Inspiration & Transformation

Posted by jlubans on July 02, 2011

I completed the multi-question Fulbright report summing up my January - June experience in Riga. One of the questions asked me to reflect and consider “whether you feel it has played or will play a transformative role in your life, either professionally or personally?”

Here is my response:
The students’ interest in and inclination toward an empowered work place have inspired me. I planned this class for the students to try out self-managing concepts. My model was that of a student orchestra learning how to play without a conductor. I knew these students, to do well, would need to be introduced to teamwork concepts and project planning early on. That is why I moved the teamwork segments toward the front of the course and it was why I emphasized throughout the class discussion and readings about conflict resolution and other aspects of group development.
The students responded very well. Not only did they excel at three team projects (Books2Eat, leader interviews, and the major self managing team research topic) – the latter will be a future blog entry - they also made connections between theory and practice, linking lessons and concepts learned in-group activities to lectures and readings and to their own experience. These students did more of this high level connection making than any other class I have taught.
I believe several of these students have concluded on their own that a genuinely empowered staff can be more productive and creative than the staffing arrangements in traditional hierarchical models. The hierarchy prevails in Latvian culture, as it does in the USA. I expect these students when given leadership opportunities will modify work place cultures toward the more democratic and less bureaucratic.

On a more personal note, I have been able to meet with family members - Latvia is my native land - and to visit geographic areas relevant to my family. For example, my wife and I traveled to the city of Liepaja and saw the schools in which my uncle and father were students in the early 1900s. And, on that trip I helped my cousin weed and clean up the family graves in the family cemetery in the Kurzeme region. Also, I returned to the city of my birth, Cesis, to celebrate my birthday on June 15 by locating the hospital in which I was born and the house in which my parents lived in 1941, the year of my birth and, for Latvia, the year and month in which 14 thousand and more – men, women and children - were sent to Siberia by the communists. Many were summarily executed for their way of thinking, for their profession, for their wanting to be free; many others died of deprivation.
I have gained a deeper appreciation of my own parents (deceased) and for my Latvian family. These five months in Latvia have also given me a greater understanding of what the term “Soviet times” means in this part of the world. It is not a complimentary term, rather it sums up experiences ranging from the unpleasant to the horrific.
I admire the determination of the Latvian people to be free and independent regardless of the hardships they have endured.

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Comments

Posted by Karen Jordan on July 08, 2011  •  11:35:23

John,
Congratulations on a successful, enlightening, and inspirational journey in Latvia. My best to you and Sheryl!

Posted by John Lubans on July 09, 2011  •  11:59:36

Hello Karen, it is so nice to hear from you! I hope all goes well. Sheryl and I hope to return to Riga in November - a sign of how much we enjoyed it.
Warm regards, JOHN

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