Wediko Children’s Services is proud to welcome Miklos “Mik” Oyler, M.Ed. as the new Director of the Wediko Summer Program. Mik comes to Wediko with a passion for empowering youth, dedication to facilitating healthy staff culture, and a history of strengthening clinical programming.
From holding a Master of Education in Psychology from Springfield College to more than seven years’ experience at Summit Achievement, including serving as their Executive Director, Mik’s myriad of professional expertise and leadership make him well-equipped to serve as the fifth Director of the Summer Program in its 80 year history.
I sat down with Mik to hear more about his past work experiences, the transition to Wediko, and what makes the Summer Program so special.
Q: How did you first hear about Wediko Children’s Services?
Mik Oyler, M.Ed.: Well, my first connection was Katie [Walsh, Director of Admissions], through one of the national conferences we both attended, either NATSAP or IECA. Through her, I met Amy [Sousa, Executive Director] and Kim [Guest, Director of Wediko School]. Those three quickly became my favorite people to run into at conferences. Their humility, intelligence, and professional conduct matched my values so well, and it was clear that Wediko held their staff to these important standards, whether with clients or in other professional contexts. I was very impressed.
Q: What was it, then, that drew you to apply for the Summer Program Director position?
MO: Amy was the one who first told me about the position opening. That prompted me to start researching not only the Summer Program, but Wediko as an organization. Honestly, the more I learned the more interested I became. I mean, the history and longevity of the organization is so impressive. The fact that it was different than my previous experiences, given that it’s a start to finish camp-like program with a more diverse student demographic and profile. That said, it felt familiar enough in terms of the combination of therapy, academics, and experiential learning. That’s where my passions are and I felt I could positively contribute.
Q: Having done all that research but not having seen the program function yet, what aspect are you most excited to experience?
MO: Hah, that’s tough. Honestly, I just can’t wait to see it all in action. I have a good understanding of the basis of the program – the academics, the experiential piece, the immersive clinical components. Now I just want to see it run. I want to see it unfold. I know there is a magic that happens on that campus every year, and I’m very excited to soak it all in.
Q: In regards to the “magic” of the Summer Program, and given your previous work experience, what do you think really makes this program unique?
MO: The atmosphere of the program makes it special, I think. It’s a fun, activity-based, summer therapeutic environment. That doesn’t really exist anywhere else to my knowledge. And it was one of the first – the history of wilderness or adventure therapy programming really goes back to Wediko, as we were one of the first in the country. Beyond the environment, I think the intentional and consistent addition of academics and clinical services. Wediko stands alone in being a truly therapeutic environment with strong academics and consistent fun.
Q: Speaking of fun, what do you do for fun?
MO: I’m an avid birder, which is like a never-ending treasure hunt – searching, tracking, identifying species no matter where I am or what I’m doing. Skiing also, which is actually how I met my wife. We were both volunteering for an adaptive ski program helping people with cognitive and physical disabilities learn to ski. Anything and everything that I can do in the mountains as well, so hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, trail running. And the less rigorous stuff too, like working in the yard or on the house. You know, personal projects. Pretty much anything outdoors, I’d say.
Q: For someone who loves the outdoor activities so much, you must be really excited for the activities at the Summer Program? Any of the 16 that you’re most excited to try?
MO: It’s definitely hard to choose one that I’m most excited for. I certainly cannot wait to get out on the water. Swimming, canoeing, fishing, or paddle boarding. I’ve never paddle boarded before so I’m really excited about that. Also, it’s been a while since I picked up a bow and arrow so it’ll be fun to give archery another try. Also art for sure. I don’t usually carve out time in my daily life for it, so I’m looking forward to some creative down time as well.
Q: Given that you’re the fifth person to hold this position in the 81 years of the program’s history, what unique challenges or opportunities to you anticipate going along with this?
MO: I think it’s challenging to bring someone in from the outside, so I want to establish relationships with everyone, especially my fellow Summer Program staff, as quickly as possible. There is a huge opportunity within that newness. I think I can bring some fresh energy and perspective to this program, but it’s going to require a lot of self-awareness, patience, and passion on my part and from the Wediko community. But, to be clear, I’m not coming in the door with an agenda of things to change and rearrange. I’m excited to further a rich 80 year history and tradition.
Q: What’s your style of leadership? Like, how do you hope to impact this program?
MO: In previous work environments, like Summit or elsewhere, I often played a role in impacting the culture of the team or organization in a positive way. That’s a real passion of mine. So encouraging accountability, lots of autonomy, empowerment , personal communication, and fun. I feel like I’m a pragmatic type of leader. I want to understand and communicate the rationale of decisions as well as receiving feedback regarding my decisions. When you allow debate about differences to be open and encouraged, it fosters growth. That’s my approach to leadership.
Q: Last question for you will be a typical transition question for students at Wediko – Who is your favorite character in a book or movie and why?
MO: Haha well, let me think. My favorite book is Autobiography of a Yogi. The author is this fantastic character and, whether you take it at face value or not, it’s the type of book that keeps you thinking about life and spirituality in a fun and engaging way. Anyone who can teach you and entertain you simultaneously is a favorite of mine.
Well-immersed in preparations for the summer, Oyler’s clear and encouraging style of leadership will certainly make the transition into Summer 2015 a smooth one. We are beyond excited to welcome Mik into the Wediko family!