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					Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                   Wei Lou

                                 Personal Introduction

Personal History

     My name is Wei Lou, I am a senior in Computer Science and would be graduating in May 2011. I was
born in Taiwan, a beautiful place renowned for its good food and convenient life. However, I never
experienced much of these due to my frequent travelling. Having young parents with adventurous minds, I
had the opportunity to explore many parts of the world as a child. I was surrounded by many diverse
cultures and people, making me an open-minded individual that lives with differences. The experiences
were not only life-time memories; they also became the foundations of my leadership development.

Reason why I joined the certificate program

     My past experiences proved that I am a very competitive and determined worker. However, I lacked
the abilities to work in groups with other individuals. This was mainly because of my poor communication
and interaction skills. I realized that I must change in order to progress. The question was how? It was in
my late sophomore year when I learned about the Illini Leadership Certificate Program and I made a
decision to devote for my self-improvement by registering for it. The decision proved to be far more fruitful
than I expected.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                       Wei Lou

                            Personal Development Plan

My Leadership

     What is leadership? Who is an ideal example of a leader? The first leader that I encountered in my life
was my father. He was who we refer to as an emergent leader in leadership. He did not have a high leading
position, but he was definitely one of the core individuals who influenced the working group. I learned to be
an organized, thoughtful, disciplined and diligent person through him. Not only is he my father, he is my
model in becoming the leader that I want to be.

     Leadership to me is something that each individual could achieve, by continuous self-perfection. I want
to become a successful leader and therefore I need to enhance my leadership abilities, surprisingly simple.
My goal is to make positive changes to my world. To make a change, I need the competencies and skills, and
to make a positive change, I need to gain insight of what is good for the society. Leadership acquirement is
not as simple and straightforward as it sounds. Consistency, determination and motivation are essential
components for this process. Through campus activities, organizational events, educational courses and
interactions with various people, I believe I had gradually developed into my ideal leader.

     We are born in a generation of individuality and creativity. The core element that unites, stimulates
and coordinates individuals to work for a common purpose is called, the leader. Leadership Certificate
Program acts as guidance to me for leadership developments. I have acquired essential knowledge and
skills while participating in it. More importantly, through communication with diverse, passionate and
insightful people in the program, I have formed my own definition and purpose for leadership.

     Importance of leadership is its capability to make a difference. Two heads are better than one. As a
single individual, what we can do is limited, but as a group, it is a completely different story. Influence is the
glue that leaders use to bind members together so that common purposes could be achieved in an effective
manner. I might not become a person that makes a difference to this world, but I believe it is important to
prepare in becoming one. This applies to my personal, educational and professional life, both now and in
the future.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                      Wei Lou

Core Values

     Core values are principles or standards of behavior. They act as filters to judge what is important in life
to me. Leaders must know their core values in order to be influential. These values guide our decisions and
actions. An individual with firm core values is consistent, determined and trustworthy.

     My first core value is to achieve a task with the most beneficial and pleasurable process. The ultimate
goal of leadership is to produce desired outcomes. However, this purpose is too goal-oriented and it
neglected the importance of the process in attaining the goal. My physical and mental well-beings are as
important as the achievement itself. Losing my health is unworthy and doing something that is not
pleasurable is against my will. This core value maintains my persistency. By being persistent, I could
produce better long-term results.

     My second core value is to participate in positive competitions with a respectful manner. Competition
drives for personal improvements. However, it is important to emphasize that competition could take
various forms and some might be more aggressive than others. To me, competitions should be positive and
beneficial to all participants. In order to maintain this positive environment, we should exercise respect. It is
through respect that we acknowledge and admire other opponents’ capabilities and perspectives. We
compete for a common goal and learn valuable ideas and experiences through the process, despite failure or
success. I believe this value is important in the working world. It motivates people to compete for their
personal advancements, so that together we are a more productive and harmonious group.

     My third value is to create a working environment that balances between task attainment and group
interactions. As mentioned before, leadership is a process that leads to outcome. In some cases, groups
emphasize greatly on the task itself and consider group interactions to be of less significance. Despite the
high performance of this approach, it has focused excessively on the directive component of leadership. In
contrast to this method, my goal is to exercise supportive leadership. Communication and discussion should
occur frequently and members should feel comfortable before, during and after each task. It must be
emphasized that tasks are still completed, but with a more harmonious and interactive process. Through
this core value, I could produce a group that is passionate and dedicated to their tasks.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                   Wei Lou

Mission Statement

  My mission as an engineer, leader, student, worker and member of the society is to attain best
achievements in all works through effective teamwork, firm determinations and enjoyable processes. I see
the following important to me in life.
     Maintain physical and mental health for all activities regardless of the challenges and adversities.
     Use supportive and participative strategies during group discussions and organizational plannings
      rather than coercive directive methods.
     Seek for enjoyments, inspirations and improvements through all processes.
     "Do onto others as others do onto you." Live with fair and just manners.
     Construct networks with people that I value. The world is too big to be alone.
     Focus. If there is no reason to hesitate, then don't.
     Desire →Plan →Work →Outcome →Reflection →Achievement.
     Manage, plan and live a life in a way that I would never regret.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                   Wei Lou

Leadership Development Goal I

     Leadership is about creating a vision among a group of people in order to achieve a purpose. In other
words, leadership does not exist if there are no followers. The foundation of leadership is built upon the
interactions between the leader and his subordinates. And so, in order to enhance my leadership skills, I want
to seek for improvement in relationship management, specifically in communication.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                    Wei Lou

     As shown in the emotional intelligence assessment profile (ECI-U), I have received the lowest average
score for relationship management out of the four competencies. I am a person that does not have strong
motivation to take initiative in influencing people. This is not because of my deficiency in communication or
language skills, but more because of difficulties in projecting and elaborating my exact thoughts to others in
a concise and organized manner. This of course is a great obstacle to my leadership development process
since discussions, participations and interactions are crucial. Hence, it is necessary to formulate detailed
plans of actions that would allow me to improve my management skills in interactions.

Action plans for achieving leadership goal:
     1. More participation in student organizations. Communication skills should be practiced and not
         just learned. Participating as an active member in organizations would allow for plenty of
         opportunities to interact with others. Practice makes perfect.
     2. Think before speaking. Try to form a rough draft of what I want to elaborate in mind and use it to
         slowly but concisely elaborate my thoughts to others. This mental map strategy is an effective
         method to organize ideas into well packaged outputs.
     3. Take intercommunication courses. The University of Illinois has a department for studies in
         communication. The course contents can enhance my skills.

     To evaluate my improvements after following the action plans, I would retake the ECI-U assessment.
The results of the second test should provide well evaluation of my improvements.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                     Wei Lou

Leadership Development Goal II

     Decision making is a complex and difficult process that all organizations must experience. In particular,
making optimal decisions that ensures best products and survival of the organization is crucial. To further
enhance my leadership skills, I want to improve my abilities for systematic and abstract thinking where I could
understand the consequences and effects of a decision from all related perspectives.

     In my Leadership Skills Inventory Response Sheet, I received a score of 24 for technical skills, 21 for
human skills and 18 for conceptual skills where all scores are out of 30. From the assessment, I learned that
I am relatively weak with my organizational and systematic thinking. It is a challenging task for me to
understand and tackle a given problem from an overall perspective. The importance of this skill is
significant since a decision could possibly impact many other parts of the organization or even other
organizations. What I want to acquire, is the ability to foresee the effects caused by a sequence of actions
initiated by a decision.

     Systematic thinking is a high-level abstract thinking strategy that places a great emphasis on analyzing
how a system functions. Specifically, it is a method that managers frequently employ when making decisions
for the organization. This skill is difficult to develop since it requires a certain level of position within an
organization. Taking this into account, I have formulated my action plans.

Action plans for achieving goal:
     1. Participate in student organizations as board committee members. Holding a committee position
          in an organization would provide me with opportunities to exercise systematic thinking since my
          decisions would influence the entire system.
     2. Read and study related books, articles, journals and papers. The book “The Fifth Discipline” by
          Peter Senge, is an excellent example of reference that I can investigate into.
     3. Participate in the Ignite i-Program. The program focuses on the usages of this important skill and
          provides opportunities for all participants to utilize them through solving problems in real-world

     To evaluate my improvements after following the action plans, I would retake the skills assessment.
The results of the second test should provide well evaluation of my improvements.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                  Wei Lou


Leadership course - Intro to Interpersonal Communication (CMN230)

      Leadership application is the practical use of leadership skills and knowledge that individuals have
acquired so that presented problems could be effectively and positively solved within a group context. I
selected the course, Intro to Interpersonal Communication, as my means to study leadership application.
Not only did the course fulfill my requirements for the Leadership Certificate Program, it also served as an
opportunity for me to enhance my communication skills. As mentioned previously, communication and
relation management were weak components of my leadership. Communication is a continuous and
consistent self-perfection process like leadership itself and I believed the course would assist me to

      The course content was broken down into two major focuses, communication theories and
communication applications. In the theory section, the instructors assigned readings on a weekly basis. The
readings could be articles, journals, research papers or books that focused on studies regarding particular
forms of communication, like small talk for example. Through these assignments, I have gained fundamental
understandings of past research literatures. I learned the approaches that previous works had taken to
define, analyze, reason and experiment different forms of communication. Furthermore, discussions were
hold during class time to deepen my knowledge of the materials I have absorbed. As a result of my learning
process, I realized that communication skills are influenced and determined by the theories that support
them. There exist countless diverse approaches in tackling the same communication problem. What we
should do as a strong and effective communicator is to choose the most appropriate communication skill
that fits the situation.

      The application section aimed in developing the five most important communication skills through
real-world practices. The skills were Resolving Conflict, Accepting and Delivering Criticism, Disclosure,
Emotional Support and Initiating Interaction. We were required to use one of these skills each week in
actual communications and recorded the results in a detailed report. After five weeks of practices, I was
certain I have advanced on as a better communicator. This section of the course was exactly what I am
passionate for. Leadership skills should be practiced and used, not just remembered.

      At the beginning and end of the course, we were provided with assessments to evaluate our
communication abilities. It was surprising how my scores for the assessment before and after taking the
course differed significantly in a positive way. In addition, I realized that I became more confident when
interacting with other individuals. The acquired knowledge, experiences and skills were far more valuable
than I initially expected. The process of development had not ended and I aim to become an even more
effective and natural communicator.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                    Wei Lou

Leadership course - Intro to Leadership Studies (AGED260)

     Leadership theories are the foundations in which individuals develop their own personal leaderships
upon. Leaders must first understand the purpose of leadership and the approaches it could take in order to
create or choose the leadership approaches that fit themselves the most. I selected the course, Intro to
Leadership Studies, as my means to study leadership theories. Not only did the course fulfill my
requirements for the Leadership Certificate Program, it also provided me the opportunity to study
leadership from a more detailed perspective.

     The first lesson that I learned from the course is the difference between management and leadership.
It is true that managers can be leaders and vice versa. However, their definitions are essentially different.
Manager is a person who controls the use of organization’s resources and the flow of operations in order to
guarantee successful outcomes. On the other hand, leader is a person who inspires and influences his
followers in order to achieve for a common purpose. Through these definitions, I came to realize that
leadership emphasizes greatly on connections and interactions but still considers task achievement as its
primary and ultimate purpose.

     The course content covered 12 major leadership approaches. I first evaluated my competencies for
each approach using various assessments. The results not only provided more information about me as a
leader, they also enhanced my understandings for the approaches. I observed, analyzed and learned the
structure, emphasis, strengths, drawbacks and applications of each leadership approach. At the end of the
course, I reflected my learning process using the Leadership Theory Analysis, a mandatory writing
assignment. Through the course materials, I became aware of the direction that I wish to develop my

     In addition to the course materials, the group presentation project was one of the assignments that
benefited me the most. It was a four weeks long project where groups of six members presented topics of
multicultural leadership. It was an opportunity for me to exercise what I have learned. I first selected the
leadership approach that best fits the group situation and delegated tasks accordingly. More importantly, I
tried to motivate my group by respecting each member, distributing works evenly, encouraging
participations and leading by first doing. The project improved my communication skills and strengthened
my will to influence others.

     To me, the main intention of the course is not to develop the leadership skills of the students. Instead,
it is a channel to gain self-awareness. Leadership is an ongoing process, the same idea as learning. The
course acts as a compass that points to the direction that I wish and should continue to learn and practice.
What I have acquired from this course would be the tools that I can apply in my future leadership career..
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                      Wei Lou

i-Program Integrity

                                  “What exactly is integrity?” was the first question I hit my group facilitator
                            with when participating in the Integrity program. Many might find this question
                            trivial and someone must have failed miserably in the vocabulary section of the
                            SAT exam to ask it in public. I am not interested with the dictionary definition of
                            integrity since it is just plain words describing vague and unrealistic concepts.
                            What I am eager to know, is how integrity influences us as individuals. Why do
                            we need integrity? What happens if we do not include integrity into our
leadership? Who in the organization should be concerned about integrity? I entered the program with
handful of questions, only hoping that they could be answered.

A conflict between values
     During the program, we were presented with different scenarios where we need to make hard
decisions. The decisions are not as simple as choosing hamburger or hotdog for lunch; they involve severe
consequences and responsibilities. When we make a decision, we are indeed placing values that we
consider as important on a balance. Friendship vs. love, loyalty vs. achievement and honesty vs. fairness are
great examples that most of us at some point of our lives faced. We hesitate and struggle, taking every
aspect of the conflict into account. Eventually, we would decide. The issue as some might already have
noticed is that we are not deciding between pure good and pure evil. The arena is centered in the grey
region of this world. The intentions of our decisions might be positive and beneficial to many others but if
they are right remain unknown. The discussion becomes too philosophical and abstract if I continue, and so
I would summarize with what I believe is integrity. Integrity is being truthful to yourself and others. At the
end of the day, you want to face the mirror and say out loud that you are a virtuous person that lived to the
best of yourself for the day. Your decisions could possibly impact many individuals, and so it is necessary to
consider more. Integrity is about living a life style that emphasizes your beliefs and principles. What is right
may not be popular and what is popular may not be right.

     We watched a movie that encompassed many integrity components into its scenarios. It is interesting
how the movie stimulated me to think about my past. I had faced many adversities in my life and had to
make tough decisions during then. Were those the right decisions? Were they ethical? What would happen if
I chose the other path? Who had been affected by my decision? I was surprised that many memories never
really disappeared even though I do not recall them in daily life. And I realized that it is definitely true that
your pasts hunt back at you. Though this might sound old fashioned, but I want to live a life that I would
never regret, especially when I review it once more in the far future.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                    Wei Lou

      I have to confess that I still do not perfectly understand integrity. The scope and depth of the concept
and definition is just too wide and deep for me to grasp. Nevertheless, I would live a life that I believe is
right, truthful and best for me and others. Whether my decisions are ethical or not would be determined by
history itself.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                  Wei Lou

i-Program Insight

                            Insight was a program that focused on participant’s self-awareness and
                         self-management. We were told to apply positive asset-based thinking when
                          attempting to discover the strengths and talents we possess. Once we
                          acknowledged our strengths and weaknesses, we need to learn how to manage
                          them in order to improve. Insight used a variety of discussion topics to stimulate
                       individuals to think deep, in other words, to gain insight.

                                 The five best strengths that define me
Personal Strength Assessment
     A personal strength assessment was completed and printed before attending the program. The
assessment results list five strengths that an individual possess in descending order of relative strength.
The following are my results:

You love to solve problems. Whereas some are dismayed when they encounter yet another breakdown, you
can be energized by it. You enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms, identifying what is wrong, and
finding the solution. You may prefer practical problems or conceptual ones or personal ones. You may seek
out specific kinds of problems that you have met many times before and that you are confident you can fix.
Or you may feel the greatest push when faced with complex and unfamiliar problems. Your exact
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                     Wei Lou

preferences are determined by your other themes and experiences. But what is certain is that you enjoy
bringing things back to life. It is a wonderful feeling to identify the undermining factor(s), eradicate them,
and restore something to its true glory. Intuitively, you know that without your intervention, this
thing—this machine, this technique, this person, this company—might have ceased to function. You fixed it,
resuscitated it, rekindled its vitality. Phrasing it the way you might, you saved it.

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information—words, facts, books, and
quotations—or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or
sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of
mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and
complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more
information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and
facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is
often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become
useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So
you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And
perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

Your Individualization theme leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. You are
impatient with generalizations or “types” because you don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct
about each person. Instead, you focus on the differences between individuals. You instinctively observe each
person’s style, each person’s motivation, how each thinks, and how each builds relationships. You hear the
one-of-a-kind stories in each person’s life. This theme explains why you pick your friends just the right
birthday gift, why you know that one person prefers praise in public and another detests it, and why you
tailor your teaching style to accommodate one person’s need to be shown and another’s desire to “figure it
out as I go.” Because you are such a keen observer of other people’s strengths, you can draw out the best in
each person. This Individualization theme also helps you build productive teams. While some search around
for the perfect team “structure” or “process,” you know instinctively that the secret to great teams is casting
by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well.

Competition is rooted in comparison. When you look at the world, you are instinctively aware of other
people’s performance. Their performance is the ultimate yardstick. No matter how hard you tried, no
matter how worthy your intentions, if you reached your goal but did not outperform your peers, the
achievement feels hollow. Like all competitors, you need other people. You need to compare. If you can
compare, you can compete, and if you can compete, you can win. And when you win, there is no feeling quite
like it. You like measurement because it facilitates comparisons. You like other competitors because they
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                    Wei Lou

invigorate you. You like contests because they must produce a winner. You particularly like contests where
you know you have the inside track to be the winner. Although you are gracious to your fellow competitors
and even stoic in defeat, you don’t compete for the fun of competing. You compete to win. Over time you will
come to avoid contests where winning seems unlikely.

“Where am I headed?” you ask yourself. You ask this question every day. Guided by this theme of Focus, you
need a clear destination. Lacking one, your life and your work can quickly become frustrating. And so each
year, each month, and even each week you set goals. These goals then serve as your compass, helping you
determine priorities and make the necessary corrections to get back on course. Your Focus is powerful
because it forces you to filter; you instinctively evaluate whether or not a particular action will help you
move toward your goal. Those that don’t are ignored. In the end, then, your Focus forces you to be efficient.
Naturally, the flip side of this is that it causes you to become impatient with delays, obstacles, and even
tangents, no matter how intriguing they appear to be. This makes you an extremely valuable team member.
When others start to wander down other avenues, you bring them back to the main road. Your Focus
reminds everyone that if something is not helping you move toward your destination, then it is not
important. And if it is not important, then it is not worth your time. You keep everyone on point.

     I was astonished by how well the results perfectly explained my behaviors and thoughts as a leader.
Restorative, Input and Focus describe how I manage myself to deal with problems while Competition and
Individuation are values that I emphasize during the process of problem solving. The five strengths are not
just my strong attributes; they are the elements that define who I am as an individual. I view this world as a
pool of challenging problems and in order to be successful, I need to solve the problems that exist in
different stages of my life. However, regardless of how strong and determined I am as a leader, it is obvious
from the assessment that I lack competencies to cooperate with others. This related back to the leadership
development goal, where my main intension was to strengthen my communication and relation
management skills during the participation of the certificate program. There is no doubt that this section of
the Insight program brought me to a new level of self-understanding.

     The most important idea I gained from Insight is the change of the center of my thinking process.
Before attending the program, I focused on my weaknesses and was dedicated to improve them, ignoring
what I had already acquired. This is called deficit-based thinking, a process that aims to achieve the same
purpose as asset-based thinking but with a less optimistic manner. The problem was not to decide the right
thinking strategy, but to choose the one that is most comfortable to me. By using the asset-based thinking, I
acknowledged the fact that I have strengths and there is no denial to my success as a leader. I should still
seek for improvements, but based on the foundations that I have built. In short, I learned to be a more
healthy, productive and optimistic leader and learner.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                     Wei Lou

i-Program Intersect

                               Intersect was a program where individuals develop interpersonal skills
                           through various exciting and stimulating activities. It was one of the programs
                           that I expected the most before attending, since I hope to acquire more
                           experiences for interpersonal communications. Intersect focused mainly on
                          small group activities and discussions. This created an interactive and
                       comfortable atmosphere among the members of each group. I was motivated and the
program turned out to be more intriguing than I expected.

Personal Listening Style
     The first major activity was the personal listening style section. Each participant took a personal
listening profile assessment to understand what listening styles fit them the most. My results were as

  Plot for personal listening profile (starting from the left to right: appreciative, empathic, comprehensive,
                                     discerning and evaluative listening)
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                     Wei Lou

     The results roughly matched my expectations before the assessment. I had the lowest score for
discerning listening style. This is because I am an individual that is unconcerned with information that is
irrelevant during conversations. I have a tendency to ignore out-of-box information that I consider as
useless. The results revealed a weakness that I have always attempted to improve on. It is difficult and
sometimes impossible to effectively filter information since there is no exact standard in determining what
information is important. Over filtering could sometimes lead to undesirable outcomes. On the other hand,
empathic and evaluative listening styles were highest in my personal profile. They are approaches that I feel
inclined to use during interactions and would continue to utilize them in the future. Through the
assessment, I gained a deeper understanding of myself and what I should do to make a difference.

Team Challenge
     I consider this activity the best out of the entire program and learned the most from. Each group had
to decide six supply bundles that would be used to create an unknown object. We had a total of 30 minutes
for brainstorming and 10 minutes for group reflections. After completion, we compete with other groups
using our object.

     The object we had to create was a catapult. The materials our group acquired were chopsticks, string,
binder clips, rulers, curved plastic arcs and colored sticks. It should be obvious from this list that our group
faced extreme difficulties. Problems we faced include: 1) How should we set a firm base? 2) What could we
do to project the ping-pong ball? 3) What could be done to make the projection stable and accurate? The
production process was not smooth since plan formulation dominated most of our time. We had to delegate
different tasks to each member in the group in order to complete within limited time. During the process, I
realized that the group was having organized and effective discussions. More importantly, the members all
contributed in a harmonious and respectful manner.

                                                  Group catapult
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                    Wei Lou

     Intersect enhanced my development of interpersonal interaction abilities. I learned plenty of useful
ideas and gained experiences from the learning style assessment and the team challenge activity.
Interactions could exist in various forms, but a consistent idea follows all of them. We interact not only for
needs of affiliation but also to achieve a common purpose. This matches with the definition of leadership,
where leaders influence others to attain for a common goal.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                        Wei Lou

i-Program Imprint
                                    Imprint was a program that focused on transitional development of the
                             participants. The goal was to educate students so that they can successfully deal
                             with the transitions in life, whether small or big, easy or difficult. In addition, it
                             emphasized the importance of networking and elaborated on the skills
                             associated with it. Imprint was a program that I wished to learn and understand
                             the art of networking, and fortunately, I gained more than I expected.

Dealing with transitions
     One major distinction of Imprint from other i-programs was that it operated in a professional
environment. The group facilitators were people who had been successful in the real working world and the
dressing code was business casual or professional. You know why you are here for. You want to devote time
and effort to develop for your professional careers. This was crucial for me, since I know I would soon be
graduating and officially joining the working society. There were opportunities for me to improve and I
would hold on to them.

     The first section of the program focused on transitions. We learned the nature of transitions, the
phases (or timeline) in experiencing them, how to handle our emotions and most importantly, making
transitions successful (or less painful). Changes occur and people are reluctant to face them. Transitions are
inevitable in life, but we can prepare ourselves to master them, even in great adversities. The key was to
motivate the emotional brain, which is often times the obstacle that hinders our transitional development.
Once this huge elephant (emotional brain) starts to move, we can then seek for a better balance between
our emotions and rationales. Change is hard, but no change or unwilling to change is worse.

     The second section of the program was more appealing to me. I never understood the need of
networking and so never maximized my potential to make use of the bonds and connections I have with
others. My perspective changed completely after participating in Imprint. Yes, there is a definite must for
networking and maintaining the relationships with people, especially in your fields of interests. People are
reluctant to do so, since it requires leaving the comfort zone that we are so accustomed to live in. However,
without an interactive network, we lose our connections with a particular sector of the world. I was amazed
by the stories of the facilitators about the possibilities that a good network can produce. Networking can be
difficult, but as an amateur entering the unknown working society, I must establish my own network,
especially while I am still here.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                              Wei Lou

                   My personal brand T-shirt that requires some artistic refinements

    The personal brand was what I learned the most from the program. What do I want others to see in me?
What do I want to be known for? What features define who I am? By answering these questions, I produced
the T-shirt above. It is a collection of all my attributes and emphasis. This is me.

     Imprint made me signed up immediately for a LinkedIn account. It is time to start establishing
connections and build a strong network. Networking is a continuous process and I definitely should start
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                  Wei Lou

Research Experience – Computer Vision Research Group

     I have worked as the research assistant for the computer vision research group since Jan 2010. The
main task that I focused on was to update, extend and maintain the dataset used by the research group. I
used various programming scripts and tools to collect, process, organize and store images that would later
be used for other projects. In addition to the technical programming experiences and skills I have gained
through this position, I believe I also have improved greatly on the communication aspect of my leadership.

     As an Asian international student, my culture enforces the tradition of giving upmost respect to people
who are more experienced and knowledgeable than you are. Respect itself is fundamental when building
relations and maintaining interactions and there is definitely no wrong in emphasizing it. However, respect
is often times misinterpreted in my culture. We believe that those above do the talking and no comments
should be given. It is interesting but at the same time depressing to realize that our cultural systems are
disregarding the importance of participation and communication between leaders and their subordinates. I
know that by nature, I am eager to present my ideas and let people hear my voice out loud. But cultural
influences and communicational barriers exist and hinder my development. It was never a simple task to
change on values that you have learned and practiced for so long. Nevertheless, after one year of time and
effort, I believe I have improved greatly in terms of in-project communication and management. I had
regular meetings with my supervisor and co-workers, respecting them as I used to, but now with more
emphasis on interactions during discussions. It was a satisfaction to me when I learned that my supervisor
assigned me new assistant workers that I would later lead and direct. This was a sign of approval,
acknowledging my strengths as a competent leader and engineer.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                     Wei Lou

Student Organization – TzuChing

     Being in a prestigious university, the most important resources students should take advantage of are
the student organizations. Peers with similar interests connect to form communities that emphasize on
their passions. In addition, student organizations provide leaders opportunities to practice their skills and
gain valuable experiences. I participated since my junior year as the webmaster in the newly formed
student charity club, TzuChing. The founder of the organization happened to be my classmate in freshman
year and he decided to recruit me for my expertise in website designing. As I reflect back, I realized that this
position was indeed one of the stepping stones that initiated my leadership development.

     One of the most important concepts I learned from being a board committee member in TzuChing was
the power of juxtaposition. We have talented, diverse and creative individuals that want to do something.
However, as a group, it is difficult to define a common purpose that all would be willing to attain for. Using
juxtapositioning, we are essentially combining various factors so that a macro vision is created among all
members. It’s through a process of brainstorming, discussion and presentation where we reach a consensus
and say, “This is exactly what we want to do!” Once the idea is solid and shared, the progress in actualizing it
becomes smooth and manageable. Organizations should definitely employ more juxtaposition before
arranging activities or initiating projects. It unites the passions and abilities of all, encourages active
participation and eventually produces a strong direction that guides us as a whole.

     Another concept that I recalled as I reflect back is the definite need for social networking. The
president (also the founder) of TzuChing might not be as competent in leadership abilities to other
presidents of larger organizations on campus. However, he has a strong network that he had built during his
freshman year and used it as his resources. He recruited individuals that shared the same vision as he did,
and started his organization with the support of many others. What individuals can do by themselves is
limited, but as a huge network of people, we are productive and strong.
Illini Leadership Certificate Program - Portfolio                                                    Wei Lou

Future Development Plans

     Leadership is an ongoing process. I could proudly say to anyone who read this that I did an excellent
job in developing my leadership in my four years of college life. However, the fun had just started. It is time
to transit on to the next stage, sustaining and practicing leadership.

     It is challenging to envision how exactly I would be using leadership in the near future, specifically,
after graduation. There are no guarantees as to which organization I would eventually fall into. However, I
have outlined some other feasible methods to continue my process.
          Readings: There are countless articles, journals, papers and books that cover different aspects of
           leadership. Reading and learning from these literatures is an effective way to acquire knowledge
           that is not taught in school.
          Forming a vision and sharing it: Learn and realize what I want to do to make a change in life.
           Organize ideas into specifically planned sequences of actions. Consult with advisors to gain
           insight regarding my own vision. Share the vision among individuals.
          Build connections in real life: Leadership is about leaders influencing followers. Build teams of
           people that are interested in my vision. Stays connected to classmates and at the same time,
           interact with people in workplaces related to my interests.

     It must be emphasized that leadership does not stop after a program or course. A tool that is not
consistently used will eventually wear off. Stay sharp by practicing, is the spirit that all leaders should