Author: Mendes, Randi

JLLA holds first virtual workshop on conflict resolution

John Lof Leadership Academy (JLLA) goes virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic. During these difficult times, JLLA will be turning their Spring curriculum virtual using platforms such as Webex and Zoom. The group will be connecting members with training on conflict resolution, resource management, mentoring vs. micromanaging, and ethics vs. pragmatism. JLLA continues to work with speakers from and outside of UConn to lead these unique and highly individualized workshops.

On April 24, 2020, JLLA held its first virtual workshop titled conflict resolution. The workshop was planned by JLLA president Randi Mendes. This was the second workshop on conflict resolution for the group. She brought in speaker Donna Douglass Williams, J.D from the UConn Ombudsperson office. Donna has over 20 years of experience as an ombudsperson, attorney, mediator, trainer, facilitator, and presenter. She has also served as an Ombudsperson at the World Health Organization and as the Inaugural Ombudsperson for the Green Climate Fund.

Randi Mendes said that she felt that it was important to bring Donna into the workshop. “Conflict between yourself and others, as well as mediating conflict between those you lead can be a common occurrence.” She added, “Many, including myself, do not always feel confident in handling or approaching conflict. I felt it was important to give members of JLLA a platform to learn the skills they need to feel empowered to face it as future leaders.”

The two-hour training focused on changing the mindset of conflict and learning how to communicate effectively during the conflict.  She challenged the group to look at conflict as a problem two people are trying to solve, rather than the person as the source of conflict. She taught the group the different types of conflict response styles in order to explain how to communicate with others who may approach conflict differently.  These styles include competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. Finally, she emphasized using non-violent communication (NVC) as a form of communicating through conflict. NVC was developed by Marshall Rosenberg as a “communications technique interceded to frame conversations that results in mutual respect, understanding, and the peaceful resolution of conflict”.

Member Erik Ammermann said, “the theme of controlling your mindset and emotions when approaching conflict and is something I will be conscious of in future situations. A conflict does not always need to be viewed in negative connotations as I thought previously but as something unavoidable and inevitable to be used as an opportunity to resolve issues in one’s life and grow through.”

JLLA Leads Personalized Public Speaking Workshop

On January 21st, John Lof Leadership Academy (JLLA) lead their second workshop of the year. During this workshop, all members tested their ability to communicate on research, motivation, general talks, and pitches. Members prepared a 3-minute talk on their selected topic. Finally, after each talk, Dr. Chrysochoou, Dr. Maric, and other JLLA members discussed areas in which the talk could use improvement and how it was successful.

As engineering students, it is crucial to master the art of public speaking. This skill is not widely taught in many engineering curriculums and it is not often practiced by students. Therefore, JLLA closed this gap by creating an opportunity for its members to practice this skill. This event was led by members Pierre Fils and Mikayla Moody. The two new John Lof members led their committee in planning and executing this successful event.

Members voiced that they appreciated the ability to have an informal and low-stake way to practice. They mentioned that this opportunity allowed them to learn about public speaking in a different way than what was provided by classes or research alone.

“My biggest takeaway was that public speaking is not a singular thing. It is dynamic and changes greatly depending on who is presenting, the topic they are presenting on, and the audience they are presenting to. Even within the same topic and audience, people will present very differently, and that’s okay. That individuality is what makes the speech.”

“This seemed like a great way of encouraging public speaking without forcing anyone into uncomfortable situations since topic options were given, groups were small, and feedback was genuine and intimate among fellow peers. It was a well-organized means of addressing an aspect of leadership that doesn’t come naturally and I think it was beneficial for many, including myself.”

“My biggest takeaway is that to be who you are in whatever you are doing is the most important thing. We are engineers, but we are not machines, and each of us is different, and that difference is what makes us interesting to listen to. Also, if you don’t do passionately what you do, you cannot even get good feedback to help you.”

John Lof Leadership Academy Leads Conflict Resolution Workshop

John Lof Leadership Academy (JLLA) members have developed a cycling curriculum for their 2-year leadership training. Within this curriculum, each semester has a target leadership goal or theme and a set of three skills in which the members focus on.  Throughout the semester, the members plan and coordinate active learning and training workshops. The workshops target these skills with a larger focus on leadership.

The Fall 2019 Semester theme was “Communicating Leadership”.  The skills for this semester were (1) public speaking, (2) feedback skills, and (3) conflict resolution.

On January 14th, the conflict resolution committee, led by Anna Marie LaChance, worked with Katherine Kenyon from the Office of Institutional Equity at UConn. Katherine led a 2 hour training on the causes of conflict. The training focused on policy, student rights, and civility and incivility.

Katharine led a hands-on activity meant to initiate a discussion about conflict. She had JLLA members form two separate groups and build a structure. The groups had to then write instructions for the other group on how recreate their structure.  Finally, Katherine led a discussion regarding the issues everyone ran into into within the activity and identify areas where conflict had arisen.








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John Lof Leadership Academy Inducts Second Cohort

The John Lof Leadership Academy (JLLA) inducted its most recent class on November 7th, 2019 during a formal ceremony held at the Innovation Partnership Building (IPB) lobby. The new class includes 15 graduate students from Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. The inductees were chosen via a rigorous application process that examined not only their impressive academic standing and achievements but also their past experiences and commitment towards engaging with different communities.

The dean of the School of Engineering Kazem Kazerounian, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education Leslie Shor, and Director of Graduate Outreach and Diversity Aida Ghiaei were among the School of Engineering leadership who attended the induction ceremony. Kazerounian, Shor, and Ghiaei in their respective remarks iterated the uniqueness of the JLLA not only at UConn but in the United States. Ghiaei, who also serves as an adviser to the JLLA executive board also informed the attendees of the different initiatives introduced by the JLLA during the past year. The new inductees were presented with induction certificates as mementos to remember the occasion. The two newly elected executive board members were announced and introduced with the rest of the group as well.

The following students were inducted into JLLA this semester:

    1. Ayana Ghosh, Materials Science & Engineering

    2. Douglas Hendrix, Materials Science & Engineering

    3. Erik Ammermann, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

    4. Haarith Vohra, Computer Science, and Engineering

    5. Giovanna Fusco, Civil & Environmental Engineering

    6. Ibtihal Alahmadi, Biomedical Engineering

    7. I’jaaz Muhammad, Biomedical Engineering

    8. Michael Reisert, Materials Science, and Engineering

    9. Mikayla Moody, Biomedical Engineering

    10. Mohammed Albayati, Mechanical Engineering

    11. Pierre Fils, Civil & Environmental Engineering

    12. Sudipta Chowdhury, Civil & Environmental Engineering

    13. Thomas Moran, Materials Science, and Engineering

    14. Tori Danis, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

    15. Uchenna Anene, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering


John Lof Leadership Academy Visits Illing Middle School

Run by graduate students from various departments within the University of Connecticut School of Engineering, the John Lof Leadership Academy aims to train its members to become leaders in their fields. The Academy provides training and workshops focused on leadership through the lens of the individual member’s career and personal goals.  Through that training, Academy members focus their time on honing their skills through practice, which is done through collaboration and outreach.

As part of that goal rooted in outreach, the Lof Scholars visited Illing Middle School in Manchester, Connecticut on March 25. The Lof scholars spent the day talking about UConn and our engineering programs and sparked students towards the field of engineering through the use of fun, active learning.

Throughout the day, the Lof Scholars worked with over 150 students. Students learned how to make water filtration apparatuses, they studied biomechanics using a human skeleton and learned about electromagnetics, which introduced them to the fields of biomedical, electrical, environmental, civil, chemical, and mechanical engineering. The Lof scholars found the opportunity very rewarding as they were able to bring their research to kids in a fun and interesting way.