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Time 15:59


Alumni Profile: Mary Taylor

Livestream 2016

Author: Isaiah Allen

Mary is from Elgin IL. She attended the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her professional career has taken her from Minneapolis to Cincinnati and to Detroit. Her work has been focused on student success with an emphasis on high school and college students, and facilitating inclusive, diversity and equitable learning spaces, with an emphasis on social justice. Mary is currently working in Student Affairs for the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor as a Program Coordinator and Success Coach; where she provides holistic coaching and one-on-one mentorship to first and second year students, assisting them in navigating various aspects of the university, and diversity and inclusion trainings to office and student staff throughout the year.

Mary and Isaiah (STLF’s Executive Director) talked on the phone for this profile, here is their conversation.

Isaiah - When and where did you participate in STLF?

Mary - My first STLF experience was a High School PIF in 2008 at Elgin High school. I was also a High School Camp Participant, a PIF Tour Participant at the U of MN, Camp Crew, Co-Directed High School Leadership camp for 3 summers, Glory Days Camp, and lead a bunch of High School tours .

Isaiah - What is one of your most significant memories of participating in STLF?

Mary - I don’t think I can pick just one, I think there are two that are really significant. First, being a camp participant. The camp was at UW, Menominee. There were a group of us students from  Elgin, which is suburban Chicago. At the camp there was also a group of students from North Lawndale, which is an urban neighborhood in Chicago. I felt very empowered at that camp. I remember meeting new people in a way that I hadn’t before.  One of the leaders, Danny Walter, was an incredible mentor. I remember him showing the camp crew how to be role models and vulnerable as leaders. He modeled for me how to share words of wisdom that make an impact.

The second experience that is really significant for me was Hamline Camp. There were about 100 students from rural and urban contexts coming together and forming relationships across racial differences. When it came time to leave camp none of us wanted to leave those connections. It was an experience for me that I felt focused on revealing leadership and building relationships. It seemed to be that many of us were  allowing people to see who we were for the first time.

Those experiences built a foundation for my professional work in diversity training.

Isaiah - How does your STLF experience impact you today?

Mary - I build on those camp leadership experiences. They still function as a foundation for my current leadership expressions.

My STLF experiences have enabled me to see the power of servant and community leadership. STLF has a unique model of pushing the traditional boundaries of what leadership looks like and that has empowered me to think about leadership differently. My STLF participation also inspired me to pursue of leadership minor at UMN. As a result I’ve become a leadership nerd.

Being involved in camps and PIF Tours also gave me an understanding community support and advocacy as expression of social justice. When it comes to service and activism, it also trained me to think in terms of giving to community identified needs rather than supporting externally prescribed solutions.

As I work in student services, I am looking potential team members through the lens of who is engaging in community service activities and who is not. I often ask myself why do some people not engage in service with vulnerable communities while others don’t? How do those experiences build people’s capacity to serve in other ways? I see a value in service and find myself seeking out staff who have participated in like minded diverse and inclusive programs.

I’ve also found the STLF practice of brainstorming around the question, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” to be a useful tool as a creative educator. It is both inspirational and motivational.

There is also a significant impact to being connected to 33,000 incredible other STLF Alumni. I value being connected to a long-term network of positive, change oriented, passionate, compassionate people. I rely on the STLF community for support in all parts of life.

Isaiah - What is the Alumni Board?

Mary - An organization of passionate alumni who are eager to make the STLF alumni experience the best and most relevant it can be for alumni of all ages and backgrounds.

Isaiah - Wouldn’t it be cool if...

Mary - The Alumni Board is able to cultivate sustainable ways for STLF alumni to re-engage with the organization in ways that are meaningful to them. Allows for skill sharing, funds-raised, community broadening and networking time invested in STLF.

Isaiah - What is a favorite program moment?

Mary - The first time I was notified that had been selected for bus core. I remember being really excited. And being a director at camp while my brother was attending Gap Camp. Being able to share those STLF experiences with him has been great because it meant so much personally for both of us. I got Chris started in STLF, now he’s been involved in way more programs than I was. I think it’s great that STLF has meant so much to us both and that affected our whole family. I remember my mom would go to parent meetings and try to convince other parents to send their kids on STLF programs.

Isaiah - How are you paying it forward now?

Mary - I see myself paying it forward as a higher ed profession my passion. STLF helps young people realize  that they can change the world and make a difference. STLF did that for me and I work to help other young people see that they can change the world and make a difference. I am paying it forward by success coaching in 1st and 2nd year students, that enables me to share the positivity and confidence that I experienced in STLF. I also see the high value for the impact of college age window of people’s lives. I am helping them find experiences that are similar to STLF in their college career because of the impact I know the significance of these experiences .

Each month we feature a STLF alum who is making a difference through service and leadership. Know an alum that should be featured? Let us know, email info@stlf.net.

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