“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” The father of mass production, Henry Ford, used these words to describe the power behind human collaboration. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to represent Tech alongside five other inspiring student delegates at the ACC Leadership Conference hosted at the University of North Carolina. It was an experience that made me reflect on how our Institute operates and in what capacity we can work with other schools. The conference, which Tech hosted last year with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship, focused on water sustainability domestically and internationally.

While the conference provided incredible resources, information, and demonstrations on initiatives in water sustainability, this was not my biggest takeaway from the conference. Rather, the knowledge gained about the benefits of collaborating with and learning from our peer institutions proved to be the most valuable.

In last week’s Technique, Dene Sheheane wrote an article promoting collaborative efforts between students and our Government and Community Partners as a means to fully realize President Peterson’s strategic goal to place Tech among the elite of technology-focused learning institutions. I am a firm believer in Tech students and have seen the remarkable research they do, heard their inspirational stories, and spoken with them about their massive and impressive goals. I can only imagine how much greater our students could be and how our school’s reputation could grow by directly working with students across the ACC and, even more so, across the nation.

This weekend, through collaboration with other schools on important issues, I saw unique ideas other schools employ to achieve their goals. I noticed that the students of the host school held a shared vision that was reflected in all aspects of university life. The students at UNC had decided to adopt a two-year focus on sustainability. That focus encouraged the administration, students and on-campus organizations to work together in an effort to show to the rest of the nation that UNC would be an epicenter for sustainability initiatives. By collaborating, UNC has already successfully implemented water filtration systems and water-friendly dining halls and created more water-focused classes.

After meeting with many other schools in the ACC, it became clear UNC was not alone in finding student-led initiatives at the core of their university; schools like Duke, Clemson and FSU all shared common rallying points their student delegates could relate to, such as school spirit and commitment to service initiatives.

Here at Tech, we do great things for campus, and our individual and group involvements go to great lengths to promote the excellence of our school. However, it is rare to see groups of students or organizations come together for the long-term development of Tech. Every day, students contribute to Dr. Peterson’s Strategic Plan for Tech, ensuring Tech earns the reputation of producing not only exceptional adults, but also capable leaders in all aspects of life. I can only imagine the possibilities if Tech students and organizations came together and agreed on a shorter-term, student-driven strategic plan for Institute growth.

The fact I never would have noticed this potential had I not made an effort to collaborate with other schools is enlightening. Through this collaboration, Tech built upon its reputation as an internationally respected, technology-focused learning institution. Our institute also gained tremendous knowledge from other schools, not only on the topic of water sustainability, but also on the potential of student life and growth at the Institute.

As students, we need to understand that we shape the future of our institute. We are the foundation upon which others will stand as we move together in progress and service. Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Tech, what can we do together?