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Two CCRI students, veterans tapped
for leadership program
March 11, 2014
Students Chad McFarlane and Michael Steiner have a great deal in common. They both study electrical engineering at the Community College of Rhode Island, expecting to graduate this spring; they are both military veterans; and they both share a driving desire to make the world a better place through their actions and example.
All of these commonalities, no doubt, led to earning another shared distinction: They recently were named two of 20 members of this year’s New Leaders Council of Rhode Island, a competitive leadership cohort that aims to nurture a new generation of progressive leaders.
“It’s great to be recognized for what you do on a daily basis,” said McFarlane, who is president of the CCRI Student Veterans Organization.
“I feel very fortunate to be chosen among all of the extremely qualified candidates who applied,” added Steiner.
McFarlane said about 50 applicants were put through a rigorous process including interviews that used leadership role-playing scenarios. The two CCRI students and the rest of their cohort meet for one weekend a month for five months to listen to speakers, participate in seminars and exercises and embark on what the two young men say should be an exciting journey of self-discovery and access to valuable networking opportunities.
“The idea is to instill progressive values in younger people who want to go out and impact the community, be it through politics or community service or in general,” explained McFarlane.
Both students certainly fit that bill. McFarlane is a veteran of the Army, while Steiner served in the Navy and has stayed on as a reservist. In addition to their military service, they both spoke of valuable community service opportunities that they have undertaken in their lives, and listed serving on the board of the Rhode Island Military Organization, a nonprofit founded by CCRI alumnus and SVO founder Anthony Paolino, chief among those activities.
In fact, it was through networking opportunities facilitated by Paolino, who was recently named to Leadership Rhode Island’s current class, that brought about the pair’s application to the New Leaders Council.
“He really gave me the opportunity to get involved in things I never would have expected to. And I want to give others the opportunity to do that, or at least show them their options,” said McFarlane of one of his mentors. “That gives me great joy.”
Steiner echoed McFarlane’s sentiments as he spoke of the imperative he feels to work for positive change through community service and ultimately political involvement.
“There have been a number of great, influential people in my life,” he said. “One is Carol Panaccione, my German professor here at the college. I will always remember when she said that the empty drums make the loudest noise. People love to complain about the government and what they are doing, but they probably don’t vote, make informed decisions, or write or call their congressmen. Getting people engaged and caring about the people they put in office and the decisions that those people make and the direct impact those decisions have on our lives is what really motivates me.”
Steiner said that ultimately, after transferring and getting his bachelor’s degree, he hopes to earn his master’s degree in public policy and eventually run for office to continue leading by example.
McFarlane, who describes his leadership style as one of team- and consensus-building, said that he sees his involvement in the NLC as the latest addition to a thread of leadership- and service-focused activities throughout his life.
“I’m the child of immigrants, a first generation American. And I have this mentality of just trying to strive forward. After sitting through the first NLC workshop, I realized that there’s been this connection with all the things that I do: I want to leave things better than I found them,” he said.
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