Hello! My name is Davis Cousar, and I just graduated from Furman this spring. One of the organizations that I was most heavily involved with at Furman was the Shucker Leadership Institute. Shucker is a two-year leadership program for first and second year students that is designed to give students an opportunity to explore their individual strengths as leaders, engage in meaningful collaboration with the Greenville community, and connect to other leaders across Furman’s campus. I was a Shucker Fellow, and after I graduated from the program at the end of my sophomore year, I remained on the leadership team and served as the student director during my senior year.
If you are interested in learning more about the program and what each year entails, feel free to check out the website. Rather than giving you all the details of the program in this blog post, I wanted to use this platform to provide three lessons that I learned while being a part of the program.
One of the most important lessons I learned is that leadership isn’t about having all the answers. During the sophomore year, Shucker Fellows participate in a Leadership Challenge Project (LCP) where they partner with a community organization and work with a faculty mentor to address a systemic issue in the Greenville community (topic areas for these projects include environmental protection, education inequality, criminal justice reform, and more). Through my own LCP where I worked with a community organization to address education inequity, I learned that it is the people closest to a systemic problem that usually have the best ideas about how to solve that problem. However, it is easy for the educated, community service minded students to feel that they have the best solutions based on the most complex academic studies. However, my project taught me that it is so important to listen to community members in devising a solution. Real leadership should be about empowering the people who are often silenced, not about raising your own voice.
Second, and going off the point above, Shucker taught me that leadership isn’t about rising to the top but existing in a community where everyone empowers each other. When I was in high school, I thought that leadership was about being the strongest and smartest. Through being a part of an amazing group of 28 fellows in my class and also working with the classes below me, I learned that leadership is about being vulnerable and uplifting the others in your community to inspire them to make change. Leadership requires gentleness, selflessness, and listening. Often, it is the people who you would least expect who make the best leaders.
And the last lesson I will share here is that everyone has the potential to be a leader. Leadership isn’t about developing the typical traits of a leader but rather finding the qualities that you already possess and thinking about how they can be leveraged for the common good. Shucker provides so many great opportunities for reflection about this idea.
Shucker was such an amazing organization for me, and I will think about the lessons I learned from the organization for many years to come. The application process occurs at the beginning of the fall semester right when students get to campus, and I highly recommend applying. I actually almost didn’t apply (and had to write my whole application the night before it was due-oops!) because I didn’t want to add too much to my schedule at the beginning of college. However, Shucker only takes 1-2 hours per week, and it is fun! I made some of my best friends through the program, and applying was one of the best decisions that I made throughout my college experience.
Davis Cousar ’20