By Marni Spott
Besides the amazing education I received from CU, if someone asked me to name the most important lesson I took away from college, it would be this: people can tell me I won’t succeed in certain aspects of life, and they can tell me to play it safe because I wouldn’t want to screw up. But that’s exactly where they’re wrong. I came to CU declaring a major German, as well as a major in astrophysics, mainly because I love astronomy. I realize that the astrophysics major was a mistake. The astronomy aspect of the major was great, but calculus was not my strong suit. I felt that if I continued on that track my college career would not have been very successful.
So after my freshman year of college I decided to change my astrophysics major to international affairs, and I’m very glad I did. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve failed at several things throughout my college career, but that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to make mistakes. It’s the best way to not only learn about myself, and how to be successful. The best part about life is taking risks, and I might just be a professional at it.
Growing up I had a typical suburban childhood life, but that all changed when I moved to Vienna, Austria, for five years during my middle school years. I returned to attend high school in the United States but found that the cookie-cutter lifestyle no longer satisfied me. In Vienna, I attended the American International School and my classmates came from almost every country around the world. The diversity was comforting. I felt at home and I finally felt like I fit in; I found my missing puzzle piece.
High school was completely the opposite I attended Shipley School, a small, upscale, private school in Byrn Mawr, Pa., in the Philadelphia suburbs. Most of the students had gone to school there since kindergarten. There was no diversity, or at least compared to what I was used to. I had to fit myself into something that did not come natural to me. I’m not cookie-cutter. There was no inspiration and I couldn’t be creative. I was prevented from taking risks, until, that is, I came to CU.
I started out at CU, I like to think, like few of the freshman at CU. I stuck to my dorm room and only exited for classes, eating and laundry. It was almost as if my high school years caused to forget how to make challenging and risky decisions.
At the beginning of my freshman year, I joined The Herd Leadership Council, a group of 20 student volunteers who plan events on campus and encourage students to celebrate- their school spirit. The Herd [www.cuherd.org] is the largest student group on campus, and one of the few groups that provides students with free gear, discounts all around Boulder and networking between alumni and students ― all for an unbelievably low-cost membership.
During my first two years of being a Herd Leader, I was extremely introverted. I hardly talked to anyone and I never went out to dinner with the group after the meetings. I did my work and then went back to my dorm room. That was probably my first mistake, but I learned from it. I eventually gathered the courage to speak my mind, show my creativity and turn that creativity into improvements in Herd events. My fellow Herd leaders encouraged me and supported me.
I went on to coordinate and plan The Herd’s two largest events, The Nearly Naked Mile. Planning these events entails scheduling space, filling out approval forms, talking with police and campus staff, lots of marketing and advertising to get the word out about the event, and creating a benefit, like themed t-shirts, for Herd members. The leadership aspect comes in as the head of the event who has to work efficiently to delegate tasks and stay organized and on schedule. It also means that I had to work at making the event more successful than the previous years. I realized that I had found my new niche; I had found a new puzzle piece that I fit into. I found the diversity and creativity that I had been missing for so long.
I am now going into my second year as the president of The Herd. My childhood experiences showed me that I was meant to lead, and not to follow. That’s probably why I take risks and make mistakes! The Herd allowed me to shape those skills. Before I joined The Herd I never saw myself in a leadership position and I never saw myself as a valuable team member. I only saw myself as introverted and reserved, and I tended to think that ideas I had weren’t important enough to say out loud. The Herd helped me see through that, and more specifically, The Herd director Dawn Barone (Hist,Psych’09), pushed me through that barrier to show me the true extrovert that I really am. I can honestly say that I don’t think I would be president of The Herd if it hadn’t been for her encouragement, inspiration and support. She showed me the qualities of a true leader.
So this may not have been the risk you were expecting me to elaborate on, and many may not even see it as a risk, but I consider a risk to be a decision (or an action) one person makes knowing that there is the chance of failure but taking the chance anyway. I could have continued as a Herd leader sitting in the background as a shadow failing to learn anything about leadership or about myself, but instead, Dawn saw potential in me to be a leader before I even knew, and that is important. I had someone who believed in me, and still does believe in me, before I really believed in myself and I think that is how I gathered the courage to risk the failures and successes as a leader.
College is supposed to be about new experiences, challenges, failures and successes and I can say with confidence that my college career has offered me just that. What I take away from this chapter of my life is that no matter how many people discourage you from pursuing your dreams, pursue your dreams with even more enthusiasm and gumption; no matter how many times you fail at doing just that, know that trying again will get you one step closer to success; and really, no matter who you believe you are when you enter college, you will most likely leave college changed forever (and hopefully for the better).
My biggest passion in life is helping people and I’ve dreamed of starting my own non-governmental organization to help grassroots movements in South Africa gain momentum. With that being said, on to the next chapter!
The following quote from Theodore Roosevelt sums up for me what is significant in my life.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Marni grew up in both Philadelphia, Pa., and Vienna, Austria. She is pursuing her master’s degree in Germanic studies. In 2012 she will be awarded two bachelors (in German and International Studies) and one master’s (in German). Talk about ambitious! This past spring, Marni was given the Forever Buffs Student Award by the CU-Boulder Alumni Association [cualum.org] for her engagement, commitment and contributions to the university. Marni will be traveling to Germany in late July, but she will return just in time for this to be published!