The following blog post by Sophomore Ariel Arellano testifies the impact Wakonse Conference had on his leadership growth. Ariel was selected by the Leadership Program Staff to attend the conference because of the initiative he took to get to know his professors at UT.
I was told that an experience like Wakonse could never be explained and that I just had to go. That couldn’t have been more true. However, I will do my utmost to try and describe my journey at Wakonse without giving too much away. As soon as I arrived, the scenery was surreal. The Michigan wilderness was incredible, and the camp was situated by a lake which made it all the prettier. But that’s not what made this place amazing; it was simply the setting. I had an open mind coming in, but I didn’t expect Wakonse to change the way I thought of myself or approached situations in life, but I gained this knowledge and so much more.
A couple of things I learned on this trip: the power of reflection is underestimated, and professors want to hear from their students. I had never really thought about reflection as a useful tool to analyze my strengths, fallacies, or a situation. At Wakonse, they made you do it for just about everything and I realized that because of who you are, you do things without thinking. Your actions are instinctive and to really understand what you did right or wrong, reflection is essential. There were many times on this trip where I thought, “Man I did a good job.” Only to reflect on it a couple of hours later and think, “Well I did some things right, but I could improve this.”
The other important takeaway was professor interaction. I remember the Wakonse staff telling us that we would lead professors, most of which had some form of doctorate, in team building exercises. I thought, “Great. This is an opportunity for me to embarrass myself in front of people who teach me and let them correct me in everything because I’m not intelligent enough to lead them.” I could not have been more wrong about what happened. From the start, they were actively participating and being very encouraging to us. Afterward, they told us they had learned a lot, and it was just a shock. It was a moment of connection that can’t be experienced anywhere else. If UT faculty were to attend, I think it could give them a very different perception of who we are as students and what we want from them and what they want from us. Just about everything I learned at Wakonse can be applied in McCombs and the rest of UT. It would bring fresh new perspective and positive changes.
The whole Wakonse experience was just phenomenal. I wasn’t expecting any part of it. It was a weekend full of being out of your comfort zone, but I wouldn’t have wanted to it any other way. And through it all, you have this amazing group of people experiencing the same situations with you. In those 7 short days I created lifelong friends and relationships that will never be diminished. I will always carry the memories from Wakonse and they will be forever ingrained. With all that being said, if someone asks me about Wakonse, I’ll just laugh and say, “It’s hard to explain, you just have to go.”