Leadership in Texas communities has never been more important as our state is in transitions both demographically and economically. Leaders are critical, setting strategies to ensure communities grow and thrive during change. As Texas grows more diverse and youthful, a leadership transition is on the imminent horizon.
The IC2 Institute, the College of Undergraduate Studies, and Texas Career Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) created the Home to TexasTM program (H2TX) to grow community leaders of the future. H2TX invites students from UT to return to their hometowns, selected non-metropolitan communities across the state, to forge new leadership skills with the hope that they may choose to return “home” and lead. H2TX places students in well-paid internships and trains them in the basics of sociological research to understand their communities deeply – from the inside out.
What leadership skills are developed through the H2TX program?
- Interpersonal skills: Students conduct primary research by interviewing diverse members of their hometown to identify key values and characteristics of their community. Through the interview process, students develop personal confidence and communication skills while learning to handle data accurately for future research study.
- Influence: Gaining the trust of strangers to participate in a structured interview is no small task. Students must learn to present the interview process as a mutually beneficial opportunity and secure participation from various community members and leaders.
- Self-management: Each student is employed as an intern in a local organization or company as a part of H2TX. They must exert personal responsibility to prioritize work tasks and balance activities to meet the H2TX course goals.
- Personal accountability: Students work in professional environments and often represent their organization in community or customer engagements. They must earn the trust their supervisors through their attitude and quality of work to perform these tasks.
- Goal achievement: Each internship has key tasks to be completed, sometimes designing an art exhibit, launching a new website or social media feed, or installation of server systems in the field, to name just a few. Students discover how daily tasks build toward final achievement of goals.
- Collaboration: Although H2TX students work in different organizations, they are part of a cohort of students in the same community. They learn to work in teams, share results and grapple with sometimes conflicting perspectives and individual experiences in their hometown.
- Synthesis and perspective: Finally, the students analyze the accumulated community interview data and summarize findings for personal reflection and UT researcher review. In this reflection, they identify key community values and strengths, as well as areas that could be improved. The students are encouraged to be solution-oriented, encouraging hometown stakeholders view perspectives as tools for planning future success.
Is H2TX working? The resounding message from employers who supervise our H2TX students would say “YES!” Indeed, 86% say they felt the goals of the program were met and 100% say they would consider participating in the program in the future. This enthusiasm by employers was also captured in their comments, including:
The program is well organized and structured to bring value to both the business and the student.– Jana Broussard, President of Henry & Peters, P.C.
H2TX co-founder, Dr Brent Iverson, Dean College of Undergraduate Studies agrees:
The Home to Texas program was created with two complimentary goals in mind. First, we wanted to provide substantial and diverse leadership development opportunities for UT students. Second, we wanted to foster within them a deeper appreciation for the values and potential future of their home communities. In talking with employers, it is clear that a third goal was also achieved. Local employers and community leaders now have a much deeper appreciation for the tremendous resource these UT students represent, and how important it will be to recruit them home after graduation.– Dean Brent Iverson, College of Undergraduate Studies
What do students say about their experience? H2TX students feel the internship and research components are essential for their development with 96% saying they have developed professional skills and 85% found value in participating in community research.
Hear from the students in their own words:
The Home to Texas program has left me more open to returning to my hometown. … I used to think that Beaumont was filled with people unwilling to change. I now see my community as a place willing and waiting for it to happen. I believe that Beaumont is just waiting for the right leaders to take initiative.– Alondra Madsen, Beaumont/Port Arthur, TX
This internship was one of the best things I’ve done in my academic career. I am grateful that I was able to experience something like this and that I had the chance to better my skill set because of Home to Texas.– Tuyet Nguyen, Orange County, TX
As a 19 year old sophomore in college, it was very validating that they placed trust in me to carry out these tasks and gave me a way to hone my skills in a professional environment. This internship experience far exceeded my expectation of the degree to which I would impact the organization and involve myself with its leaders.– Augustine D’Eramo, Tyler, TX
But, statistics only tell part of the story…
This summer, seven of our Home to Texas students reveal the rich experience and deep learnings provided by the program. Take time to read the following blogs the students crafted to show the impact of the program, how they contributed to their community, and what they learned after spending a summer back home. We hope this insight casts light on how community leaders of tomorrow are forged today.
For more information on the Home to Texas program or how to support future leaders in communities across Texas, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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