Freshman Year Reflections

Summary of Our Team Project

Over the course of the year, the Religion & Politics issue group researched, designed, and organized a social action project to educate, fundraise, and advocate for access to affordable reproductive healthcare in the United States. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our group maximized the virtual setting through Instagram and Zoom to reach American University students and their communities across the country. We developed posts that provided our viewers with an understanding of the current policy debates over issues such as the pink tax and abortion rights, utilizing our personal platforms to bolster the reach. We organized fundraisers through Instagram stories and urged family and friends to participate if they were able to, raising a total of $333. All proceeds were later donated to Helping Women Period, an organization that provides individuals of all different backgrounds with menstrual products. We utilized this opportunity while fundraising to also highlight the current condition of reproductive healthcare with our family and friends, encouraging individuals to join the movement. Moreover, we planned to arrange a webinar with a guest speaker who has extensive experience in reproductive healthcare or women’s rights activism to provide viewers with more information and a unique perspective. However, due to planning difficulties, we unable to make the idea a reality. Instead, we decided to present a recap of our efforts to viewers. By the end of the spring semester, we had over a hundred followers.

Despite all the difficulties the virtual setting presented us with, our team was able to produce a project that accomplished three separate goals of educating, fundraising, and advocating. We are proud of the effort every member has put forth and of the end results of our Instagram page.

Summary of Our Team Dynamics

Though our team remained virtual for much of the year, we were able to work together and produce a project that we all are proud of. However, that is not to say that there were no difficulties along the way. Due to the virtual setting of all communication, it was difficult to gauge others’ emotions or opinions unless they were straightforward with them. Furthermore, because of how quickly we became friends at the beginning of the first semester, we opted for artificial harmony when we started implementing our ideas to preserve the friendships. Though it didn’t completely stop disagreement, it led to a more hostile environment when there were disagreements about key components, which was only strengthened by how most of our communication was solely over text. It came down to how much commitment each individual had towards communicating their thoughts and opinions clearly and respectfully. With that being said, every one of us came out of this experience learning at least one more thing about themselves and their leadership style that they hadn’t recognized previously.

Summary of My Growth as a Leader

As I mentioned before, every member of our team learned something new about themselves through this experience, including me. For one, similar to other students, I learned how to adapt to a virtual setting and play the role of a team player or leader. Throughout the semester, I was confronted by my distaste for virtual communication and the insecurities that arose from its use. As a result, I learned to recognize when my insecurities were no longer constructive and take a step back to look at the bigger picture, a skill that I’m still further refining. Furthermore, through the readings and activities, I learned about the five dysfunctions of a team and recognized them in playing out in either my issue group or in past groups I have worked in. It all clicked in place after reading Lencioni’s book on the dysfunctions. Most importantly, I learned to trust myself. This experience taught me that though I have growth to make, I am capable of more than I recognize. Despite being virtual, I communicated my opinions/concerns, assisted members in any way necessary, and developed ideas to further our progress. Though during those moments I felt doubtful about my actions, I now recognize my actions to be those of a supportive team player and a cognizant leader.