–Martin Ferguson-Pell, Vice-Principal, Peter Lougheed Leadership College, University of Alberta, Edmonton
I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to welcome you to our Peter Lougheed Leadership College (PLLC) Stretch Experience Blog. I am Martin Ferguson-Pell, Vice Principal of PLLC. Over the last 6 months I have had intense conversations with our scholars as they have planned their stretch experiences. Over the next few months as you follow this blog we will see all this planning come to fruition. In my comments below I have tried to set the context so that you can see how well our scholars’ stretch experiences fit in with our objectives. I’m sure you will enjoy following their adventures!
The Peter Lougheed Leadership College Stretch Experience Program is a remarkable opportunity to hone those entrepreneurship skills … but with a twist! By the end of this summer PLLC scholars will have contributed over 24,000 hours of service to communities across the globe, in just two years. But just as important they will have developed critical skills to manage a special enterprise – their future selves.
A stretch experience is a form of entrepreneurship. The twist is the intention to create game-changing benefits to both the community and the individual scholar. The word entrepreneur has its roots in the French verb entreprendre ‘to undertake’ from which we derive the word enterprise. Our goal is for each PLLC scholar to create an enterprise that combines personal growth and a contribution to a community, somewhere on our planet.
Our modern usage of the term entrepreneur also implies risk and venturing into the unknown, often with a business focus. The university learning experience is intended to stretch our capacity to manage specialist, discipline-specific, complex concepts, to acquire certain skills and to establish a platform for our creativity. It is certainly not a place to just fill up on facts. But what we believe is missing is the exploration of intrinsic strengths and weaknesses in preparation for life’s challenges and opportunities. Large classes, relentless assignments and a focus on GPA performance metrics don’t leave a lot of room to reflect, explore and even fail.
Carol Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and David Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us point out that people can have two different mindsets: The fixed mindset based on a belief that a person’s talents and abilities are “carved in stone” and that “every encounter is a test of their worthiness”. I believe our GPA-focused, multiple-choice-based evaluative practices can certainly feed these doubts. Dweck suggests that we should promote a growth mindset where “the same encounters are opportunities to grow”. Dweck suggests that we should use “language for growth” such as “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn with time and effort” and to interpret challenges “not as roadblocks but as opportunities to stretch yourself”. Failure can therefore not only be an indicator of lack of talent or engagement but also point to a willingness to stretch yourself and learn.
Enter the PLLC stretch experience!
Over the next 3 months PLLC scholars will be reporting back in this blog on their stretch experiences. We hope that this blog will provide inspiring reports of stretch adventures. But also we hope you will use it as a place to share and reflect on our scholars’ successes, failures and personal growth; a place to discuss humility, compassion, disappointment, frustration and ultimately the excitement of discovering “how you will change the world?”