Leadership Studies Minor ePortfolio

Below are the main components of my leadership ePortfolio, in accordance with the requirements for CU Boulder's Leadership Studies Minor.

Leadership Coursework

PRLC 1810: Leadership Foundations and Applications I

PRLC 1810 is the Presidents Leadership Class’s first-year lecture, focusing on introductions to leadership theory and skills. In this class, I explored my leadership development and what brought me to CU and PLC through an assigned essay named “Who Am I?”. With a team of my peers, I explored different leadership theories and styles, giving a presentation on eLeadership midway through the semester. Despite being held entirely online, this class brought me closer to the community within my PLC cohort, taught me about my existing strengths in leadership and academics, and gave me the opportunity to refine my presenting and writing skills.

PRLC 1820: Leadership Foundations and Applications II

In the second half of the PLC first-year lecture, we focused more on the application side of leadership, covering six different focus areas throughout the semester. My group was in charge of teaching about leadership in the health sector, and so we gave presentation outlining some of the failures and success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic (a particularly relevant topic in the spring of 2021). For this team-teach, we needed an interactive element, so with the guidance of my teammates, I coded an interactive simulation to illustrate the importance of making good choices early in a crisis. This course taught me more about what it means to be a leader in context, and how I can use my strengths to help others.

ENLP 3100: Complex Leadership Challenges

In Complex Leadership Challenges, students each pick a topic that they find interesting or important, and attempt to explore fully the nuances of that topic over the course of the semester. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it was a perfect introduction to systems thinking and systems leadership. I chose to focus on fast-fashion in the outdoor industry, and learned a lot about the environmental and economic problems that come with manufacturing and selling clothing that needs to be highly performant. I also went on a small tangent midsemester, exploring the need humans feel to separate and insulate themselves from their environments using high-tech gear. This class taught me to think critically, improved my writing skills immensely, and gave me the tools to better research and learn about systems before attempting to intervene.

PRLC 3810: Global Issues in Leadership

PRLC 3810 was PLC’s global leadership class, where we explored six global issues throughout the course of the semester, with roundtable discussions, guest lecturers, and team-teaches for each topic. My group presented on tensions between China and Taiwan, and how these could affect the citizens of each nation and the global economy. My favorite part of this class was the fact that for each issue, every student was required to write memo detailing their opinions, and to send it to some decision maker. The highlight of that semester for me was when I got a very kind and thoughtful response from the Director of Provenance at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The class, and those assignments in particular, taught me that it’s worth trying to make change in the world, because there are people listening to what you have to say.

LEAD 4000: Leadership Capstone

LEAD 4000 is CU’s Leadership Studies Minor capstone class. The course focuses on community organizing, and each student joins a team that focuses on some issue that is important to them. My team chose to focus on civic engagement, which is a topic that has interested me for years, but I’ve never really been too involved with. We talked to two different organizations that were involved with youth voting and youth civic engagement. During the course of this project, I learned a lot about what it’s like to work in the non-profit space, and how some of the leadership principles I’ve learned during my time at CU can be applied to real-world wicked problems.

Key Moments of Learning

Interviews in Complex Leadership Challenges

April 2022

Reading The Prince in Leadership, Fame, and Failure

October 2022

One of my favorite texts covered during my college career was The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince was one of the required texts for an Engineering Leadership Class I took, ENLP 2000. I enjoyed reading this book for two main reasons: first, it presented a very different model for leadership from what I had been taught so far. In my leadership classes with the Presidents Leadership Class to that point, we had learned about leadership through the lens of effective communication, empathy, and vision. Machiavelli’s philosophy of fear rather than love presents a stark difference from CU’s idea of leadership.

Secondly, it finally sunk in with this book that the problems of leadership are not new. Far from it–these are problems humans have been dealing with for millenia. As an engineer, I’m used to studying subject material that has only been around for the last 50, 10 or even 2 years (especially in computer science). What this class and this text taught me was that it’s important to study the “great” leaders and scholars of leadership from history, because they have insights for us that are valuable even today. Since then, I’ve explored other works of philosophy and leadership theory in an attempt to learn from these great figures.

Leading a Robotics Project Team

April 2023

My first truly intimidating leadership experience in college occurred in one of my computer science class. I took a graduate-level Advanced Robotics class in the spring semester, and the biggest element of the course was a team project that involved building an autonomous one-tenth scale racecar. We were assigned to teams of 6, and all of my teammates ended up being graduate students. As we worked through the initial stages of the project, it became clear that although I was the youngest person in our group, I did have the broadest experience in robotics, meaning that I was able to coordinate the team’s efforts best. I ended up working with a team of software engineers, mechanical engineers, and electrical engineers (all of who were far more knowlegable in their fields than I was), and leading this team to complete the project by the end of the semester.

This experience happened to coincide with when I was utilizing the Center for Leadership’s coaching services, and it was a great opportunity to talk with my coach about practical ways to negate imposter syndrome and the fear that I was unable to lead the team effectively. I learned a lot from this experience about what it takes to manage a team and delegate effectively, while listening to the desires of each teammate.

Mentoring in Industry Internships

June 2023

Reading Thinking in Systems

August 2023

One of best leadership books I’ve read recently was Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows. This book is one of the few I’ve read that I would characterize as life-changing. Thinking in Systems serves as an introduction to systems theory, and begins with several of the most basic elements of systems. The part of the book I found most interesting was Meadows’ description of some templates for systems. These would include things like escalation, exploitation of non-renewable resources, and other types of systems. Meadows also discusses different ways to intervene in these systems.

This book resonated with me because it reflected much of what we had learned in ENLP 3100 at CU. It’s important to observe and understand how a system works before attempting to change it. It’s also critical to use the characteristics of these systems to your advantage. I think that this book presented a very interesting perspective on societal, economic, and ecological change, and because there were lots of diagrams and systems-related theory, it really stuck with me. I would say that it changed how I think about the practice of leadership, and I hope that I get the chance to employ some of the wide-ranging systems thinking presented in this book in my career.

Leadership Theory to Practice

One of the most notable examples of my leadership during my time at CU took place as a part of a robotics class I took my junior year. I was placed on a team with five graduate students, and we needed to build a complex autonomous robot in just two months. To my surprise, I had the broadest knowledge related to robotics, so I was in a good position to be able to delegate work and direct the momentum of the project. I ended up being the leader of this team, despite the fact that I was the youngest and least credentialed member.

I tried to employ a situational leadership style to this team, attempting to cater to each team member’s needs to ensure they were getting what they wanted out of the project, as well as making sure that we were on-track for success with the project overall. I learned a lot from this experience about what it means to delegate to a team, especially with such a wide variety of skill-levels and areas of expertise. Some team members were able to contribute a lot to the difficult software components of the project, while others were able to better help with the initial eletrical and mechanical assembly of the robot. Being adaptable to the needs of the team and the team members as the project evolved through the design lifecycle was a valuable experience.

Leadership Philosophy

To me, leadership is the ability to work with people to achieve some vision or goal. This goal can be anything: it could be to lead a startup to profitability or acquisition, or to alleviate homelessness in a city, or to develop an amazing product, or even something more trivial like having a great time on a group backpacking trip. The ability to work with people is also very wide-ranging: this can include skills and characteristics like effective communication, empathy, humility, expertise, charisma, or salesmanship. Despite the wide variety of activities or situations we could consider leading, all of them have these two aspects in common.

When I started my leadership journey at CU, I would have characterized myself as a servant leader: a leader who is less inclined to delegate and work on high-level tasks, and instead gets down into the weeds of a problem in order to connect with those they’re leading, and to drive the progress of the team forward themselves. While I still identify with this model of leadership, and I think it’s befitting for the point I am in my life and in my career, I’ve learned that this mentality can be damaging to efficiency at times. A mentor during my second internship taught me that it’s important to let go of the ground-level work when it’s appropriate, and to trust that the people you’re leading can do it themselves. So I think that I am now in a sort of transition. As I’m gaining expertise in the fields I’m working in, I’m beginning to see that I can take on more high-level tasks in leadership roles. But I still think that it is valuable to be a servant leader, to care deeply about the aspirations and desires of those you are leading, and to understand their frustrations as well.

My definition of leadership and my identity as a leader are still in flux, and I don’t have a reason to believe that will ever change. That’s an important part of being a leader, though: adaptability to new models and ways of thinking about the world. I can only aspire to continue experiencing and learning.