REAL Talk "Who Am I . . .  Really?” by Tiffany Winter

Tiffany Winter

Tiffany Winter, Speaker

Five students capped off their study of organizational leadership by presenting a TED-style talk for the Cottey College community on April 11, 2019. The event was called REAL talk, short for Recognize Empowered, Authentic Leadership at Cottey. The speakers were on the brink of receiving their bachelor’s degrees in organizational leadership. Speakers included Tiffany Winter, Sarasota, Florida; Morgan Brown, Hernando, Florida; Karlie Acton, Williamsburg, Michigan; Darlina Rose, Vancouver, Washington; and Jemimah Nasara, Denton, Texas. We present portions of three of the talks.

“Who Am I . . .  Really?” by Tiffany Winter

Authenticity . . .  It’s a word that we all know, but what does it actually mean? Or maybe, more importantly, what does it mean to you? For me, it has been something that I have struggled with my entire life. How many of you can relate?

Tiffany Winter

The REAL Talk program took place in the Missouri Recital Hall at the Haidee and Allen Wild Center for the Arts.

The first influence on your authentic self is your family members, who teach you values and how they expect you to interact with the world. Next comes society. It shows you what is generally accepted in the area in which you live and puts firm boundaries in place for those who may choose to live outside of them. Society has taught me we are fallible, we make mistakes and we fall down sometimes—and that’s okay. It’s what we do in those hard times that makes the difference and ultimately determines who we are.

I have noticed a big need for individuals to clarify their values while they are in college. As someone who has been privy to the college experience at two very different points in my life, I can vouch for the fact that it doesn’t matter what age you are when you come to college, you will always find that it will fundamentally challenge the way that you look at the world.

The first time I went to college, I was young and came from a sheltered home. I had an overbearing mother who had told me exactly how to think and feel about the world. At the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), I found that mom’s version of the world was very different than the one I had entered. This was the first time I was able to make decisions for myself and I struggled immensely. Some of the choices I made conflicted heavily with what I had been taught at home. I felt alone and isolated—unable to talk to my support system about what I was feeling and experiencing. That first year almost broke me and if it hadn’t been for the love and support of those around me, I don’t know what would have happened.

My second year at CIA was better and I began healing and rebuilding myself. As part of the associate degree at the CIA, one is required to go out on an externship and work in a restaurant to gain industry experience. For some reason, I got it into my head that I was going to go to California. I had never been further west than Colorado, and I was intrigued by the immense agriculture in Northern California so I took a leap. I found a restaurant that would take me on, but there was one problem. The externship was unpaid. I had no clue where I was going to live or how I was going to get to work each day. One of my family friends suggested that I contact some of the local churches in the area to ask if a member of their congregation who lived near the restaurant would be willing to host me. Amazingly, I found a family!

Tiffany Winter

The REAL Talk program took place in the Missouri Recital Hall at the Haidee and Allen Wild Center for the Arts.

I met the Gubitzes for the first time in the Sacramento airport a little over eight years ago. I didn’t know what to expect, but they quickly helped me feel at home. Living with them changed me. They taught me, through example, the definition of true love and what it is like to love unconditionally and without expectation. But sometimes you have to learn lessons over and over again until they finally stick and that is why after several years in the culinary industry, I slid back into college broken in a different way.

You see, I had been working in a male-dominated industry. Women who want to get ahead are forced to become cutthroat. I am not a hyper-competitive person, but I felt the industry changing me into someone that I didn’t want to be. For that reason, and many others, I headed back to school.

Cottey College’s Organizational Leadership program has challenged me in ways I never would have anticipated. It has forced me to be more introspective, own my faults, and give myself a lot more grace. Most of all it has helped me begin to find my authentic self, separate from what I felt my family and society had put on me previously. 

Author Brene Brown writes: “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Next time you are in a difficult situation, my hope is that you will ask yourself, “What lesson can I learn?” and accept yourself flaws and move forward in a direction that helps you become a more authentic you.


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