Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Vision of Continuing Education: Truly an Investment in Yourself

The Vision of Continuing Education
Darrel L. Hammon

Continuing education fosters the “building, challenging, strengthening, and enlarging” of oneself to do things never done before, accomplish goals and tasks set previously but never fulfilled, prove that you can do something despite the challenges strewn along the way, rise to a challenge that seemed way too hard at first, change the way you look at the world, commit to the philosophy of lifelong learning, and widen your vision so that you can see a far off.

The vision of continuing education focuses on the 78-year-old GED graduate some years ago who said, “I am getting my GED because I know I will be a good example to my grandchildren.” Donned in traditional cap and gown, she received a standing ovation as she walked across the stage and waved to her family before she took her place among her fellow graduates.

The vision of continuing education highlights the 30 or so more mature adults who all trundled to Lewiston, Idaho, to participate in one of the many available Elderhostel activities. These adults, many of them 60 and over, came from across the country and participated in a week-long course that introduced them to Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. Their education might have ended several decades ago, but their learning never stopped. Instead, they sought opportunities to learn because, as one of them commented, “I love to learn.”  

The vision of continuing education expounds Jaime Escalante’s phrase, “Free, free, free, knowledge; bring your own containers.” Continuing education is all about that phrase. Knowledge oozes out of every corner and crack. Often it just seeps by us or hangs from luscious baskets within our reach, but sometimes we do not take advantage of the proliferation of knowledge around us. Or we fail to pack around our own containers, our buckets. Or worse, just the bottoms of our buckets are covered, and we say “I’ve got all the knowledge I want.”

The vision of continuing education connects people with educational opportunities, developing programs to meet the demands of the swirling marketplace, and preparing students to live and work in a global society, no matter how old you are or where you live or what modality you are utilizing.

The vision of continuing education is about access—to distance and online learning; to youth and summer camps, to language programs such as Spanish, French, and Chinese; to evening and off-campus programming at different locations; and to a cadre of incredibly focused programs and courses for youth and adult learners. 

Continuing education is continually asking the right questions: Is what we are providing meeting the needs and desires of our members and beyond? What does the growing member community want and need?  And finally, what more should we be doing to extend the Utah Valley University (UVU) experience beyond the boundaries of the physical campus?

In essence, learning through continuing education is inextricably linked to investment, an investment in ourselves and our families that yields high benefits and interest, maybe not today or tomorrow, but it will yield—intellectually, spiritually, and mentally. We may have to bend our backs, stretch our minds, work midst wind and snow storms and tauntings of others, and maybe even make a few sacrifices. But that’s the vision of continuing education: providing opportunities to learn, helping others become better people, enlightening their minds, and establishing a true opportunity for learning because in the end, it’s all worth it. 

Thus, invest now and often and keep your bank account growing and your buckets filling up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kweku Mandela: Making an Imprint on Society and Community

Kweku Mandela: Making an Imprint on Society
Darrel L. Hammon

Kweku Manela will speak to UVU students on Oct. 9
Kweku Mandela
It’s not everyday a member of Nelson Mandela’s family arrives on your university’s campus. That happened on October 9, 2014 at Utah Valley University (UVU) as part of UVU’s  “Summit: The Sustainable Mountain Development and Conflict Transformation Global Knowledge and Action Network.” The Peace and Justice Studies program and UVU Student Association Senate sponsored the event. (For more information, please go to http://blogs.uvu.edu/newsroom/2014/10/01/grandson-of-nelson-mandela-to-speak-at-uvu-oct-9/.)

Kweku Mandela, grandson of the famed South African leader Nelson Mandela, arrived, dressed in an untucked blue, long-sleeve shirt and jeans. While his clothes did not define him during his presentation, Kweku’s work and words did.

Soft-spoken, yet energetic and poised, Kweku spoke about his cousin Ndaba Mandela and him meeting for the first time and becoming instantly best friends. Kweku actually grew up in the U.S. but returned to South Africa where he and his cousin are creating their own legacy under the auspices of their incredible grandfather’s legacy. They founded Africa Rising Foundationto contribute to the development of the African continent” (http://arfoundation.co/). Their mission is to be a “conduit for the New African Generation that is committed to promoting Africa through a series of campaigns that address the continent’s socio-economic challenges” (http://arfoundation.co/#about).

Kweku also spoke about founding and being a partner in Out of Africa Entertainment, “an entertainment group committed to producing projects that portray Africa in a more positive light and challenge the prevailing perceptions of the country… through publications, films, media and social interaction to create a heightened sense of pride and purpose in young Africans” (http://blogs.uvu.edu/newsroom/2014/10/01/grandson-of-nelson-mandela-to-speak-at-uvu-oct-9/). 

One of the major challenges facing today’s world, according to Kweku, is uncertainty. In Nelson Mandela’s world uncertainty was a way of life, including his almost three decades of being incarcerated. But he didn’t just give up. Instead, he rose above his uncertainty and became a leader of a greater movement.

Kweku talked about his grandfather and the imprint he left on him and his family, particularly his cousins with whom he works now. Part of the “social good,” he said, “is leaving your imprint on society and your community.” It was Nelson Mandela who said, “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/n/nelson_mandela.html#PjQcugusFEvjekmb.99.) And Kweku ‘s hope for the future is to help others “change their narrative.”

One of the students at the forum asked about the significance of the World Cup in South Africa. He said it was one of those moments of great significance to showcase what the legacy of the good that has been done. But, he said, “The World Cup was one moment, but we need thousands of more moments.”

Interestingly, he spoke about the people in Utah. His remarks were not just merely words to appease Utahans. Rather, they were heart-felt. He said, “The people of Utah are poised and pure. You have a religion that helps people.” He asked those who were “Mormons” to raise their hands. Numerous people thrust their hands high into the air. Then, with conviction he counseled, “When you introduce yourselves, you should say, ‘Hi, my name is…., and I am a Mormon.”

Kweku mentioned that that Utah is one of the most giving states and not just in giving money or volunteering. Each day we must “challenge ourselves everyday to determine which battles you want to battle and find unique ways to come together.”

He stopped for a moment and looked out over the audience, and in his quiet unassuming way, he stated “Each of us has the capacity and seed for greatness.” Kweku has taken this statement to heart and exuded his capacity for greatness. His mantra of “power of words” pushed us to think more about ourselves and reflect what imprint we are making on our society, our communities, and our families.

Kweku’s moment with UVU faculty and staff was one of those moments that we need more of. Indeed, we all learned that “ultimately, the purpose in life is to give back—in some small way.” He inspired us to “take moments each day to improve relationships and to help others.”

Kweku's grandfather Nelson Mandela would have been proud!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

“Five Topics To Discuss With Teens”

Recently, I published this article at FamilyShare.com. I am republishing it here.

Today, one could talk to 100 parents about things to talk to teens about and probably receive 100 topics, all well-meaning and appropriate. But there are five that seem to stand out that parents need to spend a bit more time on as their children grow up and especially when their children reach the teen years: relationships, respect of self and others, learning, financial habits and values.

1. Relationships
Perhaps one of the most challenging topics to discuss with anyone, particularly teens, is relationships. Relationships come in several sizes — personal, friendships, professional, sexual, spiritual and emotional. How teens handle these relationships can boost or damage oneself, sometimes over time or instantaneously. 

While some people believe they are free to do whatever they want in relationships, a simple decision to lower personal standards or do things you wouldn’t normally do can dictate a destructive path you never would have chosen. Relationships can help create happiness in your life or snuff out any happiness that might exist. While parents have had many experiences with relationships, their experiences sometimes don’t matter to their teens. On the other hand, if teens would listen to their parents and others, their lives might be much easier. Often, though, teens must learn the hard way. But we know that teaching teens to develop healthy and uplifting relationships will create and establish more wholesome and solid relationships.

2. Respect of self and others
This is a topic that parents should begin teaching their children from a very young age. Granted, teaching respect of self and others is layered differently when your youngster is six rather than 13 or 14 or even older. In his book, "Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes," Gordon B. Hinckley, a highly respected religious leader, wrote, “Respect for self is the beginning of cultivating virtue in men and women.”

Part of respecting oneself and others also hinges on understanding that you are the puppeteer of your own life. Letting people take advantage of you will not help you grow and progress. Part of any parental conversation has to hinge on helping teens understand who they are and why and that differences in others are mere differences. Seeing people for who they are and not being judgmental about them can enhance respect for self and for others.

3. Learning
Very few things are more important than helping your teens understand that learning, not just education, is important. As young people enter their teens, the questions emerge from all sides: What are you going to do when you grow up? Where are you going to college? What will you be studying? And a host of others. During the teen years is the time to explore options. Many junior and high schools are connecting with local community colleges and universities to develop “pathways,” a year-by-year plan to help young people become better prepared for when they enter college.

Parents should encourage their teens to take advantage of field trips to colleges and businesses, volunteering assignments, internships, mentoring, and other opportunities to test the field. People who obtained postsecondary education make more money, live fuller and even longer lives and possess a sense of growth and personal awareness. Learning does not stop at high school graduation. Rather, it is a lifetime pursuit.

4. Financial habits
The world is in need of definite financial literacy. Parents can truly help their teens by instilling in them good financial literacy skills and habits. Talking to teens early about good financial habits will save them a ton of headaches later in their lives. In fact, it’s never too early to begin talking financial management with your children. Start with a savings account when they are young and suggest that they save at least 50 percent or more of any earnings or money gifts they receive. Part of financial literacy is teaching teens the value of money. When they hit the teen years (maybe even before) take them to the bank and have your banker talk about accounts — savings, checking, etc. Putting young people on budgets is a good thing. Many youth begin early, earning or receiving some type of money, and they need direction. By teaching teens about the challenges with credit and the value of paying for things with cash and making payment on time will only strengthen their financial management.

5. Values
Parents need to teach values to their teens. And there is a boatload: generosity, honesty, integrity, gratitude, respect, tolerance, faith, service, hard work, perseverance, consistency and the list goes on. These values and others should be taught from the beginning, but teens can more fully understand the importance of these in today’s society. All around us and in the media, we hear of the deterioration of values. Parents can teach their teens that those who espouse a strong value system have better self-worth, develop respect for others, have a clearer vision of what they need to do, communicate more effectively, and develop stronger and healthy relationships. In essence, values are the bedrock upon which society thrives and progresses and grows.

Interestingly, in 1959 Northland College Principal John Tapene wrote the words of a judge who regularly saw youth in his courtroom: “The world does not owe you a living; you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent. . develop a backbone, not a wishbone... You are important, and you are needed.” 

While the judge’s counsel is 55 years old, it is still judicious and wise counsel for parents to teach their teens. Often, it is necessary to be firm and bold but not overbearing. Both parents’ and children’s lives would be so much easier if they decide early in a child’s life the most appropriate teachings and standards for their children and then stick with them. Granted, they can seek help from family, friends, teachers, clergy, etc. But, in the end, parents have the ultimate responsibility of teaching their children.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Signs of Spring: Understanding and Accepting Our Personal and Professional Changes

Signs of Spring: Understanding and Accepting Our Personal and Professional Changes

Spring is magical! While the snows continue to flurry in the mountains, something starts to happen closer to the valley floor. New life springs up beneath wintry dirt and leaves and between old rocks, still shivering from winter. The sun’s rays crest the mountain tops, carefully warms the old rocks and the wintry dirt and the seeds and roots that lie beneath it all.

 Spring is amazingly symbolic of our own lives, especially the changes that we make and the opportunities that come to us. While in real life, spring comes only once per year, we can experiences numerous springs and beginnings and take advantage of the beauty and the newness of it all.

Change can happen often in our lives. Sometimes those changes come suddenly, like a loss of a family member, a loss of a job, or even a loss of something valuable in our lives. It is really how we deal with those changes that will allow us to have incredible spring times and flourishing lives. And thinking about spring and its many beautifies can only enhance our way of thinking and doing.

One of my most favorite spring flowers is the bleeding heart. It comes up early, and when it receives lots of sun, it grows inches every single day until those gorgeous pinkish red heart-shaped blossoms burst into being. When I look closely, I see incredible formations, some flat and others plump, but they are all divinely designed to look like hearts. Some are in clusters, but the ones that totally thrill me are the ones that are lined up on a single vine. So, we, too, must have open hearts to hear what needs to be heard and feel what needs to be felt in order for us to truly fulfill our destinies.

I also think of the crocus. They just pop up when they are good and ready. They don’t care if there is snow, rain, hail, or sleet. They burst through the cold ground, usually the first of the flowering plants in the garden. They are so sturdy. When I see them, I marvel at their tenacity of being the first ones to show their faces. That’s what entrepreneurs are. They are the first ones up and ready to go, no matter what the market seems to be saying. Their byline is “We’re ready! Are you?”

Ah, the beautiful daffodils. They are just plain stunning. If you look closely, they follow the sun, the source of light. For example, this morning when I was walking, I noticed that a huge cluster of daffodils in a neighbor’s yard was facing the rising sun. Now, you could barely see the rays just spilling over the mountains, but every single daffodil had transitioned its gorgeous yellow head toward the light.

In our case, the light signifies new ideas and opportunities. We move toward and focus on those wonderful ideas and opportunities. When we do, we can see them and eventually grasp them and then keep them in the light so they can grow and develop.

Not long after the crocus and daffodils—and sometimes together—come the hyacinths, pinks, whites, purples. They are a bit more solid, stouter than the crocus. Plus, their many blossoms format tight bonds that keep them straight and proud. They truly are a team, working together to make each other look bigger, better, stouter, just like our own teams in the workplace. We just do better and work more efficiently when we work as teams.

Another favorite of mine is the Magnolia tree, fondly called the “tulip tree” at our house. Literally, the branches are bare for a long time, and then the “tulips” also burst forth, hiding the ugly branches that hold their life. All of us possess flaws and challenges in our lives. But when we put forth our best qualities and grow and enhance them, we cover up the flaws. Now, the flaws haven’t gone away, and we still need to overcome them, but our good qualities and capabilities take over and create an incredible aura that attracts people to us.

The flowering trees and flowers are reminiscent of our own personal and professional changes. Each day we can watch these flowering wonders change, from tiny buds on a newly trimmed tree to full blossoms. We are like that, and so are our employees. We watch and we watch and we watch, and then one day: Poof! The blossoms are out and cover the whole tree. The flourish of beautiful colors is absolutely incredible. While it took time to bud and then to expand, it seems that the blossoms happen overnight although they really don’t. They literally have to mature to blossom.

So it is with us. We, too, must learn to blossom, no matter where we might be placed or what job we might have. Our perpetual springs will happen, perhaps not as fast as we will like, but they will happen. The key, then, is to continue watching and nurturing our skills and abilities and capacities, and we will blossom like those spring flowers in our gardens.

And, finally, we hope to understand and accept our personal and professional changes and bask in the growth they afford us.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Perseverance: A Key Leadership Quality

Perseverance: A Key Leadership Quality

Last summer, I spent nine days with a group of young people in the Dominican Republic, ranging from 15-years-old to 21-years-old who were participating in a summer education camp. My role was to introduce them to leadership principles and values. One of the leadership attributes I focused on during my leadership training with the Dominican young people was perseverance, an attribute that is missing in many of the lives of our young people—and even older, mature people.

Perseverance is really the ability to just keep on going when things get really tough. (Also see Webster’s definition at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perseverance). Or like I usually say: “Just do the do, no matter what!”

I have noticed over the years that this attribute is missing in many people. Why? Learning how to persevere and actually persevering through a project is a challenging and sometimes daunting task. It takes a ton of effort. Just ask Madame Curie, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Andy Andrikopoulos. Most of us know who the first three are, but probably most people don’t know Andy Andrikopoulos.

I first met Andy when I served as President of Laramie County CommunityCollege. During the first few months on the job, Andy and his beautiful and ever gracious wife Barbara invited me over to their home. They just wanted to visit and become acquainted. They were incredibly nice to me. At the end of the conversation, Andy said, “Call me if you need anything.”  Now, there are people who just say that phrase in passing, and there are people who truly mean that. I learned that Andy’s words are not merely words; rather, they are what he is.

By most standards, Andy is extremely successful. He has been the owner and operator of A.G. Andrikopoulos Oil and Gas Properties since 1960. His company has oil and gas assets in almost 20 states. Plus, he and his wife give much of themselves and their resources to their community. But he wasn’t always successful.

I learned that when Andy was a senior in high school, his principal told him he wasn’t college material and not to waste his time by going. Andy didn’t listen to the principal because he had already decided he wanted to go to college, and he knew he would do whatever he decided to do, including graduating from college.

So, when fall came around, he went to the University of Wyoming and ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree in business. It wasn’t easy because in those days, there was very little financial assistance for average students like Andy. But he put his hand to the educational plow, trudged forward, worked hard, never gave up, and ultimately graduated.

After graduation, he decided to pursue an interest in the oil and gas industry–not exactly the kind of industry that seemed a sure bet. And the way the story goes—and this is where all of us should take good notes—Andy had had an economic interest in some 770 wells that never produced. Think about that: Andy drilled 770 wells without even a drop of oil or gas. Disappointing. Disheartening. Disconcerting.

Now, I suspect, that many of us would have become discouraged and quit after drilling a dozen or so. Maybe even a 100 and walked away, our heads down, thinking that we were failures. But not Andy. He kept going and finally hit a producing well–#771.  Within a couple of years, he was able to develop 75 producing wells.

For Andy, it just took perseverance and remarkable determination. He didn’t give up, no matter what the obstacles were. In his case, the obstacle was nothing: nothing in the wells. For some of us, the obstacles in our lives almost seem insurmountable. Amazingly, we have the ability to overcome obstacles, sometimes with a little—and maybe even a lot of—help from our families, friends, colleagues, and our own mindset of perseverance.

 The key to perseverance can be taken from the Andrikoloplos’ well story. Our wells should never run dry because we as leaders are continuously filling them up with our history of doing, our determination and perseverance, and our diligence to just do the do. Simultaneously, we need to be filling our wells with our continuous giving of ourselves; our willingness to help others; and our financial, spiritual, moral, and emotional giving to those who need it.

Neal A. Maxwell, a renowned educator and Church leader, once wrote in his book Of One Heart: “Sometimes we draw the things of the world so close in our line of vision, we obstruct our view of the bigger picture.”

Being persistent doesn’t allow us to lose sight of the big picture, no matter what those obstacles—large or small—may be. Granted, we may be disappointed with our progress, but our determined perseverance will push us on to the victory.