From Executive Decision-Makers to Facilitators

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Wong, Global Health Engage UTIHP Co-Chair

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As first-time co-chairs for Global Health Engage (GHE) – a subsidiary of the U of T International Health Program (UTIHP) – Derek and I were presented with a new yet exciting challenge to put our twist on global health and civic engagement. Even before becoming leaders together, we were good friends and shared similar critical perspectives on the interplay between paradigms of health. Consequently, we both developed a similar mission for GHE this year: to frame health not as a discipline in itself, but rather a lens through which to view other disciplines. As we figured this is a rather broad, macro-perspective, we recruited skilled and like-minded students to help us turn such ideas and concepts into focused events. We were really excited to have recruited 7 other students from diverse backgrounds, from political science to immunology, and knew that the variety of skill sets we had would be a key asset to succeeding in our mission this year.

Figuring we had a sizable subcommittee, we organized and successfully ran two events in the first semester alone: one for the Day of the Dead, and just a month later, our only mandated event: World AIDS Day. Unfortunately, Derek and I didn’t quite anticipate the work load these events would require, nor did we think the time frame was as tight as it turned out to be. But we had started planning both events in the summer before our subcommittee was recruited, so we carried on making many of the executive decisions even after the team was formed. This was particularly problematic considering how stressed we became organizing the two events in such temporal proximity to each other, that we had engendered major logistical oversights. In hindsight, Derek and I saw this as the major drawback of our positions as co-chairs, as we recruited a body of students that very likely could have taken much of the weight off our shoulders – and done a better job in the process – had we delegated more leadership to them earlier on.

Thus, for this semester, we are hoping to learn from our mistakes. Specifically, we are delegating the majority of the leadership and autonomy in organizing our next event to the members of our subcommittee to truly leverage the manpower of GHE, and in doing so, allow them to develop their skill set and get the most out of their experience on the team. As such, we are re-imagining our roles as co-chairs as not executive decision-makers, but rather facilitators and guides through the planning process. I think this is a main takeaway I will have from being a student leader this year: to keep a really open mind, not just with the output of your projects, but even leadership approaches, which are totally okay to change part-way through.

With our event titled “Rethink Aging” only a month away (March 23rd ), we are sure the work-load will soon get heavier. However, this new approach to leadership has been very beneficial on everyone’s end, and has gotten a lot of team members to share more ideas, take on more substantial roles, and obtain an overall sense of leadership alongside each other. We’re all really excited to see how this event will conclude the efforts of GHE this year.

See the Facebook event for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/119257988601998/

Sarah Wong, Co-Chair

Global Health Engage

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