Author Archives: Anna Marston

Reading Response Post #8

Reading Michael Harvey’s book chapter, “Questioning leadership: an integrative model,” brought back what I learned in Leadership and the Humanities and tied together with the ethical issues we’ve considered in this course. I have to agree with scholar Ron Riggio that, although the field of leadership studies is an emerging discipline, the importance of it lies in the “underlying unity of focus” (Harvey, 200). One of the most interesting aspects of the Jepson School and why it appealed to me so much as a student was its unity– despite the different specialties of each professor. I have had professors in Jepson with PhD’s in Philosophy, Psychology, English (Dr. Bezio!), Economics, and History, yet they all teach under one roof and collaborate with each other on research and other projects. As Harvey discusses, it is imperative “we can get the different disciplines within leadership studies to talk with each other,” in order to fully understand leadership (201). And, with these different interests and disciplines, we can define leadership from many different angles. I also liked that Harvey addressed that, although times have changed– where people are members of more social groups– the “basic equation of what groups need” still applies. This made me think of our class discussion today in rewriting narratives and telling stories– although leaders look different than they did centuries ago, the basic premises still apply.

I really enjoyed how the author included cultural and historical examples with each leadership question he posed. This helped me to better conceptualize the implications each question has within leadership. These anecdotal examples are exactly what we need to fully understand leadership, as it “must learn about the group’s history and culture, the environment it operates in, and its condition and effectiveness” (213). We can apply this knowledge while understanding business hierarchies such as Toyota or even the hierarchy of a public education committee. I really enjoyed reading each rhetorical question within these broader examples.

Anna Marston

Reading Response Post #7

I was excited to read Howard Zinn’s chapter from A People’s History of the United States, “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress,” as I was an avid reader of Zinn’s work while taking history classes in high school. We had also discussed the controversy of Columbus Day during Leadership and the Humanities, which I really enjoyed, as it is such an important topic. What many Americans do not realize are that Indigenous peoples continue to be among the most marginalized in our country after centuries of unwarranted violence and discrimination. Columbus, upon encountering the Arawak Indians, exhibited an extreme sense of paternalism as he made assumptions about a community he did not belong to. His report that the Arawak Indians “‘are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone…'” (Zinn, 3). This mentality was yet the beginning of the violence and mass murder the Arawaks faced– with 250,000 Indigenous people killed within two years (Zinn, 5). I was extremely upset, yet not surprised, to read about this violence fueled by Columbus and other Spaniards’ racism.

There is often debate surrounding historical events, such as Columbus Day and The First Thanksgiving, being taught to elementary and middle school students. We ask ethical questions like, “Is it ethical to tell children about a mass genocide?” and while I agree that discussing murder and bloodshed may be inappropriate, I don’t think Columbus should be represented as a heroic figure. It was not until taking AP United States History in high school that I was finally told the “truth” about the violence against Indigenous Nations or the “truth” of historical figures who were in fact white supremacists or slaveowners. I wish I hadn’t had to undergo that epiphany when I was 16-17 years old to understand the truth of figures such as Columbus. As I mentioned, I do not mean we should teach kindergartners about a mass genocide, but they should not be fooled into thinking Columbus deserves his own holiday. Educators should work up to the maturity levels of the students and build on concepts they learned in previous years. As Zinn delineates, the historian’s distortion occurred when Columbus was emphasized as a hero and the mass genocide that took place was downplayed (Zinn, 9). And we are prone to thinking through the lens of the leaders/heroes of the time, but as Zinn says, we must not fall prone to this way of thinking, and it is up to us to reverse that.

Why couldn’t have it been Indigenous People’s Day in the first place?

Reading Response Post #6

I first learned of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment when I took AP Psychology during my senior year of high school when we were learning about the ethics of experiments. For my Research Methods and Analyses psychology class last year at UR, I watched The Stanford Prison Experiment film, which gave an excellent rundown of the entire experiment. Although I had a prior understanding of the experiment, “The Story: An Overview of the Experiment,” on the official website gave profound ethical insight on the Stanford Prison Experiment. The first video, “A Student is Arrested,” indicates that the surrounding neighbors and bystanders were completely unaware that the student was participating in an experiment, which poses questions to how the public might have viewed arrestees. Once the participants entered “prison” (the basement of the Stanford psychology department) they were designated to “cells” and were even sometimes sent to the “hole” (simulating solitary confinement) if they misbehaved or if a guard sent them there. As delineated in the film and through this website, the results of this experiment were beyond anyone’s expectations, including Philip Zimbardo’s. It fascinates and disturbs me to this day that human nature pushed both the guards and the prisoners to act in the ways they did. 

I am currently taking a class about prisons with Dr. Andrea Simpson called Gender, Politics, and Prisons where we have learned extensively about the degrading conditions of prisons. What fascinates me most about the Stanford Prison Experiment is that it utilized similar degradation techniques to mock a real prison, and we were able to see the psychological impacts this had on the prisoners. Yet, the prison industrial complex remains degrading and with an extreme power imbalance between correctional officers and inmates. The “prisoners” in the experiment endured oppression and maltreatment from the “guards”– through forced push-ups, only being called by their ID numbers, forced “counts” at 2:30 AM, and more– yet this is not far off from the treatment of prisoners today in some institutions. Many female-identifying and trans prisoners face extreme physical, sexual, and verbal abuse from correctional officers; while the Stanford Prison Experiment worked with strictly male prisoners, the abuse is prevalent throughout the clips provided on the website. While I do respect the perseverance of Zimbardo to conduct this groundbreaking study, I wish our society would have taken away from it more policy implications. We could have used the psychological findings to improve and reform the brutal conditions of some prisons, yet the carceral system remains coercive and abusive.

https://www.prisonexp.org/the-story

Anna Marston

Lecture Response #3: “How to educate leaders? Liberal arts”

Link: https://www.ted.com/talks/patrick_awuah_how_to_educate_leaders_liberal_arts/up-next#t-7857

In this TEDGlobal talk, university head Patrick Awuah delineates the significance of a liberal arts education for inspiring future leaders. Awuah left his big career at Microsoft in the United States to return to his home country of Ghana to found Ashesi University, a liberal arts school. As an attendee of a liberal arts school myself, I was intrigued to learn the perspective of a Ghanian professor and leader and how he views leadership. Although Awuah gave this talk back in 2007, I felt that the points he made still resonate with the state of our world in 2020 as well as the rising popularity of liberal arts education. He mentions that leaders are not merely those in the political sphere, but also the lawyers, doctors, civil servants, judges, policemen, engineers, and all those who have been trained to serve society. This is why liberal arts education is so important– so we can train these future leaders to enter all fields. At UofR, a lot of us often default that our future leaders will be the political science and business administration majors; while this is often true, we must view other industries and skillsets to also be leading the world. Artists, writers/journalists, psychologists, healthcare professionals, policymakers, etc….these are all people who will become leaders in our society with a well-rounded, liberal arts education.

I really enjoyed Patrick Awuah’s talk and how he applied leadership to the state of the African continent, his home country of Ghana, and the state of the world. Many often do not think Africa as a developed, educated continent, but this assumption is often very wrong. Awuah wanted to come back to Ghana and fix the weak institutions and the corrupt leaders in Ghana. He went towards the educational system of how these people come to power, and he found that the educational system there had little focus on ethics and a massive sense of entitlement. Instead of ignoring the state of Ghana, he found that ethical leadership– starting at the primary school level– was the key. Awuah founded Ashesi University to combat this issue and bring ethical, entrepreneurial leaders into the world.

Reading Response Post #5

With my background knowledge from both the Leadership 101 and 102 courses, I enjoyed reading “Leadership in small-scale societies: Some implications for theory, research and practice” by Christopher von Rueden and Mark van Vugt. I have not really studied small-scale societies (SSSs) before, so the authors’ work on analyzing these types of societies leadership methods can help us better understand the study of leadership in large-scale societies. This article defines an SSS to have the following characteristics: “small communities, pooling of resources within and across extended families, food production in the absence of significant technology, and few formal institutions governing group life” (979). Looking at SSSs, as the article indicates, gives us an evolutionary on leadership methods since these were the societies humans have lived for the past 200,000 years. The evolutionary perspective gives us the “why” minds have evolved in the ways they did and the “how” they continue to make these decisions. 

Some examples of SSSs range across the Amazon, central and eastern Africa, and Southeast Asia. In such an industrialized, fast-paced world, it is crucial to look at SSSs to study human behavior and how the people inhabiting them lead and follow. In my child development class, we watched a film called Babies that tracked the development of four infants across the world; from my observations, the babies in Namibia and Mongolia lived in what seemed like SSSs. In Namibia, the families were very maternal-focused and egalitarian across age groups. Von Rueden and van Vugt indicate that SSSs tend to have egalitarian properties; in both Mongolia and Namibia in Babies, this seemed to be the case in instances such as communication, house duties, and religion. While these were only two SSSs I got to learn about, cross-cultural research suggests that SSSs, especially hunter-gatherer societies, tend to have beneficial leadership rooted in reciprocity, collective action, and coordination. We can analyze the contributions and implications of SSS leadership by looking at large-scale societies (LSSs) in industrialized nations that may have more of a globally-recognized political bureaucracy.

Anna Marston

Reading Response Post #4

I thought the reading from Rock, Paper, Scissors was an extremely interesting introduction to Game Theory, as I’d never been familiar with its premises before. I had heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the Tragedy of the Commons, and the Volunteer’s Dilemma from Dr. Harwell’s Leadership and the Social Sciences (102) course, but I am happy I got a more in-depth look into the concepts to see how they apply to real life. I really liked that the author provided examples that we exhibit in our everyday lives; for example, the Free Rider dilemma occurs when someone leaves a mess for others to clean up in a shared space. These are things we do all the time, but they can be analyzed through a Game Theory lens. The Free Rider dilemma is the one I am most familiar with because in my 102 class we played the public goods game, where we saw the Free Rider dilemma come into play when people did not contribute resources. Furthermore, in Leadership and the Humanities we talked about groupthink and how it impacted Kennedy’s decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis; brinkmanship (Chicken) was also present here. The Soviet Union and the United States were about to engage in a nuclear war, but Kennedy refused to lift the navy blockade. The groupthink drove Kennedy and his colleagues to make these poor decisions and brinkmanship occurred where both parties both faced unfavorable outcomes regardless of their actions. The threats being made in this historical example lacked credibility, so the two parties were stuck in a stalemate. I am excited to learn more in class about the Seven Deadly Dilemmas and about game theory!

Anna Marston

Lecture Response #2: CCE Brown Bag 2/28/20

On Friday, February 28, 2020, I attended the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement’s Brown Bag Discussion titled “No Justice, No Peace! Building Student Power” with Kalia Harris. She recently graduated from George Mason University and works for the Virginia Student Power Network as a queer, femme, black activist. Her focus is on student organizing and coalition building at the VSPN on social, racial, economic justice campaigns. Coalition building can be defined as “when groups and/or individuals share decision-making, responsibility, and partnership to work together towards a shared goal” and Kalia discussed this in-depth with regard to creating an effective student campaign. The VSPN includes young organizers and allies interested in racial, economic, undocumented, LGBTQ+, women’s, educational, labor, and environmental justice. Kalia lives in Richmond and came to the Brown Bag Discussion to discuss why she is so interested in this topic, and why student organizing can be so effective.

Kalia Harris was aware of the racist incidents that have occurred on our campus and connected her experiences with using student power to make an impact. Not only did this CCE Brown Bag connect to me as a college student, but it can be applied in the greater leadership context. If you don’t have a shared goal (i.e. stopping racism on UR’s campus, and implementing an Africana Studies department at UR) you cannot end injustices; the politics can get in the way, but building on a universal goal can be what really makes the big impact. For example, multiple student groups on campus might have different structures and individual goals, but if a cohort of groups can come together with a common goal, that’s when real change can occur. Kalia said that the elements of a successful campaign are identifying the problem and the issues, creating a demand, framing the issues to the constituency, strategy for the campaign, and the tactic.

I really enjoyed Kalia Harris’s and the Virginia Student Power Network’s mission to evoke change through student movements. We can apply these methods to the issues we present in Critical Thinking and writing research papers that may push for change.

Anna Marston

Reading Response Post #3

Dr. Jessica Flanigan’s “Three arguments against prescription requirements” was an incredibly interesting argument that brings ethical issues into the medicinal/healthcare contexts. Flanigan posits that “prescription drug laws violate patients’ rights to self-medication” and after reading through her well-argued paper and thinking about the ethical considerations we’ve learned through this class, I agree with her (579). This paper makes a strong ethical argument and is backed by anecdotal and statistical evidence to support the claim– it is unethical that we do not allow patients to carry out prescription treatment plans without permission from a physician. Flanigan argues that much of this system is embedded in paternalism that limits patients’ abilities to opt for medication when they want it; instead, we should have a “non-prohibitive drug system” where “prescription-grade drugs should be widely available without a physician’s notice” (580). Flanigan essentially argues for patient autonomy– even if their decisions go against physicians’ recommendations– because it is unjust that patients can opt-out of medication but cannot opt-in when they want it. Flanigan notes that one outlier to her argument is patient exposure to potentially dangerous drugs.

Given what we have learned so far about normative ethics, I agree with Flanigan’s proposal to remake the prescription drug system in the United States, and I think she makes a strong case for this idea. While I am not well-versed in the healthcare or prescription drug system, I do know there are problems and the “big pharma” concept is a huge problem for patients across the country, where big medical companies do profit off people’s suffering. I think with the potential decision to allow patients to decide if they want to self-medicate, the prescription drug system would be more open and improve the patient-physician dynamic, making it less authoritative. People should be able to make decisions about their own bodies and the state should recognize rights to self-medication, as Flanigan argues.

Anna Marston

Reading Response Post #2

As I am currently conducting research with Dr. Crystal Hoyt on growth mindset and stereotype threat (regarding drug/alcohol addiction), I was extremely excited to read her article “Managing to clear the air: Stereotype threat, women, and leadership” with Susan Murphy. In this post, I want to predominantly respond to the concept of stereotype threat as defined by the authors, because I think it pertains greatly to Critical Thinking as a course, and how we consume information. Stereotype threat is defined as “‘the concrete, real-time threat of being judged and treated poorly in settings where a stereotype about one’s group applies’ (Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002, p. 385)” (p. 388). This so-called stereotype threat is what can cause female underrepresentation in the workplace and leadership positions of all types. As I mentioned in my Implicit Bias test post, I took a class last semester where we learned in-depth about the social implications of gender/sexual/racial/ethnic/ability/etc. underrepresentation at work, but Hoyt & Murphy hone in on the psychological implications. For people who do not fit the major social identities seen as a leader– white and male–, they may face great bias and discrimination. While stereotype threat occurs across many social identities as I mentioned above, Hoyt & Murphy broadly focus on women in leadership and how these individuals are impacted by stereotype threat. For women in leadership, stereotype threat is evoked in many ways, such as explicit exposure to sexist commentary, being in the numerical minority (i.e. one woman in a large conference room full of men), and in other cues such as the media. This can lead to what the authors refer to as “vulnerability responses” where the woman may disengage or have an inhibited performance at work as a result.

It worries me that stereotype threat remains so prevalent in all types of workplaces– ranging from wage jobs to the tech industry– and the psychological implications it has on the group deemed socially inferior (in this article, for women). I am hopeful that with training in different spaces and an activist push for equality at work for people of a wide range of social identities we can reduce the harm stereotype threat imposes.

Anna Marston

Harvard Implicit Bias Test

For my implicit bias test, I chose to take the Gender-Career Task test. The Harvard website describes this as a test that “often reveals a relative link between family and females and between career and males,” and I was curious to test my implicit biases regarding this topic. Last semester, I took a class called Gender and Work where we spoke in-depth about gender stereotypes in the workplace, so I wanted to see if I conformed to these implicit biases.

My results were: Your result is described as an “Automatic association for Male with Career and Female with Family” if you were faster responding when Career and Male are assigned to the same response key than when Career and Female were classified with the same key. Your score is described as an “Automatic association for Female with Career and Male with Family if the opposite occurred. Your automatic preference may be described as “slight”, “moderate”, “strong”, or “no preference”. This indicates the strength of your automatic preference.

I am not surprised with my results because I grew up with a pretty heteronormative, male-dominant family structure where my parents filled pretty traditional gender roles. My father is the main breadwinner for my family and my mom worked part-time after she had kids to take care of my siblings and me. While I am now well-aware that this is not the familial structure for many other families, before taking WGSS/Leadership classes at college I couldn’t envision a family structure any differently than I had it. It is often hard thinking about for women whether they want to rear children or continue on a full-time career path because they are often the ones giving up their careers to become full-time mothers (and there is nothing wrong with this!). My implicit biases show that I intrinsically associate careers with male figures and the family with female figures, but not super strong, so I figure I can continue to challenge these implicit biases in my lifetime and learn during Critical Thinking how to address stereotypes when analyzing sources/information.

Anna Marston