I came into the University of Richmond knowing my exact career path and that I would major in Global Studies with a minor in Healthcare, hoping to one day work for a public health non-profit in some far-off corner of the world. Plans changed, a lot, and now I’m doubling in Psychology and Leadership with a minor in Art History, and honestly could go a million directions in my life. That is why I chose to add the Leadership major, because (although nobody seems to understand its purpose) it creates an intellectual base that allows you to pursue virtually any career path. The classes that I have taken at Jepson have taught me the foundational aspects of life, teaching me to question authority while also enhancing my abilities to express my own opinions as well as others. These skills do not fit into the application of one specific job like a pre-med track does, but they can be applied to any career path that I choose. By adding the hard skills of psychology and whatever else I choose to study as a graduate student, I can find success in HR, psychological research, education, or really any other field so long as I put the effort in. Yes, all of the above has come out of trying to explain my major choices to pessimistic and dubious audiences, (especially my grandma, who has heard this spiel twice and still doesn’t understand) but I truly believe it and cannot wait to see where it takes me in life.
Additionally, I really resonated with the tea-cup analogy used by Dr. Bezio and the similar messages about the potential impacts of unity in the first “Impossible” essay that was assigned for class today. I feel like a great example of this in action is sustainability, which seems unhelpful on an individual scale but as more people do it, it becomes incredibly impactful. In high school, one of my assignments was to create as little waste as possible for a week, hoping to cut down on the amount of garbage we had to take to the dump at the end. By myself, almost nothing changed, but as my sisters and parents joined in, we were able to significantly reduce the amount of garbage we produced as a household. I think a lot of issues would have similar results in this experiment, especially if they were done on a larger scale.
For this podcast, it was interesting to specifically talk about the Titanic as a system. Like it is a system and I knew that but it would not be the first example that I would say. The fact that so many individuals decided to do what was necessary to keep women and children alive along with people that were more wealthy. People who were more wealthy were seen as more valuable meaning they had more of a right to survive and get on the boat. I think this can be seen in a lot of students as they seem to look at grades as a value system and making them better if they are able to receive a higher letter grade. Many look towards grades for validation and a way to measure success, while in reality grades are not what define each individual. You can be a great person who volunteers and lends a hand to many individuals while also being productive in society. So other individuals may have that as a system they base how they view themselves in the world. There are many different ways that can be similar to my college student example and it can also vary depending on how each individual views themself and what perspective they choose to look at.
Grades was something that came to mind first because it is all around us especially in a college campus. I wonder if there will be a change to grades in the future or if more perspectives will change to view other things as the same determinant. I honestly hope that more students are able to look beyond grades since in reality they will not matter as much once we are in our 40s.
This past year has been incredibly difficult for almost everyone. I have oftentimes found myself complaining about how it was unfair that I was going through my college experience during a pandemic. And yes, maybe it is unfair, but I always force myself to take a step back and realize that I am very fortunate to be here. The fact that we are at college alone is a privilege — we get to step out into the real world miles ahead of others (the global 1%). Because of this, we need to make the most of it that we can by taking the time to study meaningful topics. This is why I chose Jepson as one of my majors. We are given the tools to begin fixing the problems that we see, not just acknowledging that they are there. And even better, we can spend this time learning to go out into the world and help others in the direction of change. Like Dr. Bezio mentioned in the podcast, this stuff isn’t easy. We have seen the uglinesses of our country, our world, and even our University fully this past year. But being here is the first step towards meaningful change and using our privilege to help, instead of falling into the same cycle of the top staying ahead, getting further and further from those that were miles behind from the start. I am grateful for Jepson and I am grateful for those studying it besides me, willing to take the risk of an “unsafe” major in order to gain a different set of skills that will hopefully allow us to lead all of us in “filling the ponds”.
What stuck out most to be in the final podcast was the notion of a useful degree versus a useless one. I came to the University of Richmond knowing I wanted to major in Leadership studies and Business Administration. Even before I enrolled I had been told that a Leadership degree was not useful and that I would need hard skills, hence the Finance concentration. To be honest, I do not enjoy Finance or most of the business school classes for that matter. The overall intellectual level is low (among students, all the professors are wonderful and brilliant), yet an air of privilege and expectation is ever present. I still get questions about what exactly a Leadership degree is and I still get made fun of for having a useless degree. But, I no longer care. My Leadership classes are intellectually stimulating and enjoyable. Most importantly to me, they are not overly structured and allow for genuine discussion and conversation. I am not worried about future success, both because success is a goal one sets for themself and because success is measured in many different ways. I know that after graduating, I will be a better person, intellectual, and business-man for having majored in Leadership Studies. That is more than enough for me.
The tea cup analogy Dr. Bezio used, and the first essay from our “Impossible” reading helped put back into perspective the effect any one of us can have on making the world a better place. The massive scope of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it hard to think that small, individual actions can actually have a positive impact on the world at large. However, as Dr. Bezio pointed out, if everyone did a little bit of good, then there would be a lot of good that had been done. The actions can be as little as picking up trash and litter from around campus because helping the Earth is also a noble cause. Who would have thought that? The readings for today have reinvigorated me to put more care and effort into the smaller actions, because even during a global pandemic, their effect can be massive.
In listening to the podcast for this class, I think the part that stuck out to me most was the conversation of Leadership Studies not being a “safe” major. As Dr. Bezio explains, people typically hear Leadership Studies, and in my own experiences, seem to be confused and often ask what I am even studying with that major. I would be lying if I said that I’ve never worried about getting a job with this major, for even this past spring as I’ve been applying to internships, there’s not typically any box that Leadership Studies fits into; however, I think it is this uniqueness of Leadership Studies that interests me the most. With this major, we can learn to a greater extent than most other majors how to think for ourselves, how to make ethical decisions, and ultimately how to be leaders, a skill that is fundamental to any career path. With most majors, you learn the facts of the field, such as in chemistry memorizing organic chemistry or in political science memorizing different governmental institutions and laws; instead, Leadership Studies has taught me not only how to be a leader, but also more soft skills, such as evaluating the ethics of a situation. Using these skills, we will be able to confront issues, such as social justice issues and inequality in the workplace, in the future, for we have learned both how to think for ourselves, and how to evaluate a situation that we see as being unequal, or more generally, “wrong”. Thus, I think it is important to recognize how a Leadership Studies major is indicative of our desire to make a change and will give us the skills, experiences, and even greater desire to succeed and make formidable improvements to our society.
The thing that stood out to me the most in this podcast is that in leadership the person that is the face of the organization, or on the “podium”, is not the person that they perceive to be. They are not the person that runs the company single-handedly or holds the organization together. Sometimes this may be the case, but often it is not. The truth is that there are hundreds of people behind that figurehead how to perform important functions and show leadership daily that are unnamed. The other thing that stood out to me was the idea of change. Change requires good leadership and the ability to ask the right questions. Making the right decisions based upon the information that is available. There is a good example that occurred recently that incorporates both these concepts.
Recently in Europe, there was development among the most wealthy soccer clubs to establish a soccer league called the “Super League”. It would have consisted of only 12 teams from only three of the dozens of nations in Europe. This was devised by the billionaire owners of these soccer teams to make more money. The proposed league would end the current structure of soccer in Europe and destroy the sport. However, fans from across Europe and the World spoke up with significant uproar. Former players and current managers like Gary Neville and Pep Guardiola, who have been or are employed by these major clubs spoke up against the proposal. In less than two days, 10 of the original 12 teams backed out of the proposal and put an end to the proposed “Superleague”. This relates to podcasts because the owners of the clubs, although pretending to understand the sport and the fans, were completely out of touch. The proposed change to the sport was met with heavy resistance led by former and current players and managers with millions of fans around the world. There were hundreds of people working at these clubs that will go unnamed. However, they were largely the reason why the clubs decided to pull out. They may the owners listen to the fans of the sport and pull back the proposition. This goes to show that the head of the company is not always understanding its workers or its clientele. And that unnamed leadership and advocacy are essential to creating real change to benefit all.
I liked how Dr. Bezio commented on the incredibly complex nature of our systems, and how even when they are unequal you still might receive benefits from them. I was particularly interested in the discussion about the titanic. Whenever I would watch the movie, I struggled with the notion that women and children had to go first onto the lifeboats. This sort of infantilization of women is not a new concept, nor is the theory that they must be saved by men. As a feminist who believes in championing the equality of the sexes, I strongly disagree with the sexist rationale behind this systemic decision, however, if I was on the titanic, I think I’d be pretty grateful to get a spot on the lifeboat if it meant survival. Patriarchal norms and systems have been around for generations, and though it would be tough to not hop on a lifeboat in a titanic-type-situation, I think challenging these norms or pointing out the flawed logic that supports them whenever possible, is essential to progress.
I love Dr. Bezio’s point about the titanic being a system that people believed to be so big and strong it could not be sunk. But because many individual mistakes made by members of the system took place it did. We live in Systems surrounded by systems, we grew up in systems, we learn in systems, every part of my life that I can think of is some sort of system. And the things that go wrong in it are system failures. I feel as though I have no control over any of these systems, but I do believe I have an influence on them. The little things I do and say in my everyday life affect the systems around me, and while I may only be one person and have never felt like my voice could make much of a difference I do know that I affect the systems I am in.
Something that stood out to me in the podcast was Dr. Bezio’s mention of the ecological effects of the shutdown period last spring into summer. When I found out last year that our emissions had gone down by an extreme amount while we were all in quarantine I had very mixed feelings. I was glad that I could see that there are ways for us to slow down our emissions which are affecting the climate but discouraged to see (not realize, because I already knew this) the change that us not leaving our homes each and every day to go to work, or school had on the environment. Seeing things like this does not give me hope “that we can make a difference if we change” but discourages me to see that the systems we have in place are so detrimental that by fixing one thing we often hurt another. The changes it took to affect the environment in a good way (for a short time) were so bad for everything else. How tightly weaved our systems are make them all the more difficult to reform.
I like how this podcast ended on a positive note after going through some drastic highs and lows throughout. There were a few specific messages throughout it that really stuck with me. First was Dr. Bezio’s statement that being a Leadership major is a risk compared to ‘safe’ majors that our parents tell us will guarantee a job and money. If I had a dollar for every time a family member ask me how leadership studies will get me a job or suggest that I major in a ‘hard skill’, I wouldn’t need a career. Furthermore, I think it’s important that she suggests that type of risk taking is necessary to create change. It also makes me feel better about my major choice.
The second thing that stood out to me was Dr. Bezio’s comment during the Titanic story about how social norms allowed for women and children to have access to the lifeboats first when she said that sometimes sexism has its benefits. This made me think of a quote that one of my friends came up with which is, “Its not what you can do for the patriarchy, but what the patriarchy can do for you.” Essentially the meaning is that, as women, it can be more beneficial to us to reap the benefits of sexism such as flirting your way out of a speeding ticket, getting men to do things for you by batting your eyes, etc. than to try to dismantle the patriarchy all on your own. Though it is more funny ironically and kind of problematic for the messages of this class, it brings us back to the podcast’s main message of taking risks and having to strive for wanting change. The better we become at this through the Jepson school, the more I believe we can help improve the world.
My biggest takeaway from the reading and the podcast is that little things matter more than we think they do, because if everyone takes care of the little details in their world, the cumulative affect can be massive. As Zinn illustrates with examples such as the movements against the Vietnam War and for civil rights, that the people and structures in power are “in fact quite vulnerable” (Zinn 64). Nothing is set in stone the way we assume it is. If I make the choice, for example, to try to reduce my personal energy consumption, it will do next to nothing for the environment. In a vacuum, I am nearly powerless in that regard. But there are millions more of “me” across the world. If we each take the cynical mindset, no one acts and we all lose. But if everyone adjusts their decision making slightly, we will start trending in the other direction.
After I read the chapters, a thought crossed my mind: “If I were to die right now, which moments in my life would have been the most meaningful”? I didn’t consider any objective accomplishments. The moments that came to my mind all had to do with interpersonal connection. A specific conversation that I had with someone. A time when I supported someone during a moment of panic or grief. A time where I set a good example for a younger sibling or cousin. A time where I stood up for someone. We all have had these moments. Interestingly, I rarely consider their importance. My mind tends to be occupied by goals and things that I can touch or visualize. Objective markers of “success”. The world tells us that we need to own and accomplish things. Value is rarely placed, however, on helping each other and deliberately sharing our human experiences.