Experiental Learning

On the last day of fall 2014 Orientation week, all of the students and faculty in the Genetic Counseling Program attended an all-day workshop known as Experiential Learning. The goal of Experiential Learning is to help members of a team learn about themselves and others, bond, and explore effective teamwork while going through a series of difficult problem-solving tasks. After each activity was completed, the team discussed what concepts we learned that could help us as a team throughout the coming year.

One of our activities was what I will refer to as the “jump rope challenge.” The task was to have every person present jump the rope once while two members were handling the rope – the trick was that the jumping had to be done in pairs and it had to be continuous, so as one pair jumped, another pair would simultaneously run under the jump rope. If any pair tripped over the rope, the whole team had to start over again. Given that we had 29 people, it was incredibly difficult for all of us to get through under the requirements. We called a team meeting and decided to modify the challenge so that we were allowed one “empty turn” of the rope in between pairs of people so as to help with timing. As we tried over and over to complete the task, we became aware of the value of encouragement and support among teammates. Instead of becoming annoyed when someone repeatedly tripped over the rope, we offered tips and reassurance that they would get it the next try. This task also affirmed the importance of a positive attitude – remaining optimistic and engaged in the process really helped our team towards our goal.

Fortunately, we managed to complete the challenge before the end of the allotted time and we were all ecstatic about our achievement. As a first-year student facing a challenging year of graduate school, I feel very grateful to be surrounded by such a supportive team. I can see similarities between the coming year and the jump rope challenge – at the beginning, it seemed overwhelmingly demanding and many of us did not expect that we would be able to complete it. As a team, we made a plan for the best strategy and modified that strategy when it was not working for us. We succeeded in the end by encouraging each other but also by pushing ourselves towards our goal and staying positive even when we were struggling. I feel that this is a metaphor for the year ahead of us and although I am nervous, I am also confident that we will all succeed because we have such an amazing support system in the UC Genetic Counseling Program.

Although I was exhausted by the end of Experiential Learning, I was very glad for the opportunity to get to know my classmates and supervisors. I believe that we bonded over the difficult tasks and learned a lot about our personal leadership styles and how we can be a more cohesive team in the upcoming academic year. I am confident after Experiential Learning that honoring the teamwork principles we learned will allow the UC GCP to conquer any challenge that comes our way.
           --Hannah Balka