Texas A&M Sets the Bar for Developing Servant-Leadership in Students

Academia may lack degree programs in leadership, but Texas A&M University does an excellent job at introducing incoming students to servant-leadership. Kimberly Morrison, a sophomore with Texas A&M’s Freshmen in Service and Hosting (FISH), explains the university’s many servant-leadership programs, in this interview.

Morrison explains how incoming Freshmen can join the FISH program, where they participate in an annual event called, “WAVES”. The mission of WAVES is,

“…to produce and develop servant leaders from Texas A&M University through the explanation and application of the Aggie Core Value of Selfless Service.”

The program is named for the vision that servant-leading students can be the start of a ripple of waves across their communities. Furthermore, following WAVES, students have an opportunity to apply their new servant-leadership awareness and skills at a massive community service project, known as Kyle Field Day.

So the university offers a way for like-minded students to connect and learn about servant-leadership. Then they follow  that learning with real-world practice. It seems the bar has been set. Following this interview, I think you will agree:

  1. Texas A&M establishes an excellent model for other universities to follow
  2. Graduates of this program, including Kimberly, have bright futures ahead of them

You can also view the video on Vimeo or Youtube

Interview Transcript

Ben: Hi and welcome back to ModernServantLeader.com. I’m here today with Kimberly Morrison and Kimberly is a member of – well, she’s a student at Texas A&M University, where she is a member of MSC FISH, which is a Freshman In Service and Hosting program. I learned about Kimberly and their program as she approached us about some events they’re planning coming up, and I was really excited about it, because frankly I think that there are not enough of these programs out there. What Kimberly and her team are doing at Texas A&M University really exciting. So, I asked Kimberly to join us for a brief interview and tell us a little bit about that program. So welcome Kimberly!

Kimberly: Hi, thank you for having me.

Ben: My pleasure. Thank you for joining us. So, Kimberly, before we get into some of the servant-leadership specific questions ,can you tell us a little just about who you are, how you came to Texas A&M University and maybe even the FISH program?

Kimberly: Yeah so I lived in Texas my entire life. My mom went to Texas A&M and my sister went to Texas A&M…  So I really liked Texas A&M in high school and I always knew I wanted to go there. So I went in my freshman year and I always – my sister was in a FLOW and so – a FLOW as a Freshman Leadership Organization and FISH is a – one of the one of like 18 freshman leadership organizations .

Ben: Wow.

Kimberly: So, I knew I wanted to be in one of those FLO, they were like great programs and a really good way to meet people and develop some of those, like, leadership skills so I joined MSE FISH because MSE FISH is – I guess what sets them apart is that their core value, like what they all of their programs rotate around, is like, serving the community and serving others. And so that’s how I came to be in MSC FISH.

Ben: Yeah. Great. Great. And now, I know when you and I spoke earlier, you told me a little bit about how you came to hear first of servant-leadership. I think it was in high school. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how where you first learned the term?

Kimberly: Yeah! So, in high school I was in a really strong band program and our band directors were really adamant about creating us not only into great musicians, but better people and good-hearted people. So they really focused on leadership development in the context of music. And so I was a band officer in my junior and senior year and they took us to a lot of development programs – a lot of workshops and that’s where I first learned about the term servant-leadership – and you know, going out of your way to not only, you know, help freshmen, like confused freshmen and sophomores. Like, I got a mark to learn to read music and stuff, but really like go out of the way to make sure that you were serving them and being the best role model of influence you can. So that’s where I first learned about servant-leadership. And when I joined FISH, I saw that they had this servant-leadership workshop and that’s really, one of the main reasons why I joined this.

Ben: Well that’s fantastic! So, I’m going to go off a little side trail here. So tell us a little bit about this program that you mentioned – the servant-leadership program.

Kimberly: So MSC WAVES is a servant-leadership workshop that FISH puts on and it’s, I believe it’s the fifth year. Yeah so fifth annual workshop and what it is, is we bring in keynote speaker and then a few other speakers to talk about what the term servant-leadership is and how to apply it in your daily life. Uhm, a lot of times when they get into college we get overwhelmed, we kind of forget about – you know, being a – being a person for the community. And so, leadership are – this WAVES workshop really helps us and teaches students like us to implement certain leadership into their daily life and really puts it in a perspective of college students. And it’s really hopeful. It’s really informative and it’s really impactful.

Ben: That’s awesome. Now the program is run almost entirely by freshmen – or is it entirely by freshmen?

Kimberly: Yeah. So, MSC WAVES is put on by FISH. So, FISH is composed of 90 freshmen and 18 sophomores, and a few juniors. It varies from year to year, but so MSC WAVES this year, there’s a subcommittee inside of the FISH that puts MSC WAVES on. So, it’ll be about 15 to 20 freshmen and about three sophomores and one junior and that’s – that’s it. You know, that’s the team that puts it together. So it is primarily freshmen. Like, we are a freshman leadership organization so, um, although like the sophomore we are sophomores and my junior executive like we lead the freshmen and we kind of guide them. Like this is you know – I kind of know how to do it, but they do most of the work.

Ben: Yes. Nice. That’s fantastic. Now, if there are other college students or even college professors out there who want to create a program similar to what you guys are doing with MSC WAVES, or even the FISH program overall, what – what suggestions or recommendations would you have for them?

Kimberly: Um, really, just do it. Because it’s – I feel like it’s a topic that a lot of people are really passionate about and really love and understand that it’s a good topic that needs to be implemented into the lives of – you know, young professionals, like us. Or, you know, like college students and young people. And so, I’d say – you know just start small, we just started with a few college professors and that’s all it really takes, because a lot of times the professors, you know they’re the ones that are with the college students are the ones that understands like what we need to know. And so, just kind of start small. This year, one of the things that we’re doing new this year to kind of type up WAVES I guess is we’re doing small speaker series in the fall so we’re in impactful like professors on campus to come and talk about their leadership experience and just kind of spin some different ways that you know WAVES – that WAVES won’t have time to cover anything, so just start small like that. Um yeah, as long as you have your heart behind it, it’s a really – you know you can do anything.

Ben: I love it! That’s a great quote. I mean start small and then as long as you have your heart behind it, you can do anything. I love it. That’s really powerful. Thank you, Kimberly. Now, you’ve had some pretty good experience you know – your band director in high school, talk to you about servant-leadership and looking into servant-leadership and working with it now here, at Texas A&M University. How would you define servant-leadership?

Kimberly: So, servant-leadership for me, it’s one of those things that’s always changing. It’s always evolving, depending on what context I’m in. But at the root of it, it’s being a leader who not only has a confidence to, you know, help you’re people that you’re leading, but to get down in the mud, so to speak, and get really dirty and being so helpful and humble and – you know servant-hearted, that you don’t mind that you don’t get any praise. You know, you don’t mind that you’re doing all this extra stuff behind the scenes. I remember in high school, one of the hardest like, really decided to learn, was that like I was always doing all these things for these freshman, sophomore, junior, and seniors outside of you know, the context of an outside of school that, like they didn’t see and I never got any praise for it. You know and it’s one of those things that I’ve done. That’s what servant-leadership is about, It’s not expecting praise. It’s going in and doing it. Doing what you have to do, knowing that you will never like get any recognition or any praise for what you’re doing but doing it out of the goodness of your heart. Because you know that you can make an impact on these people. And so, that’s kind of like my base roots of servant-leadership and this past year, I kind of learned that, kind of, you know something that I tacked on a little bit, was I realized that being a servant-leader also means knowing when to serve, whenever you’re not asked to serve. So a lot of times, you know, leadership is in so many different forms and it’s not just, you know, managers or whatever, like anyone yeah, anyone can be – anyone is a leader and anyone is equipped to be a leader. And I guess kind of going into my freshman year I was like in a completely new setting. I didn’t really know anyone, you know and so I learned that being a servant-leader means that you’re a leader, regardless of your situation and you’re a leader, regardless of when you’re asked to lead. Or, if you’re not asleep it’s being in a situation and understanding that you’re needed and that your skills can, you know, add something and doing it, even if you’re not asked, so it can be super-simple like, I remember I, during finals, the spring semester, um I was studying pretty late and one of my friends was, like, studying in a building over and um, you know, if she texted me, it was like, “Oh I, you know, I haven’t had you know I didn’t eat dinner or something”, and so I went and like bought her like a snack bar and like went over and it was like, midnight by then. So it was pretty late and I just gave it to her and like, studied with her for a while. And she was like, “oh like I didn’t even like ask you for food!” You know, it’s just some little things like what that’s like a microcosm of the thing you know: make “waves” that’s, you know, are yeah the other – our workshop is about, is that at WAVES we give you the skills and then you can go out and make ripples of your own! So yeah, that’s kind of how it my idea of servant-leadership has evolved over the years. And, you know, I’m just hoping that it keeps evolving and keeps advancing.

Ben: I love it. I love it. You know, and Kimberly, I’m so glad you shared that, because in all the years that I’ve been studying servant-leadership, you know, people often will say things like, kind of what you were alluding, to me in there. You know, “you don’t have to have a title to be a leader”. But, what I’ve never heard somebody quite express the same way you just did, was you know, it’s knowing to be a leader even when you’re not asked to be. I really like the way you framed that. That’s fantastic. I also, of course, love the waves analogy. And if we give you the tools and that’s – that’s really powerful. So thank you for sharing that. I mentioned, before we started, too, I believe, the other thing that I like to ask everybody I interview. Because it’s a popular question that everybody asks a lot, nowadays is: How do you view the difference between management and leadership?

Kimberly: So, for me, management is, on paper, you have the skills you know, you have the experience and that’s pretty much it. You know, you-you have the skills and experience in order to see in front of people and tell people what to do. But for me, servant-leadership which like, just to be clear, I don’t think servant-leadership and management are completely, like opposite. You know, you can be a manager and a servant-leader. There are definitely like they’re just two different things you know they can be together. But, um, servant-leadership is, you know, having the skills, having experience, having a confidence or whatever, to say in front of a group of people and tell them, like what they need to do in order to, you know, get a job done. On top of that, it’s understanding that each person in your team has different skills to contribute, has different experiences to contribute, and honing in on each of those people going in, taking the time to get to know them, taking the time to accentuate their skills and accentuate their values and its really servant-leadership for me is taking that one step further you know, to serve these people, because for me, being a servant-leader is about making your team better, about making the individuals in your team better. Yeah, and so how you make your team better is you make your – you start with the individuals, so though it’s about investing into the people in your team and investing into their you know, their skills and their values, as I said before. So, you know that’s, for me like the biggest difference in management and leadership.

Ben: Nice. Thank you. I like that, you know, a lot of times people do come out and they just say, “No all they’re totally different”. I like the fact that you kind of relate a little bit of interplay. There’s a little bit of each. So I like that Kimberly. This has been really fantastic! I think what you’re doing through FISH and the MSC WAVES program is really a model that more organizations, more universities, more colleges should be following. You know, that focus – if nothing else, even if it’s not necessary even if they don’t call it “servant-leadership”, you know. That the point, that you bring somebody who is coming in as a college freshman, who was taken out of this world of what they’re used to and all-of-a-sudden, in a new place where, like you said, they feel overwhelmed. But now you kind of remind them, “hey it’s not just about you it’s about still serving others. And that sort of leadership, I think it’s a fantastic program and I hope more colleges and universities will follow the model that you and Texas A&M University are doing. If somebody wants to reach out to you or find out more about the MSC WAVES program or the FISH program, how do they get in touch? How do they find out more information?

Kimberly: So you can find us on our Facebook page. For just the general MSC FISH it’s just MSC FISH and that’s our Facebook page. And then you also have a WAVES Facebook page. That’s just MSC WAVES. We have an email too. We can put it in the links after this. Yeah, we’ll put the links afterwards just to make sure I don’t give you the wrong –

Ben: Yeah we’ll point out links to the website and a Facebook page and an email address. Then the in the comments below or in the description of the video. So thank you. Is there any other comment that you want to add?

Kimberly: Um, no, it’s just you know, FISH is a wonderful program at A&M and I really hope I see servant-leadership, is a – it’s a value that’s very near and dear to my heart. It’s one of my favorite character values to talk about and to, you know, learn about, to teach about. And so, you know, yeah if you do have any questions I would love to, you know, talk to you about them. MSC FISH also puts on another really big program called Kyle Field Day, where we the stadium at A&M is called, “Kyle Field” and we have a – we have local community members come in and have booths. And they do many service projects, so our idea with that is to kind of put our scope before WAVES kind of have a service project aspect. But we had to cut that out because of some other factors. But um, Kyle Field Day is so we teach about servant-leadership at WAVES and in Kyle Field Days, whenever you can put your service into action, so we have people come in from all around College Station / Brian area, do service projects like building benches for camps that serve deaf kids sending care packages to hospital patients. Everything anything and everything you can think of that benefit the local community. You know, Waco, Houston area. So, if you’re, you know, in Texas and you want to check that out, it’s at the end of April. You can find information on Kyle Field’s Facebook page. But yeah, that’s our other big program. I just want to talk about.

Ben: Great! We’ll make sure to put a link to that, also in the description. That’s terrific. Yeah, I love it. So now you’ve got not only the educating and teaching servant-leadership, but here’s the opportunity to practice it. You kind of, set it up really fantastic. Again, I really hope other colleges universities replicate or follow a similar model! Thank you, so much, for taking the time and sharing with us, Kimberly, and with all the readers. I appreciate all you’re doing. We have big hopes and big expectations for you, Kimberly! Should go through college years and beyond we’re going to be watching you closely! All right thank you everybody for joining us and until next time, remember, please keep serving!

For More Information on FISH or WAVES

FISH FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/MSCFISH/
FISH email: fish@msc.tamu.edu

MSC Waves FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/MSCWAVES/
MSC Waves email: mscwaves@msc.tamu.edu

Kyle Field Day FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/kylefieldday/
Kyle Field Day email: kylefieldday@msc.tamu.edu



Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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