I didn’t actually come into my first year at Richmond wanting to do leadership studies. I thought having an undergraduate school of leadership was very interesting, but I didn’t think it was for me. Of course, I came into Richmond wanting to do business and finance so that shows you exactly how ironic that statement is. I’m now a PPEL major, concentrating in politics, with a leadership minor to round out my academic profile. When I made the switch a year ago, frustrated by not liking business and looking to embrace the subjects I loved, I looked to see if I could fit a leadership minor in my course load. I could, so I thought nothing of it and registered for my first leadership class (leadership and the social sciences, if you’re wondering). It just seemed like a natural decision to me: I want to go into the political sphere or work in government, it would make so much sense for me to have academic training in leadership.
I’m now about halfway through the coursework for my minor, and while my prior statement still stands true, it has a lot more depth to it, if that makes sense. I came into Jepson having very little idea of what being taught leadership would entail. I had misconstrued ideas of what an actual leader was, so I’ve had my eyes opened at every turn during my past two semesters of work. I have learned a whole lot about leadership, from the historical context of it, to the applications of it in the humanities and social sciences, the impact of good and bad leadership, and what leadership is. Well, I think I know what leadership is, I’m not actually certain yet. I’m sure that would puzzle my friends and family who I’m certain are curious about what leadership studies students actually do, but I’m sure my peers would echo my statement.
However the most important thing I’ve taken away from leadership comes as a combination of two leadership theories I’ve learned about: Ensemble Leadership Theory and Servant Leadership Theory. ELT promotes a decentralized, group approach to leadership as opposed to one leader, and servant leadership has the leader prioritize the needs and wants of their followers first, before anything else. What I’m getting at? In a nation rocked by racial inequality, political divides, social justice movements, and a To Carry (On and On) feeling of anxiety and doom- leaders are necessary. Good leaders, mind you, those who prioritize the needs of others and not their own goals. We are starting to see more of it, but not enough and not quickly enough. As Doctor Bezio said in the podcast: there is a lot of risk involved in what we are doing, both in getting a degree in a complex field that isn’t well understood, and what we are going to do with it in the real world- hopefully make some meaningful change. But I have a lot of hope with what we are doing; I am surrounded by dozens of incredibly smart and passionate students in Jepson. It is no doubt in my mind that all of us, along with all those who fight for change and “follow” people like us, will use our metaphorical teacups to fight and beat the rising tide.