Carlinton – Small Groups, Big Lessons!

One of the things that I have always enjoyed about my Communication classes is the opportunity, or rather the requirement that we work in small groups. I am what Columbus State University calls a non-traditional student. When I first began my education here at CSU, I was 34 years old and had recently completed my 16th year in the US Army. As a result of my years in the military, I had worked in every conceivable form of small group. However, unlike in my Communication classes, the groups that I’ve worked with in the Army always had a clear leadership structure. There was never any doubt concerning the identity of the individual who had the authority to end all discussions, and implement the decision he/she deemed appropriate. Thus, adjusting to the way business was conducted in a Communications class small group environment, in impose to the Army, took some effort (to say the least). Unlike with the Army, leaders were often identified after work began, based on the strengths and weakness of group members. Also, unlike in the Army, where I would dictate (or be dictated to) the next step in a project/mission; the communications classes required that I gain the support of my fellow group members prior to any final decisions. While I believe the US Army is the greatest leadership school on earth, unfortunately it does not often allow one to practice the decision making process in a democratic and collaborative manner. I believe the leadership lessons I have learned working in the small groups at CSU, are as important as the lessons I have learned leading troops in combat. Therefore, I would encourage my fellow students to embrace the small group-teaching format, which is often offered within the Communication department. While I’m sure we have all had those nightmarish experiences working in small groups. The small group format inevitably offers experiences and lessons that are invaluable to students who enter the workforce following graduation.