Service and Leadership: A grad student's Citadel bond
|This is one in an occasional story series highlighting the unique educational environment at The Citadel. "Service and Leadership" will profile people and events that exemplify "The Citadel Experience," its leadership laboratory and the college's mission of achieving excellence in the education of principled leaders.|
Creighton Eddings is not a cadet but after four years as a graduate student he feels a bond with The Citadel that will follow him the rest of his life.
"I felt like an outsider here initially," said Eddings, who got his undergraduate degree from Clemson University. "But today, after four years here, I feel more a part of The Citadel than ever before."
That may be unusual for the 1,200 or so students enrolled in The Citadel Graduate College. Most are older, hold down jobs and don't spend as much time on campus as a cadet does. But like cadets, Eddings says he has benefitted personally and professionally from the college's emphasis on service and leadership development.
On a track toward medical school, Eddings was working with children with behavior problems at the Medical University of South Carolina in downtown Charleston when he changed course and decided that a career in elementary school counseling was his calling. He enrolled at The Citadel in 2003 and began work on the first of two master's degrees. He completed a master of education - counselor education in May 2005. He is scheduled to complete his degree in educational leadership this month.
It was because of his demonstrated leadership that this fall Eddings was selected by School of Education Dean Tony Johnson to present an overview of the education department's philosophy and structure to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. NCATE is the professional accrediting organization for schools of education nationwide. Having a student stand before the accreditation team is somewhat unusual.
Johnson said Eddings "was the obvious choice to present the graduate student's perspective on what it means to be a 'principled educational leader.' "
"We selected him to present to the NCATE team primarily because his experience in earning two advanced degrees from The Citadel. This is unusual to say the least," Johnson said. "Since the School of Education's role at The Citadel is significant at the graduate level...we wanted someone who had been around long enough to experience the improvements accomplished in the past few years and who had assumed leadership roles while a student at The Citadel."
Eddings was blown away by the decision and by knowing an important part of the accreditation process rested in his hands.
"I was actually quite honored," he said. "I was nervous knowing that so much was riding on this process. I don't have any problem speaking in front of people, but standing there that day before a group of professionals in the field I knew it was a big moment."
Cadets experience leadership development running the Corps of Cadets on a daily basis. Graduate students don't get that same kind of experience, but Eddings said it is obvious that The Citadel's mission and core values are rooted in the graduate education program.
"When you think about The Citadel you think about leadership, values, ethical decision making - those things are at the heart of everything I have done around here," Eddings said. "At the graduate level we don't talk about it as much as the cadets do, but you can tell in the way the classes are taught that the core values are there."
As a school counselor at Devon Forest Elementary School in Goose Creek, Eddings teaches character development, career education and drug and alcohol awareness. He also works one-on-one with students who experience challenges in school- whether it is friendship issues or behavioral problems. He helps young people develop problem-solving skills that they will take with them into adulthood.
"I grew up in South Carolina so The Citadel name meant something to me," he said. "I knew that if I graduated from The Citadel and went somewhere else, people would recognize the name and the reputation. It is definitely a testament to The Citadel that I was matched with a good school (for my internship experience) and with a good mentor because my experiences at The Citadel have helped shape who I am as a counselor. "