West Point leadership forum bridges military and civilian life
Top: Cannons, part of the battle monument at West Point, have the names of the major Civil War battles engraved in them. The memorial overlooks the Hudson River. Bottom: A statue of George Washington atop a horse stands in front of Washington Hall. (Photos courtesy of Rohan Maheshwari)
By Kenna Caprio
At roughly 10 hundred hours (10 a.m.) on September 27, a group of about 80 Fairleigh Dickinson University faculty, staff, students, alumni and veterans embarked on a tour of the United States Military Academy at West Point. They capped the patriotic day trip with a leadership forum featuring both West Point and FDU speakers.
“Most attendees had never been to West Point,” says Metropolitan Campus Assistant Provost and Sands of Time co-coordinator Craig Mourton. “They received an appreciation of what the military does. Students were impressed with the precision.”
Mourton worked with Joe Devine, FDU associate professor of administrative science, and AJ Luna, director of veteran services at FDU, to organize the day trip and academic panel.
Panelists — including Orley J. Pacheco, Alexander Arjoonsingh, Brad Waudby, Louis Andrew Hilsky, Jr., all U.S. military veterans and FDU alumni; Lieutenant Colonel Pat Downes and Major Sharon Edens from West Point; psychology Professor Diane Wentworth from the College at Florham and Luna, Mourton and Devine — addressed leadership styles, dynamics and traits plus the role of politics and gender equality in the military.
“They stressed the importance of practical training and military leadership strategies,” says Metropolitan Campus SGA president Rohan Maheshwari, 21, a senior and computer science major. “From a young age, students at West Point are aware of the importance of hierarchy and being part of a team. This impressed me thoroughly and taught me the importance of team leadership dynamics.”
The group also discussed whether leaders are born or made, emotional intelligence and leadership and influence and management, adds Luna.
Pacheco praised the two universities for joining forces to highlight military and civilian leadership. “I’ve been to West Point many times. But, I was always on the receiving end of the speeches, never on a panel, so this was a completely different experience.” It’s important for institutions of higher education to try and bridge the divide between military and civilian life, he says.
Members of the Fairleigh Dickinson University community pose for a group photo near the battle monument during their tour.
The trip provided a “great way,” says Mourton, for Sands of Time, Student Government Association (SGA) and Alumni Board of Governors members; Global Scholars; FDU veterans and administrative science graduate students and alumni to mingle and connect with one another.
Those in the crowd interacted with the panel, asking questions and often trying to relate the West Point experience to their personal FDU experience.
“We are sponges that seek to absorb experiences and knowledge during our college years,” Maheshwari says. “Our University offers various opportunities that develop this understanding in students. Whether it’s a TEDx talk, dinner with a United Nations Ambassador, trip to the Military Academy or a symphony orchestra at Carnegie Hall, these events help broaden a student’s horizons. FDU molds us into future leaders of a global world.”
Devine and Mourton intend to repeat the event, likely next year, just tweaking a few details. “Organizational leadership is always evolving,” says Devine. “Next time it (the event) will be bigger and better,” he says. Currently, Devine and other representatives from the school of administrative science are exploring making the trip into an overnight executive leadership conference. The visit would include multiple leadership lectures and a boat ride up the Hudson River, from Manhattan to West Point.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to West Point, especially for the panel,” says Devine. “To give us their time, energy and experience at no cost was exceptional.”