Kathryn Taylor, Ed.D., is best described by the word “cherish,” wrote Assistant Professor Jalin B. Johnson in nominating Taylor for the honor of delivering the commencement address by a graduate student at the Southern Commencement for the Brandman School of Education and School of Business and Professional Studies. A newly minted Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from the Antelope Valley cohort, Taylor is “an advocate and a voice for change and development” for the special education students she serves as a program specialist for the Antelope Valley High School District in Lancaster, California. Here’s what she prepared to say on Sunday, May 21.
Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” On September 6, 2014, I stepped into a grand ballroom ready to embark on a monumental voyage. The first lesson taught was a simple, yet intricate equation presented by Dr. Ernie Mendez. S + R= E: the situation plus the response equals the experience. This concept may seem simple, but it is somewhat complicated for the average individual. It is human nature to react in situations without conscious consideration for the impactful experience that comes after. We all seek experiences of true love, success, hope, and peace, but often we journey through life on “autopilot” in a state of “unconscious awareness” (Anderson & Anderson, 2010, p. 84). We allow our minds to race back to the past or speed forward toward the finish line but rarely step into a position of mindfulness allowing ourselves to enjoy the moment.
For nearly three years, I have been on a transformational road trip. I began much like a young passenger, sitting in a car seat, all buckled up, and ready to go. Like many you here, I knew where I was going, but had no idea which route the doctoral program at Brandman University would take me. I was handed “The Change Leader’s Roadmap,” a book by Anderson and Anderson (2010) and quickly realized that I had to make an immediate U-turn toward transformational leadership. I made a couple of right turns and located my purpose and developed my personal vision. For me, this was the turnabout that led me to mindful leadership. I made a conscious decision to be present, not only as a student, but as a wife, a mother, a friend, and a co-worker.
My doctoral expedition was not all freeway, and at Brandman, cruise control was not an option. I experienced potholes that required a shift in my family dynamics, speed bumps that forced me to prioritize and manage my time more wisely, and some sharp turns that tested my physical and mental agility. I experienced tragedies that caused a traffic jam right in the middle of this journey. Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw a reflection of the leader that I was reading and writing about in this program.
Brandman University embodies the essence of transformational change leadership. The authentic and compassionate faculty and staff were the gear shifts and steering wheels that accelerated the ideology that this program is more than a means to earn a doctor of education degree. The meaningful courses, projects, assignments, and immersions were tune-ups that revved our engines preparing us for this very moment.
Ursula Le Guin believes that “it is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” I proudly stand here at the end of our road trip together, to move out of the car seat and into the driver’s seat eager to lead as an agent of change. I will always treasure the first lesson I learned early in this program: S + R= E. The situation, plus my mindful response equals the experience for everyone around me. I responded to my educational journey by rolling down the window to admire the view of the faculty and staff. I was present and enjoyed the company of the passengers that have supported me along the way. During the past two and a half years, I purposefully listened to the tunes of instruction, webinars, and scholarly dialog that defogged the windows, and gave me clarity. I cleaned out my trunk so that I could be mindful and not have a mind full of things that were not important.
So on today, I want to encourage everyone here to travel life with an endeavor to respond to positive and negative situations in such a way that yields transformational experiences for everyone around you. Be present, cherish and love those who are most important, and value experiences that may only come once in a lifetime.
Thank you and congratulations to the graduating class of 2017.
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