Reflections

Reflection on Growth as a Leader

Through our educational lectures and readings in SPA-361 and my work as a member of the Religion and Politics Issue Group, I developed and grew significanly as an individual, a student, and as a leader. I was particularly influenced by the work we studied under the guidance of Professors Paul Manuel, Calvin Haney, and Ayana Wilson. As a leader, I have become progressively more comfortable as one that is more quiet and distant than boisterous and overpowering. That being said, I have learned how to effectively influence and lead in a group setting in a way that is comfortable for both me and those who are in the team with me. I am certain that the hard and soft skills of leadership that I have garnered through our work this semester will continue to inform the way in which I lead in the future. Moreover, I will be able to leverage my experiences working with my contemporaries in the Religion and Politics Issue Group long into the future as I continue to lead within teams of other leaders simply as a member of the group rather than a designated leader amongst others. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned over the course of the semester, however, is that you do not need an official title or position of superiority to act as a leader to others or to lead within a group. Having been a member of a group where all of the members are designated leaders, I learned the importance of knowing when to speak and knowing when to act. I also learned that listening and showing through action is of even greater importance than offering directives and delegating responsibilities to others.

At the risk of being cliché, I find it pertinent and explanatory of my growth as a leader to include a quotation from an ancient Chinese proverb which perfectly sums up the leadership style which I hope to emanate and have grown to better understand through the concrete and experiential learning that I completed as part of this course. “Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.”

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Summary of Completed Social Action Project

Over the course of the Spring 2021 semester at American University, the Religion and Politics Issue Group worked to implement their social action project. Having reached consensus and sharing a personal investment in the equitable access to reproductive healthcare for women, the group decided to focus their social action project on raising awareness of selected topics related to women’s access to reproductive healthcare as well as fundraise for an organization that is a stakeholder in the field.

The final product of the social action project is threefold. First, the team created a social media page through which they posted educational content researched by members (topics such as the pink tax, abortion, menstrual product insecurity, etc.), their final status update video, and fundraising ventures. This is the largest portion of the project as it served as the launching point for the two other initiatives. When an agreement could not be reached with a potential guest speaker, the team was forced to pivot to creating another relevant alternative to fill its place in their list of deliverables. They decided to provide a status update which contained information about their progress and the scope of their project. It was recorded through Zoom and posted to the social media page. Finally, the team created a fundraiser for the organization Helping Women Period, “a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization, committed to supplying menstrual health products to people that menstruate who are either homeless or low-income.” Through two rounds of fundraising capitalizing on a social media presence of more than 100 followers and the ease of Venmo, the team raised more than three hundred and thirty dollars for the organization. The money will supply nine women menstrual products for one year.

We are extremely satisfied with the scope and impact of the project and consider every aspect of it to be a success.

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Reflection of Team Dynamics During Implementation

The dynamics of the team during the implementation phase of our social action project over the course of the Spring semester were overwhelmingly positive and cohesive despite some animosity from one member of the group at one point midway through implementation. From the outset, the members of the Religion and Politics Issue Group shared a bond and a great deal of respect and trust for each other. More than just contemporaries forced into working together, the group became friends and engaged outside of the contents of the project. This added an extra degree of trust and engagement with the project. Individual failures would not just let the team down, it would let friends down. In general, this led to a successful project implementation as conflicts were resolved quickly and easily and trust was shared amongst members.

Despite the positive work of the team, there was animosity at one point carried by one member individually towards other members of the group. This group member attempted to create more work for other members of the team while not attempting to have a conversation. There was simply delegation without the possibility of dialogue. When this was brought forth and frustrations with this were aired, the member of the team felt the attacks against them were personal in nature and did not deal with this feeling in a way that was productive to the group or to resolve the conflict. That being said, we were able to work past these feeling and this lack of cohesion amongst members of the group and deliver a successful final product with vastly influential outreach. As we end the semester, I, not speaking for any other members of our issue group, am able to say that I leave this year not just with professional relationships but with genuine friendships shared with the other members of the team as well as our teaching assistant who was supportive of us throughout the process. Conflict is present in every setting and thus I say without hesitation that our team dynamic this semester could not have been better.

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