Know Thyself

leadership

The most interesting LEAD workshop I attended was the TAIS Debrief, which went over my scores for The Attentional Interpersonal Style Inventory (TAIS).  A description from the makers: “The TAIS measures constructs crucial to effective performance, especially performance in high pressure situations…results will emphasize how you are likely to react under stressful conditions and will illustrate how pressure affects your ability to concentrate, stay motivated, and communicate effectively.” This test is so legit and it’s interesting to hear how I compare with others tested. It didn’t really tell me too much that I didn’t know already, but it did bring some problems to my attention. haha Get it? I’m hilarious.

What I learned from the test was that I am best at paying attention to a specific task for long periods of time, while being relatively good at being aware of my environment and thinking conceptually. My biggest distractions are internal, which basically means I get caught up over-thinking things and dealing with my emotions. #preach

I love being busy and having a diverse number of activities, but that can backfire when my schedule is too full. #college I scored high in the need to control others, which means I like leading others, and high in self-confidence, which means I believe in myself. But my self-critical score was low, which means I’m hard on myself when I make mistakes. #mylife I’m really intellectually competitive, even with myself, and this intimidates people. #maybethisiswhyI’msingle

One of the most interesting, but not surprising, results was that I am equally extroverted and introverted; my scores in both categories were the same. This means that I enjoy being with people and being in the spotlight, as well as needing alone time and reflecting. According to the test, this is very rare and is confusing for people who think you have to be one or the other. This wasn’t surprising because I’ve known this for a while. I’m always borderline when I take the Myers-Briggs and I’ve noticed that I slowly go insane when I’m stuck in the house for more than two days or constantly out of the house for a few days.

The last part of the results basically told me that I like to talk and express my ideas, which are generally good ideas and encouraging to others. It also said that I need to listen more, which I’ve noticed is not my strongest attribute although I am working on it. I really like to talk, and as you can read from this blog I have a lot to say. The results also indicated that I have troubled voicing concerns or problems to others because I think it will ruin relationships. I have a tendency to swallow my feelings and deal with them internally rather than addressing the problem, probably because I’m non-confrontational when it comes to dealing with coworkers. People also tell me that I’m hypersensitive because I take criticism personally, so when something is wrong, I usually just think it’s my problem and try to move on. I think this blog helps me vent that frustration indirectly though. Maybe that’s a good thing?

Congratulations, you now know more than you ever wanted to know about me.

Beck

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Spring Break 2014

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I have been so busy the past few weeks that I haven’t had time to write anything, not even the paper I have due next Tuesday! Spring Break was this past week and I wish it never ended. I spent a few days in Raleigh with my parents and then headed to Charlotte to hang out with my sister. We had a lot of fun trying out some new places including Pio Pio, Tupelo Honey Café, Common Market, and Razzoo’s, all of which are fantastic and you should check out! I especially liked the “beer-ritas” at Razzoo’s and the beer I discovered at Tupelo Honey called Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat Beer. I also got to drink a lot of good wine. It was a good break, but it was much too short.

Now that I’m back at school, I’m keeping busy writing papers and trying to cram two years’ worth of Leadership workshops into the remaining five weeks of school. I’m in the Leadership Ed and Development program, which until recently I didn’t know was really helpful in learning about how to become a good leader. I enjoyed the Team Performance Model workshop a lot, and it’s something I want to use when I’m working at Duke this summer. It was basically a brief run through on how to get teams working together for a single purpose, etc. I’m going to workshops later this semester called “Leading with Integrity” and “Cross-Cultural Leadership” so those should be interesting.

Don’t be surprised if I don’t write more this semester. Last week went by so fast I didn’t have time to process it, and when that happens, it’s not likely that I’ll have much to say. It’s going to be a whirlwind of activity from now until graduation, which is only in 48 days. Oh Lawd.

Beck

News Items and Leftovers

I was approached by the Director of Community Organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless about my article in the newspaper. He invited me to speak at a panel called the Faces of Homelessness in November at my school. Anytime you get approached by an organization that calls themselves a “coalition”, you say yes; that shit is cool. I guess I’m a cover girl for homeless people now. Homelessness never looked so hot; or as my sister would say, “You’re like the Kardashian of Elon.” Except that I’m getting noticed for not having a place to put my clothes, not for taking my clothes off. Hahaha

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A friend and classmate asked me if she could post my story on the blog, Elon Awareness. I said yes, of course, and I was grateful for the invitation. It’s a really great blog, you should read some of the posts; they speak so much truth.

I’m applying for jobs, which I guess is not really news considering I’m a senior. I thought I would mention it since it’s taking up so much of my time. I’m really glad I don’t have a full schedule this semester; otherwise I would struggle to find time to do it. I’m looking for positions in nonprofits, higher education, and secondary teaching. I’m also researching graduate schools, but I won’t be ready to apply until early fall. There’s a residence life fellowship that I’m really interested in as well. Not that I don’t want to get away from my college, but it’s a really great opportunity to explore higher education as a career. I’m completely torn between secondary and higher education! My dream job would be at Project LIFT Charlotte. It’s an amazing nonprofit organization that deals with education and I really want to be involved in some way next year. They are doing some great things in my hometown.

This brings me to another preoccupation I’ve had this week: I miss teaching. I really miss teaching and talking about education. I’ve been helping my sister with her TEACH Charlotte application and interview and have realized just how much knowledge I have about pedagogy and classroom management. But it’s all going to waste. I’m not using any of it and it makes me sad. When I think about how I could be student teaching instead of taking classes, it makes me angry about everything that happened last semester. I took all the classes and, even though I did not pass one or two, I learned the content, but I’m not getting credit for any of it. When potential employers look at my application, all they will see is a low GPA and that I was kicked out of my program. I’m afraid no one will give me a chance. I can’t even ask my education professors for letters of recommendation because I failed. Who wants to recommend a student who failed their class? I feel that if ever my name is mentioned between professors, they shake their heads and say, “What a waste of potential.” I hate that, because it’s not true. I guess I shouldn’t care what they think, but I don’t like the idea that I disappointed them. Okay, so I’m still working through leftover feelings from last semester, but there’s no set mourning period for broken dreams, I’m still within my rights.

Let’s end on a high note, shall we? A few weeks ago, my boss over at Duke asked if I was available to go to China in August to be a Teacher Assistant for a Leadership class for high school students. I said I was available and very interested. I don’t speak Mandarin, so I’m not a prime candidate, but I do hope I can go despite that. I would love to learn more about Chinese culture, and it would be great to have the opportunity to see some of my former residents that live there. Cross your fingers!

Beck

Intersect Diversity and Leadership Conference, Part 2

The Intersect Diversity and Leadership Conference always raises more questions than it answers, but for me, it asks the only questions worth answering.  It leaves me wanting more; more information, more opportunities to gain skills, more community, and more stories to listen to.

Microaggression
I started the second day of this short conference in a session called “Death by a Thousand Cuts: Recognizing and Responding to Microaggression”.  I first had an interest in microaggression when I read Claude Steele’s book, Whistling Vivaldi, which presented research about how stereotype threat, conveyed through microaggression, can prevent students from succeeding academically in college. This session not only expanded my vocabulary about microaggression, but also gave me a better way to respond to these verbal or behavioral indignities.

One of the comments we talked a lot about in the discussion was, “Everyone can succeed if they try hard enough.” This comment makes me angry. It makes me angry because when you say this, you are invalidating someone’s struggles to achieve success. You are limiting their definition of success to the American Dream and negating the set of circumstances that may prevent them from reaching that dream. You are assuming that if they are not succeeding in your definition, it must be because they are lazy and are not trying hard enough. Because America is the land of opportunity, right? Because we all have the same chance to get a good education, job and pursue happiness, right? I believe that’s a lie that we tell ourselves so we can sleep well at night. How can you pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you do not have bootstraps? The truth is that you can work hard all your life and never make it over the poverty line. Not because you’re not intelligent and capable, but because you started at a disadvantage in a system that is designed to uplift some and leave the rest behind.

I want to learn more about microagression because it’s something I encounter on a daily basis on my college campus. Every time someone asks me where I’m from, I don’t know whether I should say “Charlotte” or “My Mom is from India”, because I don’t know if they are asking me where I was raised or why I’m brown, as if being brown was something I needed to provide an excuse for. Every time someone comes up to me and speaks Spanish and they assume I’m Hispanic, because I’m biracial and don’t fit into the neat categories of race that America has constructed. Every time someone’s face turns up at me when I tell them I went to a public high school instead of a private high school. It’s frustrating and I want to understand it more so I can educate others about it as well.

Resources:
35 Dumb Things Well-Intentioned People Say, a book
A Place at the Table, a documentary
Resilience: A Lesson from Sochi, an article
The Microaggressions Project, a collection of stories

Leading through Relationships
I enjoyed all the sessions I attended, but the other I will mention here was called, “Does the Shoe Fit? Understanding Equity and Equality with the Relational Leadership Model.” I am a leader. I’m not sure when I came to this realization, but I am confident in my identity as a leader now, and it’s a skill that I seek to refine through experience. I am a relationship builder. I lead best by creating positive relationships with and among those I lead, and between my organization and other organizations. This is why the Relational Leadership Model really appeals to me. It combines purpose and process with ethics, inclusiveness, and empowerment of followers. This model illustrates to me that the best leaders are also the best listeners. They are willing to listen to all ideas and suggestions, able to hear needs that are not expressed, and provide encouragement and resources to meet those needs effectively. These leaders create other leaders by helping their followers achieve their potential. That’s the kind of leader I would like to be. This session helped me realize that.

At the end, we were shown this spoken word video that I am obsessed with already. : )

Resources:
Spark, a book
Exploring Leadership, a book

mandela

Define American
The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks at reality, then you can change it. – James Baldwin

Our key note speaker today was Jose Vargas, an extremely talented writer and speaker who documented his undocumented life in the US. His goal is to change the culture surrounding immigration and undocumented Americans. He believes that politics is culture, and if you can change the culture, you can change policy. I agree with this, and believe he is creating change through speaking authentically about his experience and revealing the stories of those who are advocating and fighting for their right to be here. He certainly opened my eyes to the struggles of undocumented Americans. His presentation made me care about them as if they were my own family. You may call me a sucker, but like Jose said, “You don’t have to be undocumented to care about undocumented Americans”; just like you don’t have to be Black or LGBTQIA to care about their rights and issues.

We live in an “age of intersectionality” and “positive disruption”. Fear of the other is what we are sold in this country, but we have the potential to “push past our fear” and perhaps even more importantly, our apathy, to create cultural change that leads to policy change. But you “can’t solve a problem if you don’t face it” and I think we’re doing a good job of distracting ourselves from the real issues to cover a gaping wound with a bandage.

I’m so grateful that my Mom didn’t have trouble emigrating here from India because she married my Dad, but I know that we are the exception and not the rule. I remember the night my friend told me she and her family were undocumented Americans. She told us about how she walked across the desert with her mom at the age of nine into a new country and home. She cried and begged us not to tell anyone because she was afraid her family would be deported. At the time, I didn’t quite understand the gravity of her situation, but I think I have a better idea now. She later moved to Mexico for college because she was unable to go to school in the US. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for her to leave her family.

Immigration is stories. There is no one in this country that I would not take the time to listen to, because we are all deserving of dignity. As I come down off this conference “high” (and off my soap box), there are some things I will take away into future conversations and circumstances:

First, listen. Shhh. Be quiet. Listen. What is being said? What is really being said? What is left unsaid and what does that tell you about someone’s story?

Second, learn. Read, research, repeat. Read, research, repeat. Come to the table with a humble attitude and as you listen and ask questions, you will grow into a better leader and follower.

Third, reflect. Critically reflect. About yourself, your identities, your biases, your assumptions and how they impact those around you.

Last, advocate. Turn your knowledge into action. Don’t die with your greatness buried inside you. Pursue your passion. Make your passion the well-being of your neighbor. Turn off your apathy and turn on your voice, because with knowledge comes power and with power, responsibility, social responsibility. What we said and what we did during this conference is just the beginning of an exponentially expanding web of influence and awareness that has the potential to positively disrupt the status quo of our community and country.

#4all
Beck

Other Resources:
Courageous Follower, a book
Followership, a book
How the Irish Became White, a book
My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant, an article by Jose Vargas
Time Magazine
Documented, a film by Jose Vargas

Intersect Diversity and Leadership Conference

My college hosts an annual conference called the Intersect Diversity and Leadership Conference. This conference combines all my favorite things, diversity, leadership, and plastic name tags. Okay, I’m not that excited about the name tags, but I am excited about what this conference does. It brings people together from colleges around the region and creates a space for dialogue about diversity and social justice issues. I know what some of you are thinking; “That’s just an opportunity for minorities to vent their frustration about their supposed oppression.” To which I would reply, “It’s so much more than that.” The pillars of this year’s conference are Social Change, Oppression, Power and Privilege, and Organization Change. Yes, we talk about the minority experience in the US, after all, that’s what got many of us interested in this subject. However, we also talk about diversity of religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, geographic location, experience, and much more. We do critical self-reflection to better understand our identities and how they shape our lives and interactions with others. We talk about what brings about successful and sustainable social and organizational change. We discuss issues such as minority education, same sex marriage, and immigration.

One of the main concerns of this conference, and one of the reasons I love it so much, is because we talk about talking. Communicating, really communicating, about important things and not being ashamed of our unique perspectives and ideas. Our speaker tonight was a professor in the Communications school. His speech, which was very interactive, was about how to communicate effectively so that we can talk about these tough issues. It was about paying attention to the small details in order to become better listeners, about the tone and attitude with which you say something, and how that can inspire someone to action or turn someone away from your message. It was about humbling yourself and valuing everyone, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the grand scheme of things.

At the end of the speech, he had everyone write down a word or phrase that represents what they stand for, what inspires them to action, or what they strive for. I wrote, “Let all voices be heard.” I told you, I’m passionate about stories, especially those stories that are usually silenced or ignored, because I believe that everyone deserves to be heard. That’s how we as humans are vulnerable with each other, that’s how we make connections and recognize ourselves in others. Stories carry all our pain and joy. They are both a lament and a celebration. Stories make the world go around. (Go ahead, ask me which story I think is the most important.)

All those words were just day one.

Beck