College of Education

Call Me MiSTER students reflect on recent summer leadership institute


The Call Me MiSTER® Summer Leadership Institute has become a key piece of the program experience for students over the years. It is during the institute that the investiture ceremony takes place and graduating MiSTERs receive their signature black blazer. Students and site coordinators from every participating institution get together to hear from guest speakers, network with one another and learn valuable lessons about the part they’ll play as change agents in education.

The institute that took place last week was no exception, and it welcomed various speakers including Dr. Rashad Anderson, faculty from SC State University; Dr. Walter Lee, faculty from USC Upstate; MiSTER Abdur Watkins; and authors Claudia Smith Brinson and June Manning Thomas.

We caught up with Keon Carter and Taj Mack-Pete, president and parliamentarian of the Clemson University Call Me MiSTER, respectively, to discuss their impressions of the institute, what stood out to them and what lessons they’ll carry with them on their journey into the field of education.

Keon Carter (left) and Taj Mack-Pete between summer leadership institute sessions.

Why is the MiSTER leadership institute valuable to you?

Keon Carter: The leadership institute is valuable to me because it gives me the space and opportunity to hear from professionals and add their wisdom to my toolkit. This changes the way I see myself and the education field because it causes me to think about perspectives that I have not considered.

Taj Mack-Pete: This gathering of people who are all going into, still in or retired from education is amazing. To be able to share experiences and trade knowledge will not only help me in my journey to become an educator, but my growth as a person.

What session/speaker of the week stood out to you the most? Why?

KC: Dr. Lee’s presentation stood out to me because his presentation focused on understanding my true self. Dr. Lee changed my perspective on how I saw myself because I was fabricating my story. By that I mean I was not being completely honest with myself when I would view or share my story with others. I would leave out bits and pieces of it, blame others instead of myself and ignore the realities of the situations in my life. I realized that I was holding myself back because I was not being true to myself. This was a deep dive into my life which left me examining parts of myself I chose to neglect. 

TMP: Dr. June Manning Thomas stood out to me because I was taught the truth of schools in South Carolina. It made me realize that the fight for racial justice never ended. However, the way we fight is different. I fight with education by building the next generation of people to be better than myself.

What is the best thing about having MiSTERs from many different institutions coming together in one place?

Journalist and author Claudia Smith Brinson presented on her book, “Stories of Struggle.”

KC: It is great to meet MiSTERs from many different institutions because I get to share my experiences with them, and they share their experiences with me. It benefits me because their experiences provide me with perspectives that I have not thought of. 

TMP: It is great to take the knowledge I have from my experiences and trade it with the knowledge and experiences others have. Through that, I can bring what I learned back to the classroom and test what I have learned. No matter the outcome, I have learned something to better prepare myself for the classroom

Is there a moment that really stuck with you from the institute? What was it and why?

KC: A moment that stuck out to me is when we were in breakout rooms after Dr. Lee’s presentation. During the breakout rooms, we were tasked to make a new agreement with ourselves. This agreement was something that we will hold ourselves to starting now. I will not look back and continue promoting a mindset that hurts me and limits me from being me. Instead, I will challenge myself to think positively and be effective in everything I do. Therefore, ​​​​the new agreement that I have made with myself is to be willing to be wrong, learn from it and continue to be truthful with others as well as myself. 

TMP: On a much smaller scale, it is the passion that each speaker has when it comes to education. Most were MiSTERs before that have traveled the world, but for four days they come back and give back to a program that empowered them.

What do these institutes provide that complement the MiSTER experience during the academic year?

KC: The leadership institute represents how there is no cookie cutter MiSTER in the program. Meaning, there is no set way or one way to be a MiSTER. Individuals in this program learn what MiSTER is and embody it in their own unique way. This is seen in every cohort in South Carolina and beyond the state of South Carolina to our national partners. This is why we learn so much from each other because MiSTER is manifested differently in every MiSTER in our program everywhere. 

TMP: The leadership institute truly represents what we call “One MiSTER”. Although there are many schools, it is still one MiSTER. Also, that there is no set way to be a MiSTER. My way may be different from MR. Keon Carter or MR. Caleb Brown, but we still have Call Me MiSTER in the forefront. 

Is there anything you’ve learned from the institute this year (or even a past institute) that you’re sure you’ll incorporate in a classroom or school? If so, what?

KC: I have learned that it is important to be your authentic self. This is essential because not being your authentic self limits your capacity as an educator and can limit what you can accomplish.

TMP: Be willing! Be willing to be wrong sometimes. Be willing to take risks. Be willing to accept and give help. When I am in the classroom, I must be okay with asking for help from cooperating teachers. I know that I do not know it all, but I must be willing to ask questions. Finally, I must be willing to teach, because if I am not, I will be doing a disservice to the next generation.

Mack-Pete (left) and Carter were were involved in Call Me MiSTER’s recent study abroad trip to Egypt where they explored educational systems across international and cultural lines.
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