Concordia’s High Impact Leadership Trips (HILTs) are built around the principle that the best way for students to become responsibly engaged in the world — the mission of Concordia College — is to go out into the world and learn from their experiences.

Five Core Aspects of HILTs

Organic Student Leadership

The HILTs are student-designed and student-led. Those who go on these trips are able to see the effort and care that went into the planning of each trip and the visible passion of the leader(s). In the words of author Donald Miller, “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself,” and HILTs allow for that. The participating students are not the only ones who gain from such leadership. The leader(s), themselves, receive invaluable experience as they take on the full responsibilities of planning and executing their ideas while also gaining the satisfaction and excitement that comes with successfully turning a dream into a reality.

A Focus on Big and Important Issues with both Local and Global Dimensions

When trying to understand social, cultural, political, environmental, or any other issues that exist in our world today, it can often be difficult to connect the localized impact these issues have with their globalized impact and vice-versa. However, as Concordia seeks to positively influence the world through the education of their students, it is vital that students be able to appreciate a “big picture” view while also appreciating the importance of local action and grassroots efforts. By engaging first-hand with an issue that affects a local community and the greater world as a whole, as HILTs do, this goal can be accomplished.

Purposeful Yet Fun Immersion

HILTs allow the natural inquisitiveness, passions, and enthusiasm of the students to shine by bringing students out of the classroom setting and into a new, exciting, and freeing environment. Students are immersed in this new environment as they meet people whose lives are intertwined with the issue at hand and learn through conversations, experiences, and their daily activities. Each student is encouraged to pursue the questions and ideas that most interest them so that the trip is individually meaningful. To add to the fun, students are given free time to build relationships with the other students on the trip and to explore the place to which they have traveled.

Centered on Developing Leaders and Activists

The HILT leader(s) are likely to gain the most leadership experience. However, one main purpose of having student leaders rather than faculty leaders is to support the group’s functioning as a cohesive, cooperative decision-making student team, with each person contributing to the experience in their own way. The HILT focus on activism enters through the meetings and conversations that students have with individuals who have taken outstanding action to positively impact the issue of the trip. By learning from the examples of activists who have made a difference, students can determine ways that they could also lead and advocate.

Impacting Campus

Whenever possible, HILTs engage with other students who are active in the issue at hand. This gives Concordia students a very beneficial view of what other colleges around the nation are doing and what Concordia could do as well. Whether the HILT visits another college or not, HILTs allow students the unique opportunity to put newly developed knowledge and passion directly into action by impacting the peers on their own campus. It is the goal of HILTs to foster individual enthusiasm, passion, and know-how so that students can choose to take greater action not for credit, not because they are told to do so, but by their own initiative, and from their own drive and passion.

HILTs in the News

Concordia's student newspaper, the Concordian, has featured our students' experiences engaging with sustainability both in the region and across the country.