By: Liz Zepeda
I didn’t always gravitate toward leadership roles. Growing up I wasn’t necessarily encouraged to take on leadership roles and I never thought of myself as a natural leader. But when I started graduate school and started learning about archives and the immense power they held, I realized that I wanted to share this whole new world with everyone. More specifically, I wanted communities that traditionally have been underrepresented in archives to see themselves in history. Since then I’ve dedicated myself to exploring different ways of engaging the community in the archive whether it be through primary source materials or encouraging community members to think about their personal history as an archive.
I applied for the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI) after a few colleagues told me about their experiences. While writing the application, I reflected on where I saw myself in the field, what I thought a leader represented and how I wanted to change the field if not the world. We also had to think about a project that we would develop at the ALI. I did not know what to expect, and on my flight to the institute, I was intimidated. Once I arrived in Kentucky, everyone was nice, and it felt amazing to be with so many archivists. Everyone had a diverse range expertise and worked in different types of institutions.
We stayed at the Boone Tavern for a week and took classes at Berea College on various subjects, but leadership was at the center of all of them. Before coming to the ALI, we all had to complete a survey from the book, “Strength based leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie and learned our top five strengths. In our classes, we learned more about these strengths, how to lead with our strengths, how to work with our colleague’s strengths, about cultural competence, and how to manage our projects.
In addition to our classes, we had collaborative activities and ice breakers. We got to know each other during breaks, lunch, dinners, and after classes. We also the opportunity to get to know the Berea College campus with a tour of the Special Collections, we made a broom in the Broom Making Studio, and we got to hear bell hooks speak. We also did some hiking on the Indian Mountain Trail at the Berea College Forest, and I have to say that it was one of the hardest things I did.
All in all this experience changed my life. I met so many amazing people with so much insight. The classes broke down the nuts and bolts of leadership, productivity, and project management. I have also made lifelong friends. I am forever grateful to Rachel Vagts, Mark Nigro, everyone in the steering committee and my fellow ALI cohort 17 members for this experience. The Archives Leadership Institute changed how I see the world and how I see myself.
Rath, Tom, and Barry Conchie. Strengths based leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow. Simon and Schuster, 2008.