKearn team and everyone that staffed the Laredo Taft grounds.

One lesson that I experienced over the past weekend was the necessity to sometimes do nothing. The past few weeks have been stressful at times, and this retreat was exactly what was needed. During one of the workshops, one of our graduate assistants (Stephen Strader) said, “You can’t eat the whole elephant”. Sometimes, it really is necessary to just take a step back, break things down, and relax. To me, that was what this weekend was all about.

This lesson is applicable to leadership because leaders must realize when breaks are necessary. If breaks are not taken, people are more likely to burn out and not work effectively. Group dynamics will be much more positive with an understanding leader; this understanding can include everything from being a fair leader to knowing when it is time for a break. That is why this weekend was very valuable to me. It is easy to lose sight of your goals if you don’t have a chance to step back and take a few breaths.

The McKearn staff that set up this weekend retreat planned it well. We are half-way through the program, and our entire cohort needed repose. The workshops sprinkled in were enough to keep our minds fresh and active, while at the same time improving our writing and presentation skills. Being out in nature and away from where we work was much needed. I hope that I do not forget the lesson I learned that intermittent breaks are acceptable and actually necessary. This will prove valuable as this program and life goes on.

That’s all for now folks.

-J.A.K.

4: Project in a Nutshell

Hello friends,

My project focuses on the creation of a business plan (more specifically a fundraising model) in a nonprofit setting. I am using water purification in Haiti as a case study to fit into my template and collect research. My research can be applied in the real world by anyone that wants to get involved; it is set up so that anyone can pick it up and start their own fundraising campaign for a nonprofit cause. It is going to explain step-by-step how people can engage their local communities to potentially make a global difference.

One of the sources I will be drawing from is the book Guerilla Marketing for Nonprofits, by Jay Levinson, Frank Adkins, and Chris Forbes. This book describes over 200 ways that nonprofit organizations (or in this case anyone wanted to be involved with nonprofit work) can use to market their cause. These guerilla tactics are often cost-effective and focus on relationship marketing. Relationship marketing is forming a personal relationship with a potential donor; this is from where much nonprofit support is derived. I plan to use many of the ideas in the book and build them into the fundraising model I am creating.

The book accesses many Internet-based forms of marketing and communication, which I feel are somewhat lacking in existing nonprofit fundraising models. Explaining everything from marketing on the Internet to creating a nonprofit website to social networks are things that this book does very well. The information from this book as well as my project in general is presented in such a way that it could be easily understood by a general audience. Concepts that may seem abstract or foreign are explained so that no previous experience is needed to understand or act upon the information presented.

That’s all for now folks.

-J.A.K.

Ethics in Research & Life

Hello friends,

Ethics are how people behave in accordance with a code of conduct; at least, this is what the dictionary states. Can ethics actually be defined, though?  Can this black and white definition be applied to the very grey world? To me, an ethical person must do whatever they think is morally correct, especially when it is difficult. Following a code of conduct is how ethics works, but it can also be the source of a dilemma when a moral conflict arises.

Ethical business practices are very difficult to maintain considering many businesses will act unethically if it means turning a profit. As an employee, there is an obligation to the company oblige the shareholders. However, I believe there is also a moral standard to which one must adhere. As we heard from Jess Jankowski of Nanophase Technologies, running an ethical business actually keeps it running smoothly. He was able to create an atmosphere in which every employee feels comfortable and is able to operate efficiently and ethically. It was inspiring to see a CEO with that much passion for ethical business behavior.

I will ensure ethical conduct in my research by reporting what I actually find, and not what I want to find. As we discussed in ethics training, finding data that may not fit your model should not be excluded or ignored. That data that does not fit, even if it may seem insignificant, is just as important as the data sought after in the first place. In the future, I will likely be face with an ethical dilemma where turning left means loyalty to a moral code and turning right means loyalty to a company. I hope that when faced with such a decision, I am able to make the ethical choice and do what is right for me.

That’s all for now, folks.

-J.A.K.

2: Etiquette Training and Excursion

Hello friends,

The etiquette training that we went to was incredibly informative. I honestly thought I knew a good deal about business lunches; the questions of how to dress, what to say, and what to do were not ones that I was worried about. I did not realize how much I had yet to learn. I was never nervous, but once I realized how much I had to learn I knew I had underestimated business etiquette. Liz Bochman is very experienced and provided a wealth of information to us. I felt comfortable once we got into the lunch room and started to interact with the alumni; I feel in my element when in a situation like that. The alumni were very understanding and knew that many of us were nervous and had never previously had an experience like this.

 

The McKearn team that made this possible truly gave us a gift. This is not an experience that many college age students have; I am truly fortunate and thankful. The skills I gained through etiquette training will help me exponentially later in my life. I want to go into sales, so having these skills will be invaluable as I continue developing myself and my career. Having lunch on the 80th floor of the Aon Center was an incredible experience. It is still hard to believe that it actually happened. Learning how to properly conduct myself in a professional setting is not something that I could have learned in a classroom. The real world experience has allowed me a view into the future, and how future leaders are formed. Learning how to interact with alumni now and clients in the future will allow me to become a leader. Leadership is formed from experiences. After all of the experiences that the McKearn Summer Fellows Program will provide me, I will be prepared for the future.

 

That’s all for now, folks.

-J.A.K.

1: Light A Spark

Hello to anyone reading this!

My name is Jeff Kamholz, and I am participating in the McKearn Summer Fellows Program. In its inaugural summer, the McKearn Summer Fellows Program provides me with the opportunity to research a field I am very passionate about. Without this program, it is unlikely that I would have this opportunity. The program made me feel welcome by introducing me to the other members of the program (other Fellows) with whom I share similar academic and personal interests.

There have been several influential people that have helped me get to this point in my life. One of the most important people to me during my first year at NIU was Dr. Christopher Jones. I took one of his classes, and even after I talked to him often. He recommended that I apply for the program, and fortunately I was invited to join. Dr. Jones will be at another institution next year and I wish him nothing but the best. My parents were also extremely supportive of this program, and always have been of me. They offered to help in any way possible, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

Some words of encouragement that I want to share may seem cliché, but very practical and applicable. After hearing about the inspiring and incredible plans that other Fellows have, I just want to remind everyone not to give up. We were selected to this program for a reason; the University believes in us, and we should likewise believe in our own abilities.

To me, leadership is practically immeasurable and cannot be quantified. However, there are certain qualities in true leaders that stand out. One of these qualities is empathy. A leader must know what it is like to be led before he or she can truly become a great leader. I also think that a leader must lead by example. A leader that is not willing to do something designated to someone else is no true leader. I believe that I am a confident decision maker, and this allows me to be a strong leader. I will be working on empathy during this program; I will learn what it is like to follow, and hopefully use this knowledge to develop positive leadership skills. This summer is going to be a great experience in not only research, but also personal and leadership development.

That’s all for now, folks.

-J.A.K.