Author Archives: Madyson Fitzgerald

Blog Post 12: Thinking Critically

For our last podcast, I really appreciated how Dr.Bezio didn’t tell us we now know how to think critically. Thinking critically has to do with so many different elements that it would be hard to sum up in one class. I did agree, however, that there are certain factors that go into everyday critical thinking. Asking questions and doing the research are two really big ones that I think were most important. Critical thinking also requires context, which helps us make thought out decisions.

Dr.Bezio also talked about what it means to be a leadership major, which I think is really important. A lot of my family members always ask me what a leadership major even is (my other major is journalism, and they say it’s much more straight-forward). I’ve tried to explain to them what I do in my Jepson classes, but to be honest, I have a hard time giving them a straight answer. I do agree, however, that those in Jepson are trying their best to make an impact on the world around them, and this is one of the first steps. Jepson isn’t training students to be leaders, but instead teaching students how to be conscious of the systems that influence our everyday lives. In doing this, we as students can begin to make a greater impact through well-informed decisions, and I can finally have an answer when someone asks me what a leadership studies major is.

Blog Post 11: The Song That Doesn’t End

I think that Podcast 11 may have been my favorite one this semester. In this podcast, Dr.Bezio discussed the relationship between music and human emotion. What really stood out to me was the way that music acts as a form of protest. From jazz that was played at speakeasies to Rihanna telling the DJ not to stop the music (there’s other good examples, but I just really enjoyed that one), music is a way for individuals to voice how they really feel about the topic at hand. Since music can be extremely catchy and easy to understand, it also makes it one of the most widely used forms of pop culture. Everyone listens to music, and has been since the dawn of time.

This podcast, along with the music we listened to and the readings, reminded me of one of my first-year seminars from freshman year. I took a class about Black vernacular (and its revisions, but I won’t go into all that) with Dr.Bert Ashe (a great professor if you haven’t met him). That entire year, we analyzed how numerous forms of communication through different mediums. Music is very obvious in the way it tells a story, but communication like this can happen in other natural spaces. One of my favorite examples of his was a description of the Black church. At Black churches, you obviously have the preacher and the choir and everyone else in the sanctuary. However, if you pay attention long enough, the hymns aren’t the only thing that have rhythm. The way the audience responds to the pastor, in “hmms” and “alright nows,” there is a rhythm present. The way the preacher may be speaking often sounds like it’s on a rhythm. All of it put together becomes a sound that is telling its own story that is the Black church. Music, and all the components that make it up, have a way of communicating what words sometimes cannot, even if it is in the simple, rhythmic call-and-response pattern of a preacher and his audience.

Blog Post 10: The Yellow Wallpaper

My mom is a high school English teacher, so I had heard of The Yellow Wallpaper before in one of our conversations, but I had never actually read it. Being my first time, I actually had to go back and read through the short story a couple of times because the ending was a little confusing. The first time I read it, I was definitely getting lots of undertones of feminist values and the role of women in that time period. Mental illnesses were not taken as seriously as they are now, especially in women. As for the narrator, she obviously had something going on, but her husband and brother were convincing her the entire time that she was actually just having a “moment” and that she would feel better soon. I think this invalidates a lot of the feelings and emotions that she was going through, which only made her condition worse. I especially feel that the husband did a horrible job being there for his spouse. What kind of husband tells their wife to start feeling better for his sake?

By the end of the short story, the narrator was practically obsessed with the yellow wallpaper, and had determined that a woman was stuck behind it. The way the light shone across the wallpaper had given her clues on how the woman moves, and in turn, how to get her out. I thought it was very telling that she ended up turning into a version of the woman in the wall. Her husband’s reaction was also very telling, in that he obviously did not realize the extent of her condition because he was so focused on her improvement to a fault. I think that this piece of literature did a great job acknowledging the hard place women find themselves in when it comes to mental illness, where a lot of our emotions are summed up to exactly that: that we’re just too emotional. It’s a dangerous setup, leading many to find their condition getting worse the more one invalidates their emotions. This is an extreme example of what can happen to a woman.

Blog Post 9: Leadership and Popular Culture

This week, I think that our readings were perfectly paired. In the piece by Dr.Bezio, she discusses the relevance of popular culture to critical analysis of leadership and society as a whole. Although popular culture is commonly referred to as shallow entertainment, I think that it was very important to note that it’s essentially the study of a social history through storytelling. With this definition, it was easier to imagine popular culture as something that could be related to leadership. Using the questions listed in the Harvey reading, it becomes more and more clear that the role of popular culture should be more relevant to the discipling of leadership than it is. Even more, the “newfound skepticism” surrounding leadership that Harvey mentions could be aided by applying popular culture, something so extremely relevant by definition, to the study of leadership. Another important aspect of this week’s reading was understanding basic criteria for identifying an example of leadership. Besides occurring within groups, leadership has many faces, and looks different in almost every single context.

I think that moving forward, it might be beneficial for more professors to include pop culture in the classroom. Not only would this bridge the age gap between professor and student, but I think it would be helpful to understand leadership in the context of now. Studying history (and historiography!), scientific studies and things like that can be beneficial, but as the saying goes, there’s no better time than the present. If you think about the Jan. 6 riot at the Capital, the latest meme on Twitter, who has the most followers in Instagram, the latest New York Times bestseller and on and on and on, it would be super interesting to see conversations about these implemented in the classroom. From a leadership prospective, there’s a lot that we could learn as students being that this is the world we will be graduating and joining soon.

Blog Post 8: History

In this week’s podcast, we learned about the real meaning of history, and why it isn’t just dates and people. History is so largely important to the humanities because it drives much of the research that’s done in each discipline. Specifically, historiographers study the history of history, including why things were recorded the way they were, who recorded these events and how they could affect a broader scope of history. After listening to the podcast, I believe that students should be taught about both history and historiography. So many of us are stuck in the quintessential historic narrative taught in school, but studying historiography may help us to understand that what we understand to be true is not the full story. There’s always more to learn when it comes to history, and Hayter’s article illustrates that.

In the Hayter reading, he reveals striking differences in how history is taught and history really unfolds. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 took the efforts of nationally recognized organizations and well-known individuals, but what history fails to include is the story of local, everyday people. The Crusade, for instance, played a huge role in giving Black residents the chance to vote, but I had never heard of that group before this reading. I also never learned about the annexation of Chesterfield County and that’s literally where I went to school (although not in the majority-white region). It’s absolutely crazy to me that my history teachers glossed over these important facts, but after this reading and podcast, I understand that, unfortunately, it’s the norm. There are very few institutions that promote an environment where individuals can become fully well-versed in any aspect of history — mainly because nobody knows it.

Blog Post 7: The Living Room Candidate Ad

I was assigned presidential advertisements from 2004, and I got to see commercials from the Democratic National Convention and John Kerry. My absolute favorite one was titled “Turned the Corner,” and it started with a montage of Bush saying the country would “turn the corner” for a certain issue. Then, the ad showed various graphs (which our class would’ve laughed at for how mathematically-wrong they were) where things were going “wrong.” There was a graph showing the price of gas increasing, another one showing the amount of jobs decreasing and much much more. The funniest part was the goofy song they had playing over it, like Bush’s claims were straight out of a clown circus.

I think this ad was a prime of attacking the opponent. I don’t think it said anything about John Kerry or Democrats until the very end, if that. What made it so eye-catching was the humor that they put into it. Coming from someone who loves to laugh, humor is a great way to reach your audience. Even thinking about Super Bowl commercials and how a lot of insurance companies have running jokes, it’s crazy how much of a hold humor has over viewers. It’s almost as if the ad is telling us if it makes you laugh, it must be a good thing. And if it’s a good thing, you should vote for it, buy it, talk about it, etc. I think that the media shapes how we think about the world around us just as much as our parents and peers. The amount of power it has is almost scary.

Blog Post 6: Systemic Issues and the MVS

In “The Logic of Failure” Dorner discusses the cognitive methods in which we make decisions, both good and bad. He uses information from an experiment done where a handful of participants were asked to play a game. In the game, participants had dictatorial leadership over a region called Tanaland. Their objective was to make decisions about farming, water irrigation, livestock and much more to ensure the survival of the people in the area. It seemed like a simple task, but the biggest takeaway from his analyzation is that it was anything but.

This is how it felt to play the Millennium Village Simulation. I’m a HUGE fan of Sims, Tropico and other popular life simulation games, but this one was by far the hardest. I tried the demo, and both of my characters died from the flu in a whopping two seasons. After a few more attempts, I realized that many of the decisions I was (and was not) making were similar to concepts present in Dorner’s analyzation of the Tanaland experiment. One of the “good” things that I was doing is that I consistently made a decent amount of decisions each round. There was never a round where I didn’t change at least half of my village’s parameters so I could try out different scenarios. One of the “bad” things, however, is that I tend to jump around from one objective to the next as it comes to me. This generally results in me forgetting the task I originally set out to do.

Blog Post 5: Favorite Ad

I’m a huge football fan, but in addition to watching the Super Bowl game, I also love watching to critique all of the commercials with my friends. One of the first Super Bowl commercials this year was a State Farm commercial, naturally. I think what surprised me most about the ad was that there were a whole lot of familiar and popular faces. The guy with the cheese on his head is from an older State Farm commercial. Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers are sitting next to the new Jake from State Farm, a celebrity himself. Next thing you know, Paul Rudd and Drake are thrown into the commercial, too. I think the randomness of the celebrities (and familiar face) made the commercial one of my favorites from this year (and Drake is actually pretty funny).

After doing the reading and listening to the podcast, I realized that most advertisements rely on only one thing: their assumption that what is “normal” is desirable. Either through shame, optimism, solutions or rationale, advertisers try to target what they feel the viewer needs. I think that the Teays reading made a very interesting point when it mentioned sin and seduction in advertising. Envy, lust and greed are present in the majority of advertisements that we see, and that’s what advertisers want us to feel, which is kind of unfortunate.

When it comes to analyzing ads, I do think that it’s important to look at the verbal and visual messages, but to also do some introspection into your own values. Even if advertisers claim that “everyone” is using a specific product, what difference does it make if you have your own values and opinions? Even if it’s something as simple as a Pizza Hut commercial, you can easily look at it and realize (from the perspective of a broke college student who loves pizza) “actually, I’m not hungry, this ad just makes it sound good in the moment,” and keep it moving. Understanding advertisements starts with removing yourself and realizing what is really important to you.

Blog Post 4: Favorite Graph

This is a pretty recent graph from 2019 based on information from a study at the University of California San Diego and the Brookings Institution. In the article that I saw this image from, it said that, “Now a new report from the University of California San Diego and the Brookings Institution says the states that tend to vote for politicians opposed to reining in greenhouse gases are likely to suffer the harshest economic toll from climate change. David Victor, a researcher at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy and contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even said that “The damages to the Republican-electing congressional districts is almost double what it is for the Democratic-voting districts.”.I thought that this was really strong language that indicated causation instead of correlation. More information can be found here:

Blog Post 3: The Numbers Game

In Huff’s piece, he explains that bias is present in almost every piece of data that we see. Whether it be independent studies at scientific laboratories, or research projects at public universities, almost any study that is done will have bias. There’s conscious and unconscious biases that influence the way researchers gather information, and as a result, we often get information that isn’t necessarily reliable. What really stuck out to me was this quote: “Public pressure and hasty journalism often launch a treatment that is unproved, particularly when the demand is great and the statistical background hazy.”

In this quote, I think it goes to show how much the media influences our beliefs and views of the world around us. As a journalism major, I’m all too comfortable with how public pressure can sway the way journalists write, and in the case of COVID-19, I think that’s why we’ve had so much misinformation spread. News outlets tend to be focused on getting the news out faster than other outlets, and that leads to common mistakes and errors that could easily be avoided. I specifically remember when the pandemic was first gaining traction, it seemed that everyone was publishing contradicting opinions and recommendations on how to stay safe.

In order to report accurate information that is free of bias (as it can possibly be, since that’s practically impossible), it takes a two-pronged approach from both parties. The scientific entities that carry out these surveys need to share their raw data in a way that is clear and concise. Journalists and reporters then need to closely analyze the data they’re given, and report on it without jumping to conclusions. The scientific entity should then be able to approve the article before it is published, just to make sure everything is correct. Although this is really idealistic, and probably takes up a lot of time, it would lead to more accurate science news for the everyday reader.