Students in Southeastern University's Organizational Leadership program recently took to the air to put the concepts they learned in class into action.
Ric Rohm, assistant professor of business and leadership, took his Leadership, Followership and Teamwork class (course number MNGT 4143) for an afternoon of team building at the Fantasy of Flight museum and ropes course. The Saturday trip was designed to reinforce the teamwork aspect of the class.
"As part of the class, I really wanted to do some experiential learning, especially on the teamwork aspects," Rohm said.
In Leadership, Followership and Teamwork, students are divided into "tribes" in the classroom. They work on group projects in their tribes, confer during class, and develop different roles as the semester progresses. At the ropes course, students implemented their tribal roles.
Throughout the ropes course, Rohm placed 24 words that together made phrases from course materials. Students climbed to different levels to retrieve the words and then shouted them down to their teammates to unscramble them. The different tasks required each team member to take on a different role, whether as someone who climbs after the words or someone on the ground who unscrambles them.
Raimey Carlton, a junior, said her tribe had a plan going into the ropes course but quickly realized they would need to adjust.
"We set roles in the beginning and then we realized it wasn't really feasible and had to change plans," she said.
Senior Josh Berg said the class as a whole showed students how to start a team and establish roles. The ropes course brought those skills into focus.
"Once the roles are concrete you can move more quickly, and a ropes course does that on an accelerated basis," he said.
There were three levels on the ropes course, each corresponding to a different set of words. The words included organization, structure, culture, and roles. When put in the correct order, they matched content related to group development taken from the book Creating Effective Teams: A Guide for Members and Leaders by Susan Wheelan.
Rohm said the exercise reinforced the themes of the class, while allowing the students to have some fun. The ultimate goal is for an experiential learning exercise to be incorporated into every course in the Organizational Leadership program.
Berg and Carlton each said the principles they learned in Leadership, Followership and Teamwork - and especially on the ropes course - are critical for them as they pursue their career goals. Berg plans to be an entrepreneur, possibly in the coffee industry, and said he knows he will put team building skills to work when starting his business.
Carlton plans to work in overseas missions after graduation with the ultimate goal of returning to the United States to form a networking organization that works with international orphanages.
"My ultimate goal I can't do alone," she said. "So I'm going to have to be on a team and know how to be a good team member."