Official Review: An Uncommon Journey: Leadership Lessons...

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Samy Lax
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Official Review: An Uncommon Journey: Leadership Lessons...

Post by Samy Lax »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "An Uncommon Journey: Leadership Lessons from a preschool teacher who became a university president" by Shirley Raines.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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An Uncommon Journey: Leadership Lessons from a preschool teacher who became a university president by Shirely Raines is a memoir detailing the author’s life from being born into a sharecropper’s family to becoming the first female president at the University of Memphis. The book mainly focuses on Raines’ experiences, right from when she starts out her career as a pre-school teacher and slowly climbs up the ladder to greater success, drawing inspiration from multiple sources, including her parents, colleagues, the church, and more.

Growing up in a family that had no idea how scholarships worked, Raines found that her father initially wanted her to even forgo the $300 scholarship she had been offered based on her academic ranking, only because he believed that she had not actually earned it. However, her mother visits the University of Tennessee to learn about scholarships and comes home and informs everyone that her daughter had indeed earned the scholarship and was destined to head to college. Raines attends college and thereafter begins her affair with education.

Having identified her love for teaching, Raines starts her career by initially teaching preschoolers, later progressing to teaching adults, and taking over administrative and leadership duties in prestigious institutions and dramatically improving their standing among their peers.

Raines knows how to learn to swim when thrown into the sea without warning and that is how she manages the various challenges that life throws at her at different stages of her career. For instance, when she is asked to take up the role of department chair of an institution she just joined—she ends up accepting the offer, even though she knows it would be a first for her.

While applying for the role of President at the University of Memphis, Raines does her homework and more and goes out of her way to learn everything possible about the university and the search committee members. The steps she takes to make herself more than fit to serve the role that she gets selected for are truly commendable. In the chapters following her appointment as University President, Raines talks us through the different challenges she faced in her role and how she overcame each one with her chin up. Her story is truly inspirational and is written in a way that would inspire other women to consider taking up leadership roles and have confidence to excel in them.

In all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and there was hardly anything that I disliked about it. I thought it was interesting how the author took it upon herself to personally look into every little aspect of administration of the University, thereby managing to instill a sense of responsibility among others around her. Simple things that she did like stopping and picking up litter while walking across campus, instantly making everyone around her aware, is one such great example. The author also did a good job in explaining how giving people another chance to prove themselves and win over lost trust is sometimes really valuable; she puts this to practice and holds the person accountable in a way that he is aware that this is his one chance to win back trust and prove himself to his superior. The author also encapsulates leadership lessons from each chapter in short blurbs, making it really easy for us to take notes.

The only thing I could suggest for improvement here would be to make the writing more engaging. The chapters are all currently structured in one way—a challenge the author encountered in her career, followed by how she solved it. It is really interesting and inspiring initially, but when the same pattern follows page after page with no change of mood, it tends to get a bit too monotonous and tedious. The book, therefore, felt like a long-drawn-out documentary after a while. An alternate way to structure the book could have been to introduce the lessons first and then share anecdotes to go with each lesson, since the leadership lessons are what the author wanted to highlight in the book.

Overall, I rate this book a 3 out of 4 stars. I mainly rated it 3 stars due to the fact that the writing could have been more engaging and the presence of a handful of grammatical errors that I came across. Besides the errors, I found this book to be an enjoyable and inspiring read. I really admire Raines for showing the drive and courage to stand for all she believed in and serving every role with the greatest sincerity. I would recommend this book to readers who want to pursue a leadership role in life and are looking for a role model to guide them forward.

******
An Uncommon Journey: Leadership Lessons from a preschool teacher who became a university president
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Post by kandscreeley »

Wow! I can't believe her father thought she hadn't earned that scholarship. I'm glad that she was able to ride above her circumstances. I don't usually read this type of book, though. Thanks.
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Post by Samy Lax »

kandscreeley wrote:
07 Jul 2019, 07:16
Wow! I can't believe her father thought she hadn't earned that scholarship. I'm glad that she was able to ride above her circumstances. I don't usually read this type of book, though. Thanks.
She is a fighter and a winner. The levels she rose to bear testimony to that fact. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.
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Post by esp1975 »

As someone who works in university administration (though on the staff side, not faculty), I have had the privilege of hearing many stories similar to that of Dr Raines. They are almost all inspiring. Though I must say, I cannot wait for the day when the stories we are hearing are significant for some reason other than being the "first" - first woman, first African-American, first Native American, etc at some important job. But hearing those stories of the "firsts" is what makes the seconds and the thirds and all the rest possible.

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Post by kdstrack »

This is, indeed, an inspiring story. The tone of the book suggests that it might be better to read it in chunks instead of in one sitting. It still sounds like an inspirational life. I really enjoyed your review. Thanks.

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Post by Samy Lax »

esp1975 wrote:
08 Jul 2019, 10:12
As someone who works in university administration (though on the staff side, not faculty), I have had the privilege of hearing many stories similar to that of Dr Raines. They are almost all inspiring. Though I must say, I cannot wait for the day when the stories we are hearing are significant for some reason other than being the "first" - first woman, first African-American, first Native American, etc at some important job. But hearing those stories of the "firsts" is what makes the seconds and the thirds and all the rest possible.
These stories are truly inspiring. You raise a good point about the "firsts." I hope some day, we are over this phase and these become routine occurrences. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!
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Post by Letora »

I love reading novels about women overcoming challenges and growing stronger in the process. This sounds like a well researched and great read. Thank you for reviewing!
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Post by Samy Lax »

kdstrack wrote:
08 Jul 2019, 15:52
This is, indeed, an inspiring story. The tone of the book suggests that it might be better to read it in chunks instead of in one sitting. It still sounds like an inspirational life. I really enjoyed your review. Thanks.
The author is truly an inspiration for all of us today - not just women in particular. Thank you so much! It's always great to hear from you!
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Post by Ekta Kumari »

I admire the author for her courage and perseverance; very few have this kind of tenacity in them. This truly sounds like an inspirational read; however, I don't read these kind of memoirs and the structure too seems a bit monotonous to me. Thanks for the awesome review, though.
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Post by Samy Lax »

Letora wrote:
09 Jul 2019, 17:43
I love reading novels about women overcoming challenges and growing stronger in the process. This sounds like a well researched and great read. Thank you for reviewing!
It is quite an inspirational read. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!
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Post by Samy Lax »

Ekta Kumari wrote:
10 Jul 2019, 16:01
I admire the author for her courage and perseverance; very few have this kind of tenacity in them. This truly sounds like an inspirational read; however, I don't read these kind of memoirs and the structure too seems a bit monotonous to me. Thanks for the awesome review, though.
This book is truly inspirational, especially to those of us who want to take up a leadership role but are unsure if they would be able to do a good job of it. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!
“...in principle and reality, libraries are life-enhancing palaces of wonder.”
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Post by Prisallen »

This does sound like an inspirational book for people searching for leadership roles, especially women. I admire the author for her accomplishments, especially with her background as a child. Thank you for a wonderful review!

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Post by Samy Lax »

Prisallen wrote:
13 Jul 2019, 08:18
This does sound like an inspirational book for people searching for leadership roles, especially women. I admire the author for her accomplishments, especially with her background as a child. Thank you for a wonderful review!
The author has accomplished so much in her life that it is difficult not to admire her. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!
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Post by corinaelena »

Woah, this is a long review! I would like to read the book though. It's nice to hear about other people's struggles. Nice going!

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Post by Wyland »

This book is quite inspiring. I get the message that with determination, focus and a little patience one can achieve any goals, no matter how far reaching. Thanks for the wonderful review.

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