Defining UCM

So the beginning of the school year has started up again and we are already at another season of Penn State football. As the first friday of the Fall semester, tonight was particularly hectic along the streets of state college. For me, I was able to spend part of the night with some good friends and it was good just to relax amidst the busyness outside the apartment complex. As we started talking, we began to recount the stories and instances of how different friends slowly became integrated into our circle; and it got me thinking about leadership.

This semester will mark my first semester as a non designated leader for UCM, the group I am apart of at Penn State. For the past three years, I have spent a good portion of my time working on starting up the group and creating activities that encouraged community-building. At the time, I thought I knew what community-building meant, but tonight made me look a few layers deeper at what the phrase means.

During the years as a "leader" for the group, I was consumed with the details of the organization: making sure there was food for the meetings, updating the website weekly (or more likely monthly), and ensuring that activities were designed to include everyone. And although we as a leadership team talked about the purpose of UCM and why this group was important for people on campus, I never took the time to really understand why.

I've had life pretty easy, and it is something I am extremely grateful for, but at the same time it is something that can set me up for missing the struggles that others have had to deal with in their own lives. I started thinking tonight about what the acronym UCM means for me. In my few years with the group, UCM has represented a leadership oppurtunity, a chance to create environments that bring people together, and a place to laugh. UCM is a place where my friends are, where I can relate to, where I can have fun with others.

However, I have always been UCM. I joined UCM before I was officially a freshman. When I joined the leadership team, there was no prior student UCM group, I was part of forming it out of nothing. Essentially, I was always there, and over the years others seem to gravitate to the group and become integrated into our circle. I haven't really had to go searching for friends, they always came to me.

As we talked tonight about the various paths that our friends took to reach UCM, I began to realize that the acronym UCM means so much more to others in the group. For many of them, UCM has been an oppurtunity to connect with true friends for the first time at Penn State, a place where they could finally stop searching. I'm beginning to realize that UCM does not have a single definition.

It's funny how you often learn more about leadership when you step out of it for a moment. I think that is the challenge for leaders; to have the ability to willingly "step out" of leadership. The ability to realize the worth and importance of the group they are leading is essential. And the importance of the group is only as good as the impact the group has had on its members.

As my time at Penn State is slowly winding up (scary to think that, but it is), I'm beginning to see how the hundreds of paths and connections have criss-crossed over the years. Many of them go off in a random direction and die out, but there are those few trails that lead to lasting friendships and experiences. It's nice to know that all along God has been weaving the important paths into my web.

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