Christopher Leonard, PsyD

After writing The Positives and Potential Pitfalls of Saying Yes (2017) I decided to share a positive experience that highlights the benefits of saying yes. This moment was when I said yes during my doctoral internship year. As an intern, I was hired by my internship site (Wichita State University Counseling and Testing Center) during the spring semester to become a staff psychologist at the start of the fall 2014 school year. That spring, my director approached me about whether I wanted to be a part of a committee starting on campus. She informed me it was a committee focused on moving WSU towards becoming a tobacco free campus, and she thought I would be a good fit for the committee with my upcoming role being embedded within WSU’s Student Health Services ten percent of my time. After thinking briefly about the positives and potential pitfalls, I went for it. I decided to say yes. In this instance, there were several positive reasons for me to say yes, and I was surprised by all the additional benefits of saying yes.

Initially, I said yes because I wanted to gain experience with committee work and to meet and engage with more members of the university community. Gaining experience on committees was a goal of mine, and this opportunity helped me with my long-term goals and plans. Being on this committee allowed me to see first-hand the challenges and successes of committee work. The experience taught me how to build consensus, form coalitions, and work with administration. I saw how pounding the pavement, being out-front, and being willing to listen can create change. I learned so much from other committee members as well as I got to see concerns and challenges addressed, rebuttals formed, and passion prevail.

As a member of the committee, I was a member of something bigger. I was fortunate to meet and build relationships with multiple members of different departments at the university. This led to me becoming more than a member of the Counseling and Testing Center; I became an active member in the campus community. I got to work with excited colleagues and students wanting to make a difference on campus, and I got to be a part of that energy. Without this experience, I would have had fewer opportunities to meet these individuals outside of my office. Thus, this committee work allowed me to build not just professional relationships, but personal ones as well.  I learned about the people I worked with, and I learned about their families. They learned about me and my family. Because of these positive experiences, I feel saying yes has not just led me to gain more experiences that match my long-term career goals, but made me a better university member and friend.

Since participating on the committee, more experiences and benefits have opened up. Due to the hard work of the committee and support of my director, I received funding to obtain training on tobacco cessation from the Mayo Clinic. This experience has allowed me to enhance and learn new clinical skills and receive specialized training. I have been able to utilize this training on campus in many ways and be a leader on campus regarding tobacco cessation. Saying yes created more opportunities for me to engage the campus community by giving talks and presenting about tobacco cessation. I also participated in off campus work to teach high schoolers about the risks of tobacco use.

I learned first-hand about program development. I was a part of the creation of tobacco cessation services for the university through collaboration with multiple departments and learned the challenges to starting something new. I saw plans developed, scrapped, and redeveloped to best meet the needs of all parties involved. I got to see change at a university occur and saw that change takes time, patience, and perseverance. I witnessed the challenges to culture change at a university, but more importantly, I got to be a part of the positive culture change at the WSU.

Finally, and most importantly, without being open to and reflecting on the pros and cons of saying yes, I would have missed out on the greatest reward of saying yes to this opportunity I got to be a part of the committee that helped the university go tobacco free on July 1, 2017. Thus, saying yes three years ago allowed me to be a part of something special today.