Lessons in Leadership: Integrating Courage, Vision, and Innovation for the Future of Sustainable Fisheries
It’s the Little Things that Count
Daniel Hayes and Jason Smith
Dan: It was a typical Monday or Wednesday, I don’t recall which, but I was teaching introductory statistics and had a lecture coming up. Lectures were in another building halfway across campus, and I was rushing as usual to gather my things together to get there in time to boot up the computer and prepare to teach. As I rushed past a student lounge area, I saw one of my students sitting there. He had taken another course with me the previous semester and I was curious how the stats class was going, so I poked my head in and asked if he would like to join me on the dash over. From my perspective, it was just a small gesture of no real consequence.
Jason: It was definitely a Wednesday, and I was sitting in the student lounge wondering what the hell I was doing here surrounded by kids and in a situation similar to the one I had failed at 20 years earlier. My brain had gotten into a loop of “get out of here, this will never work” and “you have to stay to achieve your goal”—neither of which provided me with a course of action. Dr. Hayes provided that course by taking the very first step in our relationship. With one small act, inviting me to walk with him, he let me know that this time someone else cared about my well-being and whether I would succeed. This made a huge difference in my perspective; this time in college could be different, that there was a course of learning that was based on relationships.
Dan: Fast-forward a couple of years—I kept in regular touch with Jason, so I knew a bit about what he had been doing. While working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Lake St. Clair, and on a project with another faculty member, he continued to excel in field-related work. I knew Jason was keenly interested in the Great Lakes Muskellunge fishery and the prospect of graduate school, but I did not have full funding for a research assistantship, particularly for a field-based project with the attendant costs of sampling. I had previously worked on a simulation program that could address some of the issues facing the fishery, but I wasn’t sure Jason would jump at the idea. If I recall correctly, I was again dashing past Jason in the same spot as the above encounter, and I mentioned that I had an idea of how he might be able to do his M.S. degree and asked him to get ahold of me.