Thursday, Jul 09, 2020

A Few Clouds, 92 °F

Definition of stewardship

The Ohio Fellows developed a definition for stewardship and engaged in a service and stewardship project, which taught them how to design and envision a positive and lasting impact and how to create a life of stewardship.

Photo courtesy of: Chris Fowler

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Fellows Program students learn leadership skills at Grand Teton National Park

Anyone can take a class, participate in a webinar, or read a book on leadership and walk away feeling more knowledgeable and enriched on the subject. However, not many can engage in a hybrid experience of lectures and studying in the field amidst endless blue skies, acres of greenery, troves of wild animals and gargantuan mountains.

Students from the Ohio University Fellows Program were among the few to gain such an experience. From May 1-8, 10 students grouped with Chris Fowler, director of the Ohio Fellows Program, and Peter Mather, interim dean of University College, trekked across the country to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Amidst the mountains of Grand Teton National Park, and teamed with the Teton Science Schools (TSS), the students studied leadership as it pertains to systems thinking and an understanding of ecological systems.

Students in attendance included: Liana Carsner, Spanish and moderate-intensive education needs; Delaney Dixon, global studies – War and Peace; Zaya Gillogly, HTC, social work; Sydney Joslin-Knapp, HTC, studio art, graduated spring 2016; Brett Maszczak, media arts and studies – integrated media; Tonny Michel, accounting and business pre-law; Mikala Perry, nursing; Kalen Robeson, HTC, biological sciences; John (Peter) Rouseau, HTC, business administration; and Selena Walsh, HTC, communication studies.

The students were welcomed by Ralph Haberfeld, a 1969 Ohio University graduate and Ohio Fellow, and his wife, Louise Haberfeld, a donor who helped to relaunch the Fellows program. The couple assisted Fowler with planning the experience and provided funding for those in attendance.

They began their week by watching “Arctic Dance” at the Haberfeld home. The documentary is about Margaret “Mardy” Murie’s life and legacy as a conservationist and her work, which led to the founding of The Wilderness Society.

“It was an excellent way to start the week. The evening helped students to gain an overall understanding of the importance of conservation and were able to meet and talk with alumni from the original Ohio Fellows Program,” Fowler said.

The film would act as foreshadowing, as the Fellows later visited the Murie Ranch, where they met with current conservation leaders. The National Historic Landmark is home to The Murie Center of Teton Science Schools and is open to the public for tours.

Murie Ranch was just one of the many exposures the students gained while studying with the TSS. Each day of the trip was themed and accompanied by an exercise, activity or hands-on experience out in the field. In the evening, the cohort returned to camp where they tied their daily events into a leadership lesson, Mather said.

“We were looking at how, from a leadership standpoint, it’s helpful to think about systems and the interdependence among different parts of the system. We were using that particular system as kind of a metaphor for organizational systems,” Mather said. “Basically, we were busy all the time – either we were out in the field learning, in a lecture environment or we were eating or sleeping.”

Mather said anytime there’s an opportunity to step out of one environment and spend time learning in a new environment, especially one with a hands-on learning approach, it’s very evocative for students and provides a way to broaden their educational horizons.

“Having that kind of hands on experience – we did things like one day we did a high-ropes course and some low-ropes so we had kind of experiential aspects of education. That’s really helpful, having that experience and tying it to theory so that blend was meaningful,” Mather said.

The daily themes included:

  • Nature as a foundation for leadership thinking
  • Natural and Human Systems are Dynamic
  • Applied Leadership for Personal and Group Development
  • The Crucible for Conservation. Historic and Current Leadership at Jackson Hole
  • Applied Leadership in Community
  • Transference: connecting back to home

The goal of the program was to engage the students in their thinking on the world around them, to teach them how they can use what they see modeled in ecosystems to reflect inwardly, and to create a conversation on how they can apply what they’ve learned outwardly in the form of leadership.

For example, following a wild fire one day, the students observed the remnants and learned which trees will grow back after a fire, Fowler said. It was a way to demonstrate the trees’ resilience, adaptability, and perseverance in the face of a fire – this prompted a time of self-reflection for the students to think about how well they persevere, adapt and are resilient.

“It was a way to know that one person can make a difference. Also to look from your own perspective of being more aware of yourself and how you fit within a greater system,” she said.

Adaptability was a necessity for the trip, as the students ranged from having no camping and outdoor experience, to some who regularly camp and backpack. Additionally, many of the students didn’t know one another before going on the trip. However, despite the novelty of the trip, the students went in with a positive mental attitude and left richer because of it, Mather said.

“I didn’t hear a single complaint through the entire experience,” Mather said. “I think the students were not only engaged, but they went into it very openly and without a lot of preconceived notions about the experience so they left it very enriched, but it’s because they were very involved and enthusiastic in it throughout.”

Dixon said she went into the trip with no expectations as she’d never traveled west of Ohio. In that, she said she gained closer relationships with the other Fellows, she learned how to be a leader in different situations and settings, and it gave her a new appreciation for the Earth and her surroundings.

“I was truly, deeply moved by the trip, the faculty, the alumni (Ralph Haberfeld and his wife), my fellow members, and the Teton Science Center faculty who helped with the trip. It was such a collective effort where everyone put 100 percent in and it made the experience go beyond my prior expectations,” Delaney said.

Although this was the first trip of its kind for the OHIO Fellows Program, Fowler said they plan to make it an every other year opportunity for those in the program, to continue to build the connection with Haberfeld and the collaboration with the Teton Science School.  

The OHIO Fellows Program, originally named “The Ohio Plan” in 1964, was discontinued in 1970 and reborn in 2012 after Ohio Fellows alumni discussed the idea of restarting the program and contributed funds to do so. The program operates with the goal of molding selected students into better leaders.

The Teton Science School was founded in 1967 by Ted Major, a science teacher who wanted to provide a way for students to learn in nature. TSS now has five campuses and seven programs with the aim of educating, inspiring, and training individuals of all ages.

Group shot Grand Tetons

Group photo of the Ohio Fellows and their professors in front of the Grand Tetons:

Back (L-R): Brett Maszczak, Sydney Joslin-Knapp, John (Peter) Rouseau, Tonny Michel, Mikala Perry, Kalen Robeson, Delaney Dixon, Selena Walsh, Pete Mather.

Front (L-R): Zaya Gillogly, Liana Carsner, Chris Fowler.

Group on the beach

The Ohio Fellows spent time journaling. They synthesized personal experiences, developed personal belief statements, reflected on personal goals, and created action plans while sitting by the Snake River.

Selena Walsh speaks with Jon Mobeck

Student Selena Walsh, who is interested in political communications, spoke with Jon Mobeck about his career at the Murie Center. While there, the students explored the ranch and discussed diverse solutions to complex and controversial ecological issues from different leadership perspectives.

Students discussion

Two local leaders in the field – Jon Mobeck of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and Lisa McGee, Wyoming Outdoor Council staff member, discuss current conservation issues on the front porch of the Murie Center. Home of Olas and Margaret “Mardy” Murie, the Murie Center is a National Historic Landmark and the birthplace of the Wilderness Act.


Students have helmets at ropes course

Ohio Fellows Selena Walsh, Mikala Perry, Delaney Dixon and Tonny Michel pose at the high ropes challenge, where they worked together as a team to build strong communication skills to solve direct problems, which were presented on the challenge course.

Snake River beach

Ohio Fellows pose in front of Snake River.

Back (L-R): Tonny Michel, Peter Rouseau, Zaya Gillogly, Mikala Perry, Pete Mather, Kalen Robeson.

Front (L-R): Brett Maszczak, Chris Fowler, Sydney Joslin-Knapp, Selena Walsh, Liana Carsner, Delaney Dixon.

Challenge hike

On the seventh day, the group embarked on a challenge hike in Grand Teton National Park. Ohio Fellows were challenged to choose a route which would take them to the highest point. Students used maps and compass orienteering, hiked off trails and navigated challenging terrain.

High ropes course

Students engaged as a team on the low and high ropes elements at Teton Science Schools’ Doug Walker challenge course. At the course, they learned to become more self-aware and aware of others as they engaged in an experience meant to stretch their comfort levels as an individual and as a team.

hands on project

On the sixth day of the trip the group participated in a “hands-to-work” project with a local partner to directly impact a positive change in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Pictured (L-R): Tonny Michel, Brett Maszczak, Sydney Joslin-Knapp, Peter Rouseau, Delaney Dixon, and Mikala Perry.

Talking to students

Matthew from Teton Science Center discusses how ecological systems at the Tetons respond to change over time. This sparked a discussion on how human systems respond to change over time. Students were asked what adaptability and resiliency look like in both ecological and human systems.