On Nov. 20, three groups from the Experiential Leadership Institute (ELI) were chosen to receive funding for their community impact projects.
The aim of these projects is to create positive change at Gonzaga University and in the Spokane community. This annual program, put on by the Payne Center for Leadership Development (PCLD), had a new development this year: it received monetary funding.
According to Kirsten Bohlen, a program coordinator for PCLD, a total of $1,000 was awarded to the three winning groups.
Payne Fellow Ethan Gruis said that the money was donated by PayneWest Insurance. The money will be split evenly among the three winning groups, and will be dispersed on a need-basis.This is the first time that ELI has been able to provide this type of support to its students.
Gruis said that this year had a fantastic turnout for the group presentations, with around 135 people in attendance. With financial and community support, these projects are as important as they have ever been.
The three winning groups are primed to make an impact, but all of the ELI groups are looking to change the community for the better.
The Sustainability First project is exploring ways to make GU’s campus more sustainable. According to Bohlen, their main goal is to affect change on campus.
They want to know what exactly is being done around GU to figure out where the school can improve.
Another project, aptly titled How to Adult, spoke with insurance and financial institutions — including U.S. Bank and PayneWest Insurance — around Spokane in an attempt to educate GU students on how to deal with taxes and other issues that they will face after college. This group also wants to incorporate Spokane housing resources into its curriculum so students know that they have help outside of GU.
According to Bohlen this group is looking to educate local high schools on these important topics.
Bohlen said the other group chosen, titles Health is Wealth, wants to provide “low cost, for-student CPR training here [at GU]. And they would like the community to participate.”
They don’t have a concrete plan on how they will implement this yet, but with the new funding, they can make it happen.
Past ELI community impact projects have already altered the campus. The pedestrian crosswalk on Hamilton Street, next to the GU campus, was the result of an ELI project Bohlen said.
The institute isn’t all about altering the physical landscape of the GU campus; it is also about fostering a sense of engagement and belonging in sophomores at GU.
The ELI program is only for sophomore students at GU, though it may be offered to juniors soon, Bohlen said.
If for any reason students don’t participate in leadership programs that require you to start as a freshman, such as the Hogan program, then these students have the opportunity to be a part of ELI. Inclusivity is paramount to both PCLD and ELI.
“[PCLD] creates different [programs] that are accessible; you don’t have to apply, you can just drop in," Bohlen said. "So any student can come."
Gruis, having been a member of ELI and is now an ELI Payne fellow, has some personal experience with the institute.
“[ELI] provides you a platform to build off of to immerse yourself in the community,” Gruis said.
This is one of the unique traits of the program, as there isn’t a lot of opportunity to get involved after freshmen year at GU, Gruis said.
As Gruis mentioned, ELI was the platform that he needed to continue to get more involved. He became a part of GU’s Guide Core, and then decided to repay what the ELI program did for him by becoming an ELI Payne Fellow and helping the next generation of ELI members through the program.
Bohlen and Gruis both agree that ELI is an excellent way for students to create more opportunity for themselves.
As the student projects that go through ELI evolve, so does the institute itself.
“ELI is never the same [year-to-year], we change the program based off of the assessments we receive at, the end of it,” Bohlen said.