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      Inaugural Courage Day

      A Student Reflection on Lessons Learned and Shared

      Audrey Rucker, communication studies, '18

      Inaugural Courage Day

      Audrey Rucker, ’18, pictured center, works with the Courage Day team to encourage students, faculty and staff to share stories of courage in University Center.

      In the spring of 2016, Dr. Arthur Schwartz, founding director of the Oskin Leadership Institute, proposed the idea of creating an event to focus on the topic of 'courage,' one of three pillars of the Oskin Leadership Institute. He asked if anyone was interested in developing this event. Without hesitation, Bill Dahm, Lake Greene and I jumped at the opportunity and started planning.

      Choosing to get involved

      Personally, I am always looking for ways to become involved, give back and gain leadership experience. This was an opportunity to do all three while focusing on the concept of courage, which is so close to my heart. Courage is rarely talked about, but college students should talk and think about it because now more than ever is the time for us to come into our own, stand up for our beliefs and be proud of who we are. It is essential for true leadership.

      Therefore, my peers and I saw Courage Day as an opportunity to open the minds of the world's next leaders and inspire them to reflect on courage in their life and how they hope to grow in courage.

      We worked with clear goals in mind:

      • Inspire our Widener community to reflect on courage;
      • Involve students, faculty and staff across campus;
      • Create a common experience; and
      • Develop a national model for a Courage Day.

      Preparing for the courageous day

      Courage Day

      Courage Wall

      President Julie E. Wollman joins students as they pin their 'courage stories' to one of nine courage walls on campus.

      As the months went on, we accumulated ideas and grew our Courage Day team. By Nov. 17, the date of our inaugural Courage Day, we had trained more than 125 students to help execute our plans and spread our courage-related messaging. Through this whole process, I learned the importance of utilizing those around me and reaching out for help. There is no way Courage Day would have been as successful if we hadn't reached out to the Courage Day team for ideas, feedback and leadership on special tasks. Leaders look to those around them, and because we learned to do that, we were prepared and ready to launch the inaugural Courage Day.

      Gauging reactions

      Filled with a mixture of nerves and excitement, we couldn't wait for students to wake up and find themselves surrounded by 500 Courage Day signs throughout Main Campus. These signs were the result of months of narrowing down questions about courage to the most powerful five:

      • Do you have the courage to forgive?
      • Do you have the courage to be yourself?
      • Do you have the courage to change?
      • Do you have the courage to stand up for what is right?
      • Do you have the courage to go outside your comfort zone?

      Seeing students taking the time to stop and read the signs, truly absorbing the questions and reflecting on their answers, showed that the prompts triggered something within them. This is what we had hoped for because students were reflecting on the questions, and the prompts were hopefully powerful enough to inspire them to continue to show and share their courage.

      Reflecting on courage

      Helping to organize and plan Courage Day has allowed me to reflect on courage in my own life. My personal courage story is that of overcoming pain and illness. After sharing my story, someone came up to me and said, “nothing in my life compares to that,” and I was so thankful that she said that because it helped me respond in a way that drove home one of the main points I personally wanted to share through Courage Day: It does not matter how simple or extravagant, big or small, your act of courage is; it still takes courage, and that is something to be proud of. There are no qualifications to be courageous. Anyone, anywhere, at any time has the power to show courage, and I am so thankful that Courage Day allowed me to spread that message.

      Without courage, everyone would be the same, no one would defy the odds or push the boundaries. Like I said, we are the next leaders of the world. Recognizing and showing courage in our lives not only enables us to be better people, but also inspires those around us to do the same.

      As you learn in leadership, you are never done when your task is done. One of the most important phases is reflection and evaluation. Currently, we are reaching out for feedback from faculty, staff and students for their thoughts on Courage Day with hope that the day continues to grow next year. If you have thoughts, e-mail me at


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