‘Wisdom Wednesday’ lecture series aims to inspire student leadership

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Thomas Lane spoke about his college experience and how getting involved on campus changed his life. (File photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students, is the first speaker for Wisdom Wednesday — a new, informal learning series offering students unique perspectives and stories of leadership and involvement from Kansas State faculty, staff and other students. The series aims to show how campus engagement can help students reach new heights.

“I think there’s a lot to learn from each other here,” Sara Heiman, assistant director for leadership at the Center for Student Involvement, said before the lecture.

Kelli Farris, executive director of the Center for Student Involvement, opened the lecture with a brief introduction and an explanation of the series’ main goal.

“This is a new program that the Center for Student Involvement is hosting really aimed at helping folks here … share their leadership journey,” Farris said. “Those things that they experienced as a student and any tips and advice that they have gathered along the way.”

Lane made several jokes throughout his speech, many at his own expense.

“I’m hoping that I can at least impart just a little bit of wisdom,” Lane said, “but hopefully we haven’t oversold the program for you.”

Lane, who was a first-generation student, spoke about his college experience and how campus involvement changed the direction of his life at Illinois State University.

“I was completely clueless and I was completely directionless,” Lane said.

Lane ignored classes and assignments in favor of the social experience, leading him to a 1.8 GPA and academic probation by the end of his freshman year. If he hadn’t bumped up his grades and started putting in the effort, his college experience would have been cut short.

Luckily for young Lane, a flyer hanging in the student union caught his eye and completely shifted the direction of his life. It advertised a position on Illinois State University’s programming board, looking for students to help bring bands on campus.

Although he was turned down for the position, he was asked to join a similar one focused on creating smaller events for the student center. While it wasn’t his first choice, he accepted the job.

As he became more involved, Lane developed a greater attachment to the university and the people around him. He said this inspired him to work harder and move up in the ranks. By the time he was a graduate student, Lane was the graduate assistant for the same committee that previously turned him down.

“Success is often first disguised as failure,” Lane said.

Following his speech, the floor opened for a brief Q&A. Attendees asked him for personal advice, what mentors he had and if he has ever experienced exclusion or discrimination.

“Being a white, cisgender male, I didn’t experience a lot of discrimination, at least that I was cognizant of…” Lane said. “Diversity of involvement is something that’s been really important to me, and how we make sure that every student feels like they have an opportunity to get involved.”

Heiman said she hopes the series will transition to either an in-person or hybrid format when COVID-19 restrictions lift. While this is the first lecture, Heiman hopes it will become a common occurrence.

“Ideally we’d love to do this every Wednesday,” Heiman said. “With it being new, we’re working on it. If not weekly, hopefully at least bi-weekly.”

As a final question, Farris asked, “What’s one thing we can do today to take a step in the right direction of our own leadership journeys?”

“Find some time for reflection,” Lane said. “Find some time to pause and take a breath and take in what you’ve accomplished. … The successes that you’ve had in what has been one of the most trying times that I’ve ever experienced in my 51 years.”

The full Wisdom Wednesday lecture will be posted to the CSI YouTube channel in the coming days for students and faculty who couldn’t attend.

Disclaimer: The quote “Find some time to pause and take a breath and take in you’ve accomplished,” has been fixed to say “Find some time to pause and take a breath and take in what you’ve accomplished.”

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