A concept that I’ve found myself thinking a lot about as I’m undergoing the final weeks in my Junior Year at Columbia are what’s shaped me as a person up to this point. How have these things affected my values? My goals? How much have I really changed since starting high school? How about college? In the past year? How about this semester? Am I progressing towards my personal and career goals? What am I doing to make myself a better person than the day before?
It’s a lot to grapple with — and those are questions I need to answer within the next five days, since that’s when our Leadership Profiles are due for the semester. One aspect of this assignment is a project we had to do earlier in the semester; and that’s a Journey Map. I had a love/hate relationship with this project, because although I’ve done a handful of different things that has shaped who I am today, it was hard to decide the few things that have had the biggest impact. (But honestly, probably my favorite part of this assignment has been hearing my classmate’s journeys. Man, I go to school with some awesome people).
Well, I narrowed it down to 12 things. Not too bad, considering I filled up a page originally. So in order to fill my blog with more content, and to prove that I’ve actually been doing quite a bit of writing this semester and I’m not just neglecting y’all, I figured I’d double-dip.
Anyway, stay with us —
Spring 2006: What’s For Breakfast
The local radio station in Grand Rapids, MN has a segment on the Friday morning show where they talk to members of the station about their breakfast. One day, my mom was supposed to be on… but long story short, this became my first time being on the radio. This led to filling in for the “Mom of Pop Culture,” co-hosting the Friday morning show throughout middle school, getting my own segment (“Erika’s iPod Pick”) in high school, and programming/hosting 3-hour music shows once a week throughout my Sophomore and Junior years. Eventually leading to…
Fall 2012—Spring 2013: Senior Year
Most of my senior year was spent Interning at Northern Community Radio. This is where I was introduced to live radio variety shows, hosted more specific programming, and interviewed “celebrities” such as author/vlogger John Green, Minnesotan YouTuber Luke Thompson, and a live session with the local band The Half-Eaten Burritos. In the early winter of my Senior Year, I also flew down to Atlanta for an audition with a drum corps I admired. I learned a lot about myself and what I can accomplish at this point in time, and it was a defining period for my work ethic development and learning that I can do anything I set my mind to.
March 2013: Receiving the Presidential Scholarship
Columbia was the dream college, but the price tag was beyond terrifying. When our family received the award letter that I had been granted the Presidential Scholarship, that’s when the price tag of college became a little less scary, and affirmation started to sink in that I was on the right path. I sent my acceptance to the school three days later.
Summer 2013: Spirit of Atlanta (1)
Touring for the summer immediately after graduation was the best way I could have spent my time. At home, I was a fish in a small pond, but Spirit introduced me to a lot of things. I was forced to think in different ways, process information quickly, and learn to put my personal feelings and problems aside for the betterment of the group. Spirit is the first place I truly encountered diversity and had to figure out how to make the best of bad situations, and helped me learn that I definitely prefer to be optimistic in all situations – while still being realistic.
Fall 2013—Present: Columbia College Chicago
One of the most defining things in life for most people is college – and I’m no exception. Columbia is a huge price tag, but it’s also afforded me so many different opportunities I don’t think I would have had at a traditional college. I’m still a year out from graduation, and have a lot more time to grow, but looking back at who I was before Columbia is like black and white… But allow me to elaborate…
October 2013: Great Northern Radio Show
Almost right after moving to Chicago, I was offered the position of Associate Producer with a traveling radio variety show based in Northern Minnesota – The Great Northern Minnesota. For my Freshman and Sophomore years, I’d find myself traveling a lot between MN and IL for the show, but so worth every trip. Being Associate Producer, and eventually taking over as Stage Manager as well, taught me so many skills, tactics, and gave me an idea of what it takes to put on a quality production. Most of all, it gave me more of an idea the direction I wanted to take radio – and eventually led to the addition of a Business degree in my studies.
Summer 2014: Teaching, Marching, Interning
This period of time was a ton of leadership development. Maybe I didn’t see it at the time, but doing this reflection… it’s a lot. I spent most of my time interning with Northern Community Radio, continuing with GNRS in my still-new role, I taught two color guards, and I ended up spending the last half of the summer traveling to the Twin Cities to take the field with the DCA corps Minnesota Brass. I learned a lot about time/money management, I worked hard at everything I was involved with (it’s hard not to when you love what you do), and found it difficult to find a dull moment. I traveled around the country quite a bit, too — not to the extent of drum corps, but it’s safe to say it was just as much of a learning experience.
November 2014: Iceland Airwaves
One of the most notable classes I’ve taken while at Columbia is Covering International Festivals: Iceland. Not only did we spend a week in Reykjavik covering an International Music Festival (scrambling to meet deadlines, doing all of the necessary work to prepare, and develop our writing skills), but we were also responsible for producing four separate stories — which eventually turned into a class collaboration project of an hour-long audio documentary. I served on this project as an Executive Producer, and I learned a lot about breaking the art form of radio down to other people who aren’t as familiar with it, and working with them on a project of this magnitude.
Spring 2015: SGA Executive Board Election
Student Government has played a huge role in shaping the leader I am today. Although I had held various “Leadership roles” throughout high school and early into my college career, this was the first time I had really stepped out of my comfort zone and started to dive into issues that really matter – including going to Lobby Day the day after being elected as the VP of Communications for the Executive Board for the current academic school year. SGA has been a place where I’ve been able to explore my leadership style and figure out how the skills I have can work in a real-world setting.
Summer 2015: Spirit of Atlanta (2)
The time period is labeled as summer, but I’ve never worked as hard for something in such a short time period as I have to be able to spend these three months with the team in baby blue. Between 19 credits at school and working 45 hours a week in the SP15, the summer following with 16-hour rehearsal days seven days a week seemed easy. Being a part of the 2015 production with Spirit really put to so many skills I have developed so far in my life to the test. I worked so hard to remain positive, even though the corps was barely scraping by and sometimes there wasn’t enough food to go around. I stayed patient with new members and did not feed into the pettiness that surrounded me. But most of all, I learned what it truly means to work as a team – as a family.
November 2015—Present: SOA Mentorship/Fitness Program
Currently, a project that has been taking up a lot of time is the leadership-team developed project to help with member retention for future years of Spirit of Atlanta. The timing of this project is special, because we’re on the cusp of the 40th Anniversary Season; and I’ve found myself in a leadership class. Being able to translate a lot of the ideas and concepts we’ve covered in class right away in real-life, personal situations has helped me “grow” even faster, I think, and reflecting back on how big of a project this is and how much I’ve really learned from it so far and so quickly is really special.
January 2016: EuroTrip
On a whim, I registered for another class that has been a defining class for me at Columbia. Covering Europe: Ireland meant two weeks in Dublin, with a free weekend open for travel. This trip put my self-accountability to the test the most. We were pretty independent, but I wanted to blog the entire trip, and stay on top of other work, as well as the course load. Although we had a lot of fun, it took some extra work and discipline to stay on top of the work at home. And stay in shape just enough to complete (and actually PR) in a half marathon the weekend we got home. Some leadership was involved, too, since I was visiting drum corps friends in London, I taught a day-long color guard clinic to Liberty Drum Corps in Northampton, England halfway through.