Blog: Finding confidence, finding my voice—my University Leadership Program experience

May 2, 2019

Editor’ note: Social media coordinator Maria Decabooter was part of the 2018-19 ULP cohort. Get more information at the ULP website.

As the 2018-19 University Leadership Program comes to a close, I am not ready to say goodbye. Now that I am comfortable and at ease, it is time to graduate and move on to new leadership adventures.

If asked whether ULP was worth the commitment, I would respond yes in a heartbeat. ULP is all about putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. It is about being present, making connections and supporting one another. The openness required by ULP was my biggest fear as I contemplated the program. I was hesitant to apply, even with the encouragement of my supervisor. I consider myself an introvert and have an anxious personality. In new situations I can be found off to the side, listening intently and trying to process everything around me. How was I going to do in a program that put the spotlight on me and required me to actively share? What if I got accepted and my anxiety got the best of me and I froze under the pressure? What if I did not live up to my expectations and disappointed those who believed in me? My “what ifs” went on and on.

Now that ULP is complete, I can compare my “what ifs” to what actually happened. For starters, I learned more often than not that all the participants shared the same fears. I was not the only one afraid of public speaking. More than half of the group – a group filled with established leaders on campus and in their fields—felt this way too. I learned that the more involved I was, the more comfortable I became. I went from forcing myself to speak up to sharing my thoughts freely. I went from fearing breakfast because I did not know anyone to finding an open seat and happily chatting with my ULP colleagues. I went from not knowing anyone in the room to having a room full of people with whom I want to collaborate in order to share their stories. I went from starting as an individual to leaving with a group of friends that feels like family.

ULP fostered real and genuine connections that will allow the participants to reach out and lean on one another as we continue our leadership journey.

Perhaps most importantly, ULP provided us with the gift of being present. We all have busy schedules and inboxes that never seem to clear up. However, during our ULP days we all showed up and committed time for ourselves and for each other. We gave one other space to speak and to be. While we may not have agreed on all things, we gave one other our undivided attention and respect, and in doing so we helped lift one another up.

If you are considering applying for University Leadership Program, I encourage you to do it. If an anxious introvert like me can get through it and still be smiling, you can too.