Reflections

Spring Project: Community Resilience Project

This spring I completed a social action project under the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program. See a full summary and evaluation of that project here: Final Report: Sophomore Year Social Action Project.

Overall Leadership Experience

It would be cliché to say that the past two years have “stretched” my leadership capabilities; however, the academic and practical instruction I have received as a Leadership Scholar has made me more comfortable with my ability to lead. While I am still a strong speaker, I no longer feel the need to assert myself by always taking up the podium. I have found comfort in what I term “on the ground” leadership, where I prioritize relationships and genuine inspiration. I noticed this most in my final presentation. Whereas I used to feel compelled to fill my reports with flowery language and lofty impact statements, this year I felt at ease using a conversational and engaging tone. In fact, this shift has prepared me most for the next chapter in my life because as I prepare to go abroad, I must also give up many of my formal leadership titles. Using my experience from the last two years, though, I know that I don’t need an official title to make change and I am excited to see what I can do as I leave the country for the first time.

Mock Trial Captain

Going into this season I felt most confident about my ability to persuade and motivate individuals and less confident about my ability to organize them into a productive and cohesive team. One concern I had was my own struggle to stay disciplined and follow pre-planned schedules. However, I realized pretty quickly that when confronted with uncertainty my leadership tendencies are quite different than my personal ones. Specifically, I am a huge planner. As context, our Mock Trial Program switches teams quite frequently in the fall- about once every three weeks. For me that meant a lot of uncertainty: who would play what witness? Who would give the statements? What role would I have to play? Every time, though, I found myself making a calendar or reorganizing my notes on the last tournament into action items/fixes for the next. While this might seem like a beneficial quality, and most of the time it was, there were times when this habit was counterproductive because it wasn’t born out of purpose, but rather anxiety. Throughout the year, I worked with my coaches to use my breaks in between teams to take an actual break. To recharge. I learned to wait until I had a roster to plan a schedule or to think about placements within the team. Even though organization was a skill I wanted to work on, I had to make it purposeful and directed. I couldn’t do that until I actually knew my team. While working on these skills I can proudly say that I lead my team through regional championships and will be leading through ORCS in just a few weeks.

 

National Commission on Military Aviation Safety

From January of 2020 until December of 2020, I worked at the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety. During my tenure I learned several lessons. The first one came when I applied.

I actually didn’t apply to this internship. I applied to a separate program in DOD and was rejected; however, the hiring manager suggested I should apply to NCMAS as a voluntary intern and I decided to take their advice. When I was accepted I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. I knew nothing about aviation, very little about the military and had never heard of this commission before. Despite this, I decided to accept a small position which ended up extending twice and was converted into a paid position by the time I left the Commission. I learned to take chances that aren’t within my comfort zone.

The second lesson came during my “interview” with my soon to be supervisor. She had asked me a simple question: “Have you ever used Dedoose before?” Me, being a college student, felt the need to embellish my “no” with a few promises to learn quickly and experiences with other software. However, my supervisor nipped that in the bud. She told me something that I still consider to be important in the opportunities which I apply for today: You don’t have to say yes, no one expects you to know everything and a good supervisor will be willing to teach you. And teach me she did. Throughout the next 12 months she continued to act as a supervisor and mentor and I have never been more grateful for any other professional relationship in my short career.

Finally, I want to highlight how I learned to take criticism as a positive. While at NCMAS, as I mentioned earlier, I was way in over my head. I can confidently say that when I started I knew nothing about the commission’s charter or subject matter. Further, I had never interned before and needed significant guidance even for tasks that I would no consider to be simple. At first I was deeply concerned by how how much feedback I received and I took it personally when I received a critique; however, I soon realized this attention showed that my supervisor saw I was growing. Getting new feedback every time meant she was taking the time to help me improve and that she saw I was applying earlier feedback. It was a sign that I was doing what I was accepted to do: I was learning. Because of this experience I actually welcome feedback. I know that I am young and maturing in my professional career and that such guidance is what I need to improve.

Overall, I am beyond grateful for this experience. Not many undergrads have the chance to work from a volunteer intern to someone who is listed as a staffer on a final report to congress. Further, not many undergrads have such an amazing first internship experience with so many opportunities for growth.