The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors Program Kick-off Proves a Resounding Success

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This ongoing series shares the experiences of participants and facilitators in D-LAB (Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors), a student-facilitated program designed for first-year students to discover the relationship between leadership and personal values.

So what does baking a cake have to do with leadership? I know of no better person to ask than any of the 70 freshman who gathered in Fahey first floor last Monday for the inaugural session of the Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors (D-LAB) Program. D-LAB, a new student-facilitated initiative co-sponsored by the Rockefeller and Collis centers, offers first year students an opportunity to engage in profound self-reflection and discussion.

Following dinner, the '17s divided into groups according to their dominant personality type represented by the colors: blue, green, orange and gold. These personality types were based on the True Colors ™ personality type test, which participants took at the time of applying for this program. True Colors ™ is intended to help people understand themselves and others according to their temperament. With one blank sheet of post-it paper and a couple of markers, each group set out to complete their task and share the results. The only instruction they worked with was determine “How to Bake a Cake.”

Regan Plekenpol ’17 was taken by surprise by the hands-on approach of the program.

“I came in thinking it was going to be a lecture or seminar of some sort, but the session was interactive and engaging,” Plekenpol said.

Mundane as it sounds, baking a cake reveals more about leadership than you ever thought. Across the different personality groups, diverse group dynamics emerged. The blues made sure everyone’s voice was heard, the orange group quickly finished the task and began conversing about something else, the greens were quite meticulous in their presentation, while the gold flourished in their efficiency.

“It blew my mind how the description [from the personality test] matched my group dynamics,” Plekenpol remarked, adding, “it was spot on.”

Another participant, Neil Kamath ’17 commented, “Although it was generalist in nature, what struck me the most was how much the characteristics rang true to each group.”

Participants then formed groups of seven to mix up personality types. Guided by two facilitators, each group spent some time reflecting on the activity and the importance of understanding one’s personality. From this reflection, Kamath learned that “people are a combination of different styles,” adding that he was impressed by how quickly the group was able to create a safe space free of judgment.

“I feel it is more of a discussion, not a mere debate,” Kamath remarked.

Such a space inspired Alexis Wallace ‘17 to make a commitment to be more aware of how she interacts with others.

“I’m going to be more conscious of how I interact with others and hopefully develop the capacity to adjust to different styles whether in group work or eventually in medical school,”  Wallace reflected.

The first D-LAB session ended with participants reflecting on possible areas where they can apply what they learn, especially about themselves. For Kamath, this program is more than a resume builder.

“I’m coming to this program not because I’m getting any certificate of some sort, I’m coming to improve and learn more about myself and how I can effectively contribute towards change in my community,” Kamath said.

So, what does baking a cake have to do with leadership? It’s all in understanding attitude and behavior.

--Andrew Nalani '16, D-LAB Student Facilitator

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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences