This post is adapted from Kate Ebner’s address to the ITL graduate community on the launch of the ITL Network.
Coretta Scott King said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
The ITL Network is a community of graduates of our Institute’s programs, graduates from all of our certificates, cohorts and offerings. When we finish our programs, we find that we really aren’t finished. We reach for each other; we ask our new friends: how can we stay connected? Can you help me think about myself in this work? How shall we keep learning together? What can we share about our practice of the ideas learned at ITL that will sustain us? How might we continue the joy of being a community of learners, practicing our craft? When we meet others who have had an ITL experience, we find wondrous diversity of perspective and many kindred spirits. The learning doesn’t stop when we finish our cohort-work!
Again and again, I hear from so many you about the generosity of this community and what it means to be part of it, about the wealth of ideas and willingness to share without reservation, about the quality of what we offer to each other. I believe it is our very best.
In the creation of the ITL Network itself, I see the selfless hard work of a group of committed volunteers who believe not only in our ITL mission for sustained impact, but also in you, in us, in our ever-expanding circle.
I must tell you that I know of no other self-sustaining community that shares so generously, expresses such compassion and care, and is willing to work so hard to continue to grow as human beings. It is an honor and privilege to be part of our growing graduate network. It is a source of pride for me to be able to say to prospective students: when you graduate from a program, you are just beginning. Now, you are part of a proud tradition and a network of more than 100 faculty members and 2000 graduates who come together for support, learning, and just plain fun! (Think retreats in Maine and the southwest!) We understand now that ITL is a truly a gateway, a threshold for a transformative journey that you may continue with the encouragement of our amazing community. On behalf of ITL, I’d like to thank you for coming to us in the first place and for staying with us and sharing from your heart and gifts. Every single one of us is making our vision and our mission real in the world.
The Leadership Coaching Program, founded in 2000, evolved and earned an international reputation as one of the top coach-training programs in the world. You may already know the story of how the faculty of that program came together in the year 2011 to envision what else might be. They knew that their knowledge and contribution was needed in the larger world; they had a desire to come together and create something with even greater impact than the Leadership Coaching Program alone. In 2011, the vision of ITL was born at two visioning events. Georgetown Deans Darcie Milazzo and Edwin Schmierer helped us to translate the vision into a business plan and proposal for the Dean of the School of Continuing Studies. When we were approved in the Spring of 2012, the Institute for Transformational Leadership was born.
Today, we are an institute that features 7 extraordinary cohort-style certificate programs. These programs share a common DNA and, together and individually, they demonstrate our core values and mission – to develop communities of leaders capable of meeting the challenges of our modern times, who work together towards a more harmonious, compassionate and sustainable future. The seven certificate programs are:
Additionally, we proudly collaborate as partners to offer the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership, an 8-month cohort-based leadership development program for university and college leaders who seek to learn how to bring innovation to higher education.
We also offer many shorter learning experiences for leaders, facilitators and coaches in the form of workshops and special events. I would like to specifically mention the outstanding grassroots work of the New Normal Initiative, which has resulted in a superb leadership program on how to convene, and host a dialogue about race in America. We will be rolling that out in November of this year.
The mission of ITL is operationalized by Lynn Screen, Hernando Zambrano and Tara Aldridge all with a tremendous amount of support and encouragement from Dean Cynthia Chance and special advisement by Denise Keyes.
Each of our certificates is a unique, transformative – deep – learning experience, designed thoughtfully to prepare our students for our times.
In these troubled and divisive times, our mission is evergreen. I wonder if you, like me, feel the call to action, action that includes listening deeply, asking powerful, open-ended questions, creating safe spaces and sustaining connections even when in a difficult conversation? The world needs leaders, coaches, facilitators and conveners who have the courage to step up and the confidence to do so in a way that calls forth the participation, engagement and gifts of others, in ways that open up the conversation, allow for many views to be expressed and for us all to keep learning from each other’s experience and wisdom.
As you know, Georgetown is a Jesuit institution, founded on important values that define the Georgetown experience. We have spoken in other settings about some of those values and for the past two years, we have been committed to the value of Community in Diversity. The results of that commitment are beginning to be evidenced in growing diversity of our faculty and students and the way that we are bringing topics forward in our classrooms. We will continue this commitment as we move forward.
At a gathering of volunteer graduates of our program, folks like you, on October 31, 2016, almost two years ago exactly, we asked you to help us think about our future. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion emerged as vital to you and to the Institute. We committed. We also decided to illuminate one of Georgetown’s values every two years. Our next area of focus will be Men and Women for Others, a clarion call to us as a community of leaders to redouble our efforts to be in service to others, not only in our nation, but around the world. You will see this focus as we move from 2018 to 2020. I believe that one tangible outcome of this value-focus will be specific initiatives related to putting our Institute’s work in service to those who will benefit greatly, but may not previously have been able to access our offerings, through community initiatives, practicum projects and offerings for our students and graduates that show us how to use what we know to build a more compassionate and just world.
One of the most exciting ideas that came from Ideation Day 2016 was the idea – no, the MANDATE – from our community to create a “container” for our community, post-graduation from our programs. Everyone asks all the time: What’s next? What else must I learn? What else is being offered? Where do I go to stay active with our community of practice? Today – this very day – the ITL Network – takes shape. Our Network will be that place to go, to find out what is happening, to discover upcoming opportunities for learning – both at ITL and all over the world, to share insights and ask for ideas. The ITL Network is one of the greatest outcomes of the past seven years – a community-led hub for continuing our learning, together as a community of leaders. Its mission is an extension of our own here at ITL, and we are working closely with the Network as advisers, supporters and, of course, community members and graduates ourselves. Hooray! This endeavor allows us to be the force-multiplier that we imagined and to expand our reach to each other, as well as the world. The ITL Network is one of our most significant and proudest achievements as a community, all thanks to our outstanding, committed board of volunteers who represent all of ITL’s program graduates. Welcome! Welcome!
I would like to close today with a poem or two. This is from one of my favorite poets, a Vermonter named James Hayford, who was a student of Robert Frost and a national treasure in his own right. The poem came to him almost complete. I would like to dedicate it to the memory of my mentor, Frank Kelley, who was the first natural leadership coach I ever met. His influence changed my life, and although he is gone now, this poem remains as a remnant of a conversation we once had in a troubled time in America. It is as timely today in our conversation as it was back in 1992. Frank told me that he felt it best expressed his faith in the future, as it does mine now as we forge our way as a nation. I offer it to you as a poem of hope and a reminder that the ITL mission is more vital today than ever:
“Persuaded” By James Hayford
I am persuaded
That everything will be all right
In that good night.
The power that let us love and write
And think and build
Has not been killed
Even though our faith has faded
And grown perplexed;
It will make sense for us of what comes next,
I am persuaded.
Those who know me also know that not a day passes for me without the inspiration of Mary Oliver. Of course, this poem is seasonally appropriate as we look overhead at the wild geese making their annual migration. I chose it for us today because of its last line which I read as a great invitation, one that our ITL Networks is making to you. Here we go:
“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountain and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
“The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” Your place in the family of things….. I hope that you always remember that you have a place in the family of things, that you have a place with our ITL community – at Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership and as a valued and welcomed member of our ITL Network.”