Talking with those who have graduated from Developing History Leaders @ SHA you’re likely to hear endless accolades about two key benefits of the seminar: 1. learning from (and conversing with) top leaders in our field, and 2. building a national network of passionate and brilliant “co-conspirators.” I, for one, will be happy to endlessly bend your ear filling you with information on both of these benefits.
However, one thing I don’t normally chat about is the deep bonds of friendship that are built during the three week immersive program. It turns out that breaking away from the day-to-day and diving head first, alongside equally passionate history leaders, into the key concerns of our field has a life-changing effect. SHA creates opportunities for the meeting and bonding between a small group of people that results in lifelong relationships.
When I refer to my SHA-mates as “friends,” I use that term in the most traditional sense. These friends are the people I call on not only for professional advice but have supported me (and continue to support me) through some of my life’s most difficult and challenging times. The friends I know I can call on when the chips are down.
From the professional aspect, these friends are invaluable for their collective characteristics and their unique identities. They work in multiple organizations, in multiple states, and each is on a very different career track. In other words, we’re not all like-minded. They’ve brought the strength of diversity of perspectives and backgrounds to the difficult professional decisions that they’ve helped me make. Each of these friends has served as a mentor for me and openly shared their wisdom and guidance.
From the personal aspect, I’ve laughed and I’ve cried with most of them. They’ve seen the best of me and they’ve seen the worst of me. I’ve broken bread with them, watched their children grow, and been welcomed into their larger families. True friends.
Rebecca Adams (Sociology Professor, University of North Carolina) cites three conditions that are necessary for establishing close friendships—“proximity, repeated, unplanned interactions, and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.” SHA creates all three of those conditions for its seminarians.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not advocating that you attend SHA because you’re looking to make lifelong friends (that’d probably be the wrong reason to attend). But, I would say that you should expect that it is very likely to happen. And, I think you should expect those friendships will enrich both your professional life and your personal life. It’s far beyond networking. And that is a beautiful thing.