At the beginning of my time here at Minnesota State University, Mankato, I did not see myself as a leader because I saw a leader as someone who is extroverted and good with people. I had previously held leadership positions in high school, but they were mainly founded on my academic achievements, not my social skills. However, I quickly realized in my First Year Experience class that anyone can be a leader if they use their strengths efficiently and do not let their weaknesses hold them back. After taking the Strengths Finder Assessment I learned what my main strengths were-achiever, consistent, contextual, disciplined, and restorative-and throughout my time in college I have returned to these strengths and used them in my various leadership positions. This is not to say that I had to constantly remind myself of what these strengths mean in order to be a good leader. They just served as a reminder that I have always had these strengths even before they were defined, and I need to use them to my advantage as opposed to constantly focusing on how I can improve my weaknesses.

            During my sophomore year (2015-2016) and Fall semester (2016) of my junior year I held the position of Anthropology Club president where I was able to reflect upon my leadership strengths and weaknesses. During this time I was able to put my personal values into action instead of just talking about them and thinking about the potential ways I could use my leadership strengths in the future. This allowed me the chance to take my identified values and reflect on what worked and what did not. From this opportunity I was able to learn what my weaknesses were as a leader from my college peers instead of relying on what I had previously been told in high school and what I thought my weaknesses were. This position also allowed me to experience leadership models that both did not work and vice versa. Coming into this position, the club was essentially starting over because the previous officers had all graduated and did not leave much to go off of. As a result, I did what I could to try to make the club successful, but I made little progress during my first year in the position. After my sophomore year, the club chose an advisor that was more invested in the success of the club and knew what we needed to change. Having not had much experience in this type of role, I was thankful we now had someone with more experience. From this change we were able to identify a goal that included bringing members of the club to the annual research conference of the American Anthropological Association as well as planning National Anthropology Day. Compared to the previous year where we had no clear goal of what we wanted to accomplish, the semester I spent as president during my junior year was filled with major improvements and increased membership. Reflecting on this experience I think my restorative strength came through the most since I had a strong drive to help the club achieve more. Although I stepped down from president at a time when the club was still building and needed more work, I believe the work that the club accomplished while I was president set them up to succeed in the future.

            I am currently the learning community coordinator for the Upperclassmen Honors Leadership and Civic Engagement learning community. I also held this position for the Oh the Places You'll Go: Discovering Your Passions learning community during the 2016-2017 academic year. In this role I have continued to critique my leadership styles in an effort to better the community's cohesion and ultimate success. I am constantly looking for ways I can improve in my position so that my students find their time in this community beneficial. By being in this position I am putting into practice my personal theories and values of leadership. Furthermore, my students have the common goal of succeeding in the honors program. I have tried to use this goal as a motivator for students to attend events and study zones which sometimes works and sometimes does not. In the short history of this community, there have not been very many students who have signed up, an issue I attribute to there not being a clear benefit to being in this community since for the most part students do not get too much more out of the community than they already get out of being in the honors program. As a result of this, I am working with staff and faculty in the honors program to go over the proposal for next year's learning community as well as aspects of the community that work and aspects that I think could be improved. Hopefully this action will better prepare the next coordinator to know what their goal is and what they need to do to get their students to that goal.

            Last semester (Fall 2017) I took Giovanna Walter's Exploring Leadership through Social Change class where we further developed the leadership skills we have been working on up to this point. To do this, Ginny implemented a combination of in class theoretical methods as well as out of class execution methods. The in class methods consisted of looking at different leadership styles and reflecting on what was good and/or bad about those styles. In addition, we had a project where we were split into groups and given the tasks of reading a book and presenting on it. We also had our Social Change Projects where we had to identify a problem in the community and work with a community organization to help implement a plan to solve this problem. To successfully complete this task we had to use our personal values in order to determine how best to go about solving this problem or begin the steps towards solving a problem. As an end result, we had to try to make sure our plan was sustainable for future groups or the like so our semesters worth of work made a lasting impact.

            I began my time in college not feeling confident in my abilities as a leader. This was the competency that I worried the most about fulfilling, but I attribute my positions as Anthropology Club president and a Learning Community Coordinator to my achiever strength. Without even thinking I am always looking for ways to make an impact. I was so worried about a competency that more or less came naturally thanks to strengths I had all along. Now reflecting on my experiences I am thankful that we took the Strengths Finder Assessment so soon because even though I had those strengths all along, I believe they gave me more confidence to have faith in my abilities as a leader.