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Robyne Walker Murphy is the director of early childhood and family programming at DreamYard Project (Bronx, NY) . Prior to this position, she worked with DreamYard as a teaching artist for four years and then, in 2008, was appointed director of out of school programs . Under Robyne's leadership, DreamYard OSP solidified their commitment to social justice pedagogy. In November 2012, Robyne accepted the 2012 National Art and Humanities Youth Program Award on behalf of DreamYard's Out of School Progams from First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony.
I now know that my journey to leadership reflects the journey of many others. I started out as a teaching artist. I then became a site coordinator, then a lead teacher, and then a program director. The leap from teaching young people to leading a program and managing people was huge for me. I had been in my role as Director of Out of School Programs at DreamYard Project for four and a half years when I first learned about CAELI. Up to that point, I had been on a quest to figure out what it means to be a good leader. I kept asking myself, “What are the observable qualities of good leadership?” After reading about CAELI and talking with a colleague who had attended other Guild training events, I said to myself, “Okay, CAELI is going to be an experience that is going to allow me to answer this question.”
The 360-degree feedback process was particularly eye-opening and something I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience. People who know different aspects of my work (my executive directors, board, people I work with) were asked to give anonymous and honest, written feedback on me as a leader prior to the on-site seminar. What they shared gave me a very holistic view of myself as a leader. With the help of Diane Foster, our executive coach, I was then able to use this feedback to examine and better understand my strengths and weaknesses, and to craft a personal leadership development plan which I could work on after the seminar.
Phil McArthur’s training on difficult conversations was incredible. He introduced me to the “ladder of inference,” a tool for achieving a healthy balance of advocacy and inquiry in difficult or high stress conversations. Usually during difficult situations, we tend to either advocate for our own point of view without asking a lot of questions or we ask a lot of questions which can make others feel like we’re interrogating them. Phil taught me how to come into conversations with an open mind and the willingness to be changed by other people’s perspectives. His training during the CAELI seminar was so transformative for me that when I returned to DreamYard Project, I shared my experience with my executive directors and we’ve since invited Phil to our organization twice to give his workshop for our entire leadership team. The "ladder of inference" has now become part of our organizational language.
I’ve met some amazing people through CAELI that are now my cohort. I continue to connect with them and think about ways we can work together.
CAELI also has deepened my relationship with the Guild. It’s made me think more deeply about my role in our field, not only as a program director but also as an arts advocate.
This is not going to be your run of the mill workshop. The faculty has a lot of heart, and the experience is emotional because you have to examine yourself and the reasons you’re in this field. CAELI will reconnect you with the importance of your work and transform the way you think about leadership. You have to be ready to think about what drives you, what you’re passionate about, and how you can build up not only yourself but the people around you in order to work towards a common goal. CAELI is full of heart. You have to be ready to let your guard down. But if you do, it’s refreshing.
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