I cannot believe that only a few months ago I was walking across the stage of the Colorado Springs World Arena to receive my bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS). It was a bittersweet moment, to say the least. While I was proud of my accomplishment, I was also sad to say goodbye to the university that truly pushed me to reach my full potential.
So, as I left UCCS and suited up for my new job at El Pomar, I thought my extensive involvement at the university would become more limited as I turned my focus to new responsibilities as a first-year fellow. Little did I know I would join the team for a program that would lead me right back to the place I thought I’d left behind.
El Pomar’s Trans-Atlantic Junior Fellowship program works to expand the world views of select European graduate students, El Pomar Foundation fellows, and Colorado Springs community leaders through dialogue and cultural immersion. In partnership with UCCS, the Trans-Atlantic Junior fellows, representing three different European countries, spend three weeks in Colorado Springs and two weeks in Washington D.C. During these five weeks they explore leadership practices and community development strategies while engaging government officials, visiting historical sites, and learning about America’s social and political systems.
Through a grant given to UCCS from El Pomar, the university and the Foundation worked together to create the entire five-week curriculum for our European Trans-Atlantic Junior fellows, who departed just days ago.
As part of that curriculum, I recently found myself back on campus, as the Trans-Atlantic fellows spent time learning about the student leadership development program at UCCS.
This year, in a new development to the program, UCCS selected one UCCS student, Alex Wilkening, to join two El Pomar fellows—Stephanie South and Libbey Davis—for the outbound exchange portion of the program to Europe.
“The opportunity afforded to me as a participant was [multi-faceted],” said Wilkening. “I learned the subtle rules of conduct when addressing dignitaries, differences in American and European policy development [surrounding] political issues and crises, the unique ways in which Europeans opposed to Americans consider relevant factors in policy decision-making processes and, most importantly, that values held in the U.S., which I take for granted, often are completely juxtaposed [against] those which Europeans embrace."
In Photo (from left to right): The 2011 Trans-Atlantic Junior Fellows with some of El Pomar Foundation's Fellows at the Will Roger’s Shrine of the Sun