Author Archives: Esmi

About Esmi

Esmi is a sophomore at the University of Richmond and is majoring in Leadership Studies with a double minor in Anthropology and Linguistics.

The LDST Cycle & Importance of Context

Our first reading organized every theory of leadership that I have studied at Jepson into an entirely new framework. I enjoyed reading about a sort of new definition of leadership and how other theories support/relate to it. In this case, I’m referring to the new definition as “leaders confront and solve problems associated with group survival and well-being”. Out of the seven questions in the leadership cycle (I’m purposely saying cycle instead of model), I was most intrigued by number two. Asking “Where are we?” is a process we often subconsciously perform to gain an understanding of group environment and situation, but I never analyzed its purpose. The way I interpreted it was asking this question helps “set the stage” in explaining past actions and understanding the context for future actions. I also think the use of Flight 93 as an example was a genius way of explaining the question beyond the literal; the question can also be framed as, “What is our current situation?”/ “What can we do where we are at?” in reference to the space. Another part of the article I appreciated was how Harvey questioned his own model with a series of questions to explain his thought process. The question that stood out to me in this section concerned re-framing the questions using first-person singular. While leadership is a group process, we acknowledge that each participant is an individual. When the term individual is thrown around, I tend to focus on the followers as individuals because they are often discredited, ignored or out shined when analyzing leadership. However, this new question forced me to realize that, as individuals, leaders can undergo this cycle on a personal level, without letting it affect their followers. It honestly made the leadership position look lonely.

Two paragraphs into our second reading, the concept of cultural relativism was brought up again (I made this reference in my last post). Practicing cultural relativism means examining texts, theories, works of culture through the lens of the era it was made in. Through understanding what people of that time period thought, believed, and the laws which they were governed by can provide deep insight into pieces of history we analyze today. For example, one cannot understand the successful timing of the civil rights movement without first understanding how Jim Crow laws made the U.S. look to small, minority countries being “wooed” by the Soviet Union. I have no background in Shakespeare or Elizabethan history (not even sure if that’s the right term), but I found the connection between Shakespeare’s Pericles and James’ reputation as king quite interesting. I would not have considered the strong correlation of the plot/characters to the political climate and debate over Union without this article. Through exemplification of English customs and royal etiquette, Shakespeare directly targets James as a ruler. The theme of opposing and warning against tyranny is seen throughout the play but would not be as significant without understanding James’ carelessness with finances, disregard for parliament and actions of appointing Scotsman onto his privy council. Once we analyze the play alongside its historical context, it becomes clear how the two influence each other and why they remain significant in modern times.

Zinn and Hayter

I just spent an hour writing my response to these readings and then wordpress kicked me out without saving my response, so now this response is going to be really rushed. 🙁

I had never been a fan of history, but always held the fact of “Columbus brought illness and took some Indians as slaves”. I didn’t (at all) ever grasp the gravity of wiping out half of an entire population within two years. The main thing that stuck out to me was how morality play a role for both Columbus and the Arawaks in different ways. For Columbus, his actions were always justified by religion and therefore (to him) morally right. For the Arawaks, it became morally better to murder their own children than to let them suffer by the hands of the Spaniards. I tried my best to read all of this through the lens of cultural relativism but I’m curious about each of these population’s relationship with morality compared to when the “discovery of the Americas” took place.

Also, I appreciated how Ziin challenged the readers by saying, “it is the job of thinking people…not to be on the side of the executioners”.

I am currently in Hayter’s LDST 101 course and his article made me think of his previous lecture on how women’s opposition to the constraints of typical housewife roles were, arguably, more successful at integrating this marginalized population into society than the civil rights movement for the African American population. The political party power struggle in Richmond is the perfect example of this. Overall, I found it interesting that even though the U.S. prides itself on the fact that we grant our citizens certain freedoms, we only historically care about protecting the rights of white men. Even with the little progress we’ve made in integrating our women and African American individuals, there are still legislative and corporate policies that work against them being full active members of society.

Mystery & Meaning/The Stanford Prison Experiment

All I have to say after these readings are wow.

For Mystery & Meaning, I was consumed by all of the interesting theories, effects and explanations of how people understand the world around them. I remember Bezio saying in one of our previous classes that humans have a need for finding, and in some cases, creating patterns and now it makes more sense. As I read this, I began to make of ton of connections to the way our world functions today. For example, the power of a title changing how you’re perceived/treated by others, employers enacting the primacy effect in an interview after already having read a resume, and the rumor of UR not being open this Fall out of fear. The section that stood out to me the most was “The Need for Closure”. I have always been the type of person that needs to finish something once it has started. For example, I cannot, cannot stop writing an essay once I start it. I have always been this way in most aspects of my life, so reading about the Zeigarnik effect was eerie because it offered an explanation of what unfinished tasks feel like to me. Another section that caught my attention discussed how negative feelings/associations tend to be stronger than positive ones. I have a phobia of Ferris wheels (don’t laugh) and I could never really explain why. It’s not the height aspect, because I enjoy riding roller coasters. After reading about how phobias involve “any potential negative experience under uncertainty”, I realized that it’s because Ferris wheels are free-hanging and don’t have seatbelts. All of the item’s weight is suspended by one point attached to a rotating wheel. Now I finally have an explanation for my avoidance of Ferris wheels. 🙂

On another note, I cannot believe I have never heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment before! Although overall it was a completely astounding experiment in various ways, I was most shocked when the research psychologist himself began to firmly view this as his reality (after rumors of a mass escape). The fact that the main person who is supposed to remain grounded and “above” the experiment became such an active participant in his own way speaks to the power of the situation. I began talking with my mom about the experiment (she had never heard of it before either) and after listening for a few minutes she said, “Well, it makes sense. Do you remember what happened every year we did the haunted house?” At the end of October our church youth group would put on a haunted house that we worked on for months in advance. It was our largest fundraiser of the year and people from all over the city would come to walk-through. Everyone in the parish participated in some way and would contain mad scientists, clowns, dolls, zombies, traditional Hollywood Figures, and local urban legend characters (i.e. la llorona). My mom drew attention to how everyone was rocky in their parts at first, but with the right environment (darkness, strobe lights, sounds, fog, etc.), we would quickly become our character. By the third night, the experience became training and we would have to have constant check-ins with each other to make sure we were okay. The screams we made were so realistic that peers and visitors believed it. Each of us began to laugh more like the clown’s, make creepy face’s like the doll’s and say certain phrases the jump scarers would say. It wasn’t a fully immersive environment (24/7), but spending 6 hours every night acting in this role took haunting to an entirely different level.

Logic of Failure and Bolstering Self-Esteem

In the introduction, I was struck by the section concerning values and motivations. A common phrase I hear (and use) when someone’s actions have undesired consequences is, “Well, your intentions were good!” Up until this reading, I didn’t realize how much of a crutch and excuse that phrase can be. It also made me think of a documentary we recently watched in my LDST 101 course about Whitney Young, one of the most important and unknown agent in the civil rights movement. People regarding him as a man of action and specifically, “a man that accomplished what other people were for”. In this context, while most supported the idea of civil rights (good intentions), few strategized and acted successfully on these values. I kept the story of Whitney Young’s critcial thought processes and solutions in the back of my head the entire time I read this article, and found it fascinating how it supported Dorner’s argument that “people court failure in predictable ways”.

Another example this reading made me think of was the engineering design process. Having an extensive background in the field of engineering, I found myself comparing the examples of “good” and “Bad” participants in the Tanaland or Greenvale simulations to thought processes I had been taught in the past. Specifically, the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Engineering Design Process. After each step, students are taught to question the ideas they are generating and think critically about what they are proposing. Engineering students are trained to reanalyze situations continuously and discover how smaller systems are interrelated to comprise one design. After following this system for four years, it was interesting to see how this method compared with that of  the “mistakes of cognition” made in the examples presented.

I was thoroughly shocked by Forsyth’s article revealing the correlation of bolstering student’s self-esteem and their academic performance. In my pre-k-12 career, I attended nine schools and each of them valued – to some extent- encouraging student’s to believe in themselves for the sake of improving their success in the classroom. I was never given a reason to question it until now. After reading this article, I am wondering how stereotype threat fits into this equation. If stigmatized groups do not perform well, because that is what is expected of them, then wouldn’t assuring them they are capable improve their performance? And isn’t that an example of bolstering self-esteem? Also, if “weak students may maintain self-esteem best by withdrawing effort” then why do we sometimes see these stigmatized groups (some who may have low self-esteem) overcompensating to break stereotypes?

LDST Implications in Small-Scale Societies

I had never considered potential similarities of differences between LSSs and SSSs, but as I read the article, it was easy to connect the information to other leadership course and the real-world. Almost immediately, the reference to the “dark side of leadership – dominance”, allowed me to affirm what leadership is and is not. My LDST 101 course taught me to always view leadership through the lens of consent versus coercion. If an individual attains power through fear and threats, they are coercive and are not considered a leader. I appreciate that the article highlights this distinction before continuing their argument.

There were a couple aspects of SSSs that made me laugh at how they are so apparent in
“life lessons” I have learned growing up. For example, it is stated that “individuals with the most kinship ties to other group members tend to hold positions of influence”. This made me think of the importance of networking. Of course, this can also be implemented on a larger scale, but even within small companies, a person who has made the effort to create new connections with people will have a greater chance of professionally advancing. One of my grandma’s favorite sayings is, “The more people you know, the father you’ll go”. Another lesson that I could connect the reading to was the description of prosociality. Children are often taught to share their toys (fairness) and take turns (generosity), but the next step is to do these things when nobody is watching (integrity). These are heavily simplified definitions, but are integral parts of leadership. Before reading this, I didn’t realize the implications of this aspect and put into perspective how important every single choice affects long-term status as a leader. Status is ultimately controlled by the followers and I’d like that this observation can help highlight the role of accountability.

One question I had about SSSs is if it strictly applies to these remote communities (i.e., Amazonian villages) or if some form of the model can be applied to close-knit suburbs or family-owned businesses? I don’t recall the reading mentioning it, but I am curious to see the extent of which it applies.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

This reading was my first exposure to game theory and the two the caught my eye the most were The Free Rider and The Stag Hunt. I was most interested in The Free Rider because I always see discussion about them (and have, personally, been recited the classic counterargument), but never ways to solve the dilemma. I agree with their proposal for a solution…”make it progressively more risky, or more costly, for each additional free rider to enjoy the benefits of their ride”, BUT I wish there were more examples of this in action! Not because this dilemma is more important than the others, but it is the most common one I have trouble counteracting. As for The Stag Hunt, I had never heard the dilemma outlined in this way but it makes logical sense. I am fascinated by people’s motivation to make this trade-off of freedoms- beyond the motivation of a bigger payout. There has to be more factors than the traditional “bigger reward = better = hunt stag”, especially since this option holds greater risk compared to hunting the hare.

Of the final two chapters, I greatly enjoyed the reference to Swiss-style chess tournaments. In my family, we have a tradition of learning chess as soon as possible (in my case, I was 4 years-old). I competed in tournaments growing up and have seen many tournament styles. The Swiss format is my favorite and it surprised me when I read this, because I had never considered the impact of throwing the first match! Granted, it is something my grandfather would never forgive and something I would never want to do. However, these readings are making me analyze all board games I play through a new lens.

Fencing in Democracy: Border Walls, Necrocitizenship and the Security State

On February 17th, I attended a presentation discussing Professor Dorsey and Professor Diaz’s new book concerning the border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. They’re lecture focused on how recent immigration reform is designed to create suspect citizens and how its physical existence affects land, families, and culture. I have an intimate relationship with immigration, being born and raised in an immigrant community, and have stayed up to date with news on immigration. However, I was unaware of its interference in nature preserves and the fact that at some points, it is 2 miles NORTH of the Rio Grande, the actual borderline. Media presents the border as a dangerous, desolate landscape rather than the home of diverse ecosystems and communities. They don’t show the reality of “raja”, which translates to the act of splitting, tearing and scarring.

Our country’s southern border has become the site of a political power struggle between local and federal governments. The professor’s book is compiled of case studies regarding how the region has become affected by the wall. This includes testimonies from citizens who do not have the right to challenge the militarization of the border. One story Professor Dorsey shared was about her taking worldwide visitors to a part of the wall with a gate (this was a region two miles away from the actual border). These visitors were fearful of crossing the gate, because they didn’t want to enter Mexico. They were intimidated by the border patrol hovering with a machine gun and had a silent understanding that the wall was a sign of oppression. By the end of the lecture, it was evident that the border region is a constitution-free zone and learned of a common phrase legislators had begun telling civilians affected by wall construction “If you don’t like the wall, we’ll build it North of you.” At the conclusion of the event, the audience left with a new perspective of the border wall, its representation of raja on all levels, and how our government is allowed to test the elasticity of the US Constitution.

Right to Self-Medication & Duty to Disobey

Flanigan’s article made me consider the entire prescription drug system in an entire way! I was raised in a culture that doesn’t encourage taking prescribed medicines and relying on natural remedies, so I didn’t have much background information or preconceived feelings in favor or against the topic when reading it. I loved that the structure of the article made her thought process easier to follow and gave me an understanding of DIC while still using scenarios to give further context. The statement that stood out to me the most was, “Like other basic rights, self-regarding decisions about our own bodies warrant particularly strong protections from state interference” because it broke down the argument to a simple, clean form (view equation below) that, as Flanigan mentioned, can be applied in so many areas beyond self-medication.

Patient autonomy = basic right = morally valuable

I had read Hidalgo’s article in a previous leadership class and even attended his lecture on this topic last semester. It can be difficult to put this argument into action, and I appreciate that Hidalgo acknowledge’s this fact in the risk objection section stating, “Morality can be demanding”.  I am an American citizen but grew up in the Mexican culture. Living two hours away from the border, I was taught to always carry my i.d., not speak Spanish in front of authority, and never, NEVER, give people a reason to question my citizenship. This fear that is so deeply woven into my identity made me both hesitant, yet intrigued by Hidalgo’s argument the first time I read it. Although I didn’t agree with most immigration laws beforehand, I had never considered that it is my responsibility as a human to oppose them. The distinction between doing and allowing challenged my instinctive “stay quiet” attitude towards immigration.

My Implicit Bias Test

I have taken the IAT in previous leadership courses, and for this course I decided to try a new one and take association of Male and Females in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Before I tell you what my result was, I want to explain why I took the test.

 

I was expecting to have no preference or at least a slight preference for males in liberal arts (which is what society dictates). I went to a STEM Early College high school and earned my Associate’s degree in Engineering. Throughout my time in the engineering, advanced science. and advanced math classes I was the ONLY GIRL in the class about 90% of the time. I had grown used to studying a “male-dominated” field but also hoped I would have developed a stronger mindset by the end of that experience. I had accomplished the same degree as my male counterparts, in addition to leading their robotics team.

 

My IAT suggested I have a moderate automatic association for Male with Liberal Arts and Female with Science. 🙂 I have spent about 6 years associating females in male-dominated career fields, because I am aware that females do, in fact, have the same skill sets and ability to be successful in these fields as males.

Stereotypes & Stereotype Threat

Implicit bias and stereotype is one of my favorite topics I have studied since joining Jepson, so I really enjoyed these readings. I had never read about the distinction between knowing and endorsing, but it made it easier to understand the concept of implicit bias (I wish I had learned it last semester). One thing I was unaware I agreed with was on page 107 when the authors stated, “First, it is well known that people recognize faces from their own racial/ethnic group more easily than other faces.” I never realized that! I began to think and found it applied to all intial group interactions I’ve had. It was easier for me to recognize people of Latinx background when I ran into them again versus non-Latinx. Also, for those intrigued by the pitbull section, watch the show Pitbulls & Parolees on Animal Planet. They do amazing work to rescue this wonderful breed and also work to remove the biases and stereotypes society has of them.

One thing this Blind reading and Hoyt’s reading make me think of was how stereotype threat can be applied to any population in any context. I am currently working with a professor on developing an experiment that will test stereotype threat within heritage speakers of Spanish. Heritage speakers who are 2nd and 3rd generation tend to have higher insecurity of their Spanish compared to those who grew up with it as a first language and are extremely comfortable. We would be interested in studying how this negatively self-stereotyped group is affected by stereotype threat in multiple aspects of their life, especially because “experiencing threats to one’s identity can have wide-ranging and meaningful effects beyond the most studied outcome of academic underperformance” (Hoyt & Murphy 2015)