February always brings about thoughts of love and at LeaderShape, we’re turning to mush over some sweet love stories from folks in our community! Over the course of this month, we want to tell you about some couples who met through LeaderShape, tell you how they fell in love, and take a peek at what’s next for them. We hope you enjoy these stories and perhaps are inspired to reconnect with your own loves!
First up is Doug Litteken and Caroline Cvetkovic. Doug and Caroline met in 2010 at an Institute session hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at Allerton Park. They hadn’t met prior to their Institute experience, but were paired up for an activity during the challenge course on the second day of their session. After that, they started communicating through notes in their mailboxes during the Institute. Doug left Caroline a note in her mailbox, thanking her for courage she had shown in an earlier activity that day. Caroline said, “The kindness from this stranger gave me confidence.”
Once they returned to campus after their session, Doug and Caroline met up for lunch. What happened after that was almost five years of long-distance dating. Doug moved to Houston to work at NASA as a structural engineer at the Johnson Space Center (you can see his talkMARS presentation on his work here), while Caroline stayed at UIUC to complete her PhD. During this time, their leadership training reminded them of why they were pursuing their passions. “LeaderShape solidified my personal values and helped to mold my adult character. It pushed me and helped me to understand how I could be comfortable being out of my comfort zone,” said Caroline. Doug said the biggest part of the Institute experience for them was talking about being vulnerable and putting themselves out there with each other and in other relationships. “It’s a hard thing to do but it can be so impactful once you do it. It’s definitely something we took from the Institute and practice regularly,” Doug said.
What’s next for this couple? They’re enjoying married life in Houston, where Caroline is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Neuroregeneration at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. They’re active in the local alumni club, professional societies, and sports leagues, and travel back to the Midwest to visit their nephews and niece.