4 easy ways to set positive standards in your online world

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Whether we’re taking an online class, catching up with friends, reading the news, checking our favorite Reddit thread, or watching videos of baby pandas sneezing, we all spend a lot of time online. Our online communities are full of opportunities for connection, sharing, and positivity, but sometimes we may encounter negativity and downright nastiness, to put it mildly.

We can all play a role in shaping online communities in which everyone can thrive. Disrespect and harassment are less likely when digital spaces reflect our values. For example, building supportive communities makes sexual harassment and violence less likely. Creating respectful spaces online is a critical part of these efforts. So how do we make the online communities we participate in feel more positive, especially in an era where we might feel particularly divided? And how do we respond when we see negative posts in a group page we’re in charge of? Or when we notice a hurtful comment in a community we participate in?

Whether you have a leadership role in an online space or you’re just a casual participant, there’s plenty you can do to help keep things positive.

Here’s how to use your role to create the online space you want

If you create, manage, or moderate an online space, you have a key role to play in building a supportive community. But being a member matters just as much. You get to model and shape the online community you participate in. Here’s a four-step guide to making it work—no matter your role.

1. Define your goals

For leaders

Whether you’re starting a new group or taking over an existing one, start by reflecting on your goals.

Consider the following questions:

  • If this group is new, why are you starting it? If you’re taking over an existing page, what are the group’s shared goals?
  • How do you want members to experience the group?
  • What would be the best possible version of this group?

It’s essential to define your goals even if your group is small and informal. For example: Imagine that you create a GroupMe for the people living on your res hall floor. The following goals could take the group in three very different directions and would call for different leadership:

  • Planning large parties for everyone in the hall
  • Upholding community standards (e.g., reminding people to be quiet during finals)
  • Meeting new people

For members

Goals matter for members too. In fact, knowing what they are and communicating them effectively sets the tone for the rest of the group. This doesn’t have to be formal. It’s about having a shared purpose.

Think about this: If you share a group chat with your friends from high school, what’s your purpose for doing so? How can you make sure others are on board? Your personal goal might be to stay in touch while building stronger connections with everyone. What are some small steps you can take to reach this goal?

  • Model what you’re looking for by offering it first: Share updates about your life and ask others to do the same.
  • Open participation: Invite other people to participate and pull quiet, shy, or disengaged people into the conversation.
  • Make concrete plans: Suggest group activities or meet-ups.

By actively engaging in the group in a positive way, you’re setting an example for other members. A significant body of research shows that when we believe our peers expect us to behave a certain way, we’re more likely to behave that way (this is called social norms theory). This means that when we’re positive and don’t tolerate harmful behavior in an online setting, it sets the tone for others to follow suit.

work station with laptop and devices

2. Create & communicate guidelines

For leaders

Explicitly communicate your expectations. People are surprisingly attentive to group guidelines. A 2016 analysis of the Reddit thread r/science (which has more than 13 million subscribers) found that posting page rules increased users’ compliance with the rules and even increased the number of comments made by newcomers on certain posts.

“It’s important that the standard be set right from the beginning that mistreatment of any kind will not be tolerated,” says Dr. Justin Patchin, professor of criminal science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and codirector of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

How you can put this into practice

Let’s say you take over the Facebook page of a campus multicultural center with several hundred members. How might you create guidelines for the group?

HEADING: Sample group guidelines. 1) focus on your goals: we can use this group to share information about events in the multicultural center, to welcome first-year students, and to stay in touch with alumni. 2) Explain what content is acceptable: please use respectful language and stay on topic comments 3) Say how you will handle rule violations: comments in violation of these policies will be deleted 4) Choose other moderators to share the moderation process: if you have concerns about group content, message a moderator. FOOTER: Make your guidelines visible by posting them prominently. Facebook's "pinning" feature is useful for this.

It’s also important to create guidelines for informal groups. If you created a small Facebook group for your friends in the multicultural center, you could casually communicate your expectations. Try statements like:

  • “Let’s use this group to stay in touch over the summer!”
  • “If anyone has questions about this group, I’m happy to help out.”

For members

Point out behaviors that positively reinforce your group standards and support the community guidelines—you can keep it casual. This sets the expectation that people will interact in positive ways. Try out statements such as, “It’s awesome how we can disagree without things getting ugly.”

3. Respond if people fall short of your expectations

For leaders

It’s easiest to take action at the first sign of disrespect or someone behaving outside of the group guidelines. Don’t wait for problems to escalate before you step in.

Just like in social situations or in the classroom, you can practice bystander intervention by stepping in to address disrespect and prevent harm. In a 2015 study of adolescents and young adults, bystanders stepped in at similar rates when someone was being harassed online as they did when an incident happened in person (Journal of Youth and Adolescence). In fact, bystanders were most likely to step in when someone was being harassed both in person and online.

What this might look like

Imagine that you’re the moderator of an online study group. You all use the group to share study tips, ask questions, and set up times to work together. One day, the posts start to stray from the class material to people complaining about the course and insulting the professor’s looks. How do you handle it?

Try privately messaging the people involved, or leave a comment of your own. Assuming good intent can make these conversations easier. For example:

Private messages

  • “You probably don’t mean any harm, but your comments came off negatively.”
  • “Please refer to the community guidelines.”

Comments to redirect the group

  • “We have that big test coming up, so let’s focus and be prepared.”
  • “Let’s stick to the focus of this group.”

For members

It’s not just the leader’s responsibility to uphold community standards; it’s on you as a community member to redirect group members who fall short of your goals. It can be as easy as asking a different question.

Here’s how you might step in as a community member in the study group scenario:

  • Distract the group with a question that relates to the original goal (e.g., post a question about the homework).
  • Redirect the group: “We have to get through this critical analysis, so let’s focus and be prepared.”
  • Find an ally: Talk to a friend in the group about the behavior and come up with a plan for approaching it as a team.
  • Go undercover: Anonymously post a comment saying the behavior is unacceptable.
  • Ask for help: Ask a moderator to reiterate the group values—or establish them if there aren’t any.

serious woman using tablet

4. Intervene if the situation escalates

For leaders

What can you do if serious disrespect, harassment, or hateful behavior emerges in an online space that you manage?

For example, imagine you’re managing a student publication’s website. Debate in the comments section is usually respectful. One day, a regular commenter calls another a slur. Here are four options for how to intervene:

1) Delete the harmful content, and consider banning the commenter.

“Delete the person whose posts are negative. By proactively doing this, [you show] that [you] have had enough and will not engage in their negative and hurtful behaviors.”
—Ross Ellis, founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying, a national bullying and harassment prevention organization

“If [people] see hurtful posts quickly removed and frequent violators banned, this will set the tone that online abuse is not allowed here.”
—Dr. Patchin

2) Reach out to the people who were targeted.

Write to the targeted commenter. Let them know that you have deleted the content, you support them, and offer to direct them to university resources.

3) Report the incident—if the targeted person wishes that you do so.

Consider reporting the behavior to a campus official, such as a dean. Check with the person who was targeted to ask for their permission first.

4) Reiterate your group expectations.

After you have dealt with the harm, work with other members of the publication team to refocus on your core goals.

For members

What if you see this happening in an online community you’re a part of? As an active member of the community, stepping in reinforces the standards of the whole group and sends the message that this behavior isn’t tolerated here. Here’s how to do it:

  • If the behavior affects someone you know, privately reach out and express support. Try language such as, “That was messed up. Is there anything I can do?”
  • Consider contributing some positive words. Offering encouragement and support is a simple way to mitigate the effect of online harassment. Manners (good and bad) are contagious. Modeling civility and constructive commentary online can potentially dissuade others from trolling, according to a 2017 study by researchers at Cornell University.
  • Ask before you act on someone else’s behalf. If you want to confront the aggressor or request an apology on behalf of the person who has been wronged, this isn’t a decision to make alone. Work with the targeted person and respect their wishes about how to proceed. They might prefer to not confront the aggressor or to report the issue to the relevant site directly. Except for situations of acute danger, don’t take action on their behalf if you haven’t been asked to do so.

How students are putting there practices into action

“At the beginning of the year, we have a discussion about what’s appropriate to post and what isn’t. If something negative is posted, it’s removed, and we have a discussion with the person who posted.”
—Jeanette A., fourth-year undergraduate, Kutztown University, Pennsylvania

“It’s not a controversial forum. We have rules, but we’re relaxed and work together in a group rather than talk about conflicting ideas.”
—Eliot A., recent graduate, Metropolitan State University of Denver

“I create a safe and open space where anyone is willing to make complaints, share their words, or explain their situation. I make it a place where anyone can feel at home.” —Luke M., third-year undergraduate, Northern Illinois University“I monitor the page though my manager app that I’ve installed on my phone. I posted guidelines and must approve all comments and posts before they’re allowed to be posted. If someone complains about harassment or being messaged, I’ll check out the situation, take proper steps to stop it, and prevent it in the future.”
—Angel P., fourth-year undergraduate, Governors State University, Illinois

“Anything that’s posted that’s disrespectful is deleted and that person is warned through a personal message. If they continue, they’re removed from the page.”
—Leah H., third-year undergraduate, Northern Illinois University

Strategies developed by the Communication and Consent Educator program at Yale University.

[school_resource sh101resources=’no’ category=’mobileapp,counselingservices, studentservices’] Get help or find out more


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Article sources

Ross Ellis, founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying, a national bullying and harassment prevention organization.

Justin Patchin, PhD, professor of criminal science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and codirector of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

Awwad, H. (2017, June 1). Virtual abuse? How to build a positive online community. Student Health 101. Retrieved from https://publicsite.readsh101.net/virtual-abuse/

Banyard, V. L., Plante, E. G., & Moynihan, M. M. (2004). Bystander education: Bringing a broader community perspective to sexual violence prevention. Journal of Community Psychology32(1), 61–79.

Bazelon, E. (2013). Sticks and stones: Defeating the culture of bullying and rediscovering the power of character and empathy. Random House Incorporated.

Brody, N., & Vangelisti, A. L. (2016). Bystander intervention in cyberbullying. Communication Monographs83(1), 94–119.

Cheng, J., Bernstein, M., Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, C., & Lescovec, J. (2017). Anyone can become a troll: Causes of trolling behavior in online discussions. CSCW ’17: Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, 1217–1230. Retrieved from https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=2998181.2998213

Cialdini, R. B., Kallgren, C. A., & Reno, R. R. (1991). A focus theory of normative conduct: A theoretical refinement and reevaluation of the role of norms in human behavior. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 24, 201–234.

Jones, L. M., Mitchell, K. J., & Turner, H. A. (2015). Victim reports of bystander reactions to in-person and online peer harassment: A national survey of adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(12), 2308–2320.

LaMorte, W. W. (2016). Social norms theory. Boston University. Retrieved from https://sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/MPH-Modules/SB/BehavioralChangeTheories/BehavioralChangeTheories7.html

Lenhart, A., Madden, M., Smith, A., Purcell, K., et al. (2011). Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites: How American teens navigate the new world of “digital citizenship.” Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Matias, J. N. (2016, October 8). Posting rules in online discussions prevents problems and increases participation. Civil Servant. Retrieved from https://civilservant.io/moderation_experiment_r_science_rule_posting.html

Perkins, H. W., Craig, D. W., & Perkins, J. M. (2011). Using social norms to reduce bullying: A research intervention among adolescents in five middle schools. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations14(5), 703–722.

Ren, Y., Kraut, R., Kiesler, S., & Resnick, P. (2012). Encouraging commitment in online communities. Building successful online communities: Evidence-based social design, 77–124.

Jobs and internships: Find your leadership potential this summer

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Climbing into the lifeguard chair for the summer? Decorating your cubicle at your new internship? In a recent survey by SH101, two out of three students who responded said they expected to have at least one job or internship this summer. Whatever you’re doing, for whatever reason, it’s worth strategizing about ways you can use the experience to develop leadership skills.

Why leadership? Two reasons: First, employers love leadership. Four out of five employers look for leadership skills on new college graduates’ résumés, according to the Job Outlook 2016 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Second, “leadership” is broad enough that you can potentially find ways to demonstrate relevant characteristics and skills in any situation, including working as a lifeguard or camp counselor. For more comprehensive resources, and to make your summer work on your résumé, see Get help or find out more.

What counts as leadership?

Here’s why it’s worth getting comfortable with the idea of yourself as a potential leader. Not all leaders have the title “president” or boss other people around. Leadership is about having influence and inspiring others to take productive action. When you think about leadership, remember these key points:

  • Leadership takes many different forms, and not all of them are readily apparent.
  • Leadership spans many skill sets and personality types.
  • Anyone can learn to lead, even in unconventional situations.

We can hone leadership skills without winning a war or finding a cure for disease. Leadership includes these skills and more:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Community-building actions that strengthen a shared sense of purpose
  • Conflict resolution and teamwork
  • Motivating and supporting others, including acknowledging their efforts
  • Managing your time, and helping others manage theirs, including delegating tasks and keeping a group on track
  • Including people who are often marginalized and excluded
  • Giving and receiving constructive criticism
  • Innovative thinking

Does everything have to be about your résumé?

As much as we’re talking here about career potential, other goals are valuable too: earning money, developing yourself personally, keeping busy, and having fun. It’s OK if your summer isn’t directly about building your résumé. It’s worth thinking about it through that lens, however, because you might find that your role has some career relevance that you hadn’t spotted initially. For example, working retail or in the food industry can build customer service and communication skills.

3 strategies to build leadership experience you can use later

1  Remember that metrics matter:

Hiring managers want to know the numbers. Use statistics and precise information. How many events did you help staff? Your organization or club’s social media followers grew by what percentage? How much money did you help raise? How many like-minded organizations did you reach out to about a potential collaboration? When you took over tracking inventory, how much of your boss’s time did you free up for them to work on growing the business? Track your activities and tasks on a spreadsheet for easy access in a job search.

How to keep track of your workplace goals and accomplishments

  • When you’re getting started in your job or internship, talk to your supervisor about realistic, measurable goals. For example, your goals may include writing a certain number of blog posts, signing up a certain number of customers for a rewards program, or developing enough knowledge that you can take on some managerial duties before the end of the summer. Look for some element of challenge and an opportunity to show your skills and effort, but not setting the goals so high that you can’t meet them. Your supervisor can help you figure out what’s attainable.
  • Keep a simple spreadsheet outlining what you did in the job or internship. This can help your current supervisor write future letters of recommendation, help you flesh out your résumé and LinkedIn profile, and help you prepare for interviews. You might be amazed at what you accomplish in one summer.

2  Think about ways to add value:

Future interviewers will want to hear your stories about specific projects, ideas, or accomplishments. Here’s what that could look like.

Find ways to demonstrate your initiative
Managers love when employees or interns propose new projects to expand their programs or increase revenue. These types of projects show innovation, creativity, and commitment, all valuable leadership traits. It’s especially valuable if your initiative will be sustainable when you’re no longer around to do it. Just make sure you have enough time to complete the tasks you were initially assigned and are in a position to take on any extra work.

Consider what you could accomplish this summer:

  • If you’re interning at a small nonprofit, you might volunteer to create a spreadsheet and tracking system for prospective donors.
  • If you’re working retail at a local business, you might volunteer to redesign the store’s website or brochures to attract new customers from the local college.
  • If you’re a sleepaway camp counselor, you might design and lead a new activity to keep campers engaged.
  • If you’re at the mom-and-pop ice cream stand, you may want to highlight your readiness to work a double shift to cover for coworkers who bailed, or your willingness to design T-shirts or signs.

3  Think about how these experiences could transfer to your career:

Future employers want to know that you can apply those same skills to their own organizations and challenges. When preparing for job interviews, plan how you’ll tell your stories of overcoming challenges, developing your own projects, and helping your employer accomplish their goals. The creativity, persistence, and dedication that you put into that new sign, updated database, or increased Facebook “likes” could translate into real, usable assets at your future company (depending on their strategic goals).

How to approach barriers affecting marginalized communities

If you have a condition that may be relevant to your presentation or performance, it can be useful to address it (without necessarily disclosing a diagnosis). For example:

  • “Verbal instructions can be harder for me to remember. It would be helpful if you could give me written notes or emails about my assignments to make sure I have what I need to do my best.”
  • “This is my first time working in an office—I hope to learn a lot this summer. It would be great if you could point out to me how things work, even if you think it might seem obvious, so I can learn even more.”

Put this into practice: How to make it work in person and on paper

Almost any work placement can provide opportunities to develop leadership skills. Here, students identify what they learned from short-term roles in four different fields. Jeff Onore, a career coach based in Massachusetts, discusses how they can present that experience to employers—in person or on paper. These strategies are relevant to a wide range of career interests, skills, and experiences.

Student perspective

How to talk about it

Government agency


“I worked with [a county probation department], and I was taught to be more responsible and take deadlines seriously. I also learned that you yourself are solely responsible for your work and to always double-check [everything].”
—Third-year undergraduate, California State University, Channel Islands
“Working with a probation department tells me the student is mature and professional. Employers like to see people do challenging things in challenging environments. Stress the fast pace as well as the empathy you need to work in that field.”

Childcare


“I gained a lot of leadership skills in a job in a daycare. Working with children aged six weeks to five years presents a new challenge every day, sometimes basic and other times very complicated. It requires making a lot of judgment calls on your feet and then communicating about your decisions to parents and supervisors later.”
—First-year graduate student, University of Delaware
“Own this; confidently say [you] gained leadership skills working in a daycare, a role that some people would play down. You can say, for example, ‘One thing I’ve learned about leadership: You need to stay calm.’”

Student perspective

How to talk about it

Amateur theater


“As stage manager for a college play, I knew that some cast members got along better than others, but all had to interact. After and before rehearsals, I’d ensure everyone was in a decent mood, and work out any misgivings.”
—Fourth-year undergraduate, Wayland Baptist University, Texas
“Stage Manager, 2014–2017:

  • Four major productions: South Pacific, The King & I, Romeo and Juliet, The Bachelor Goes Live.
  • Casts of 20–40; crews included lighting, sound, props, and costumes; coordinated these often conflicting departments and teams.”

Summer camp


“I was a camp counselor, which makes it easy to gain authority over the group, but more difficult to have a common communication basis where they feel comfortable talking to you about what they need [while also respecting] rules you set into place.”
—Third-year undergraduate, University of Central Arkansas
Include the metrics, and put some meat on the role:

  • “22 campers, 24/7 responsibility
  • Organized camp-wide Olympics, securing buy-in from the head counselors and students.
  • Facilitated the closing ceremonies for audience of families, recognizing each student.”

Presenting the tough stuff: How 5 students can address workplace obstacles

The workplace brings frustrations and constraints, as well as opportunities. Here, students describe five barriers that may make it harder for them to transfer certain skills and experiences into jobs after graduation. Jeff Onore, a career coach based in Massachusetts, looks at ways to approach it. These strategies are relevant to a wide range of career interests, skills, and experiences.

Student perspective

Expert perspective

1.  Gender/sexuality bias


“I am unsure if I can give my most valuable leadership positions—as president and vice president of finance of the Queer Student Alliance—on my résumé, for fear of discrimination or implicit bias against me.”
—Second-year undergraduate, Tulane University, Louisiana
“There may be room to say you effected social change as president of a student alliance. Be prepared at your interview to be asked the name of the organization. If you’re applying to pretty liberal employers—universities, arts, etc.—this may not be an issue. In more conservative fields, the reality is that this can be trickier to navigate.”

2.  Sexual harassment


“Sexual harassment has caused me to leave an internship at a law firm.”
—Second year graduate student, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland
“No one will ask why you left an internship the way they might ask why you left a job. In this case, focus on what you learned in the internship.”

3.  Economic hardship


“It’s very difficult to participate in unpaid internships, offered by many nonprofits, when the cost of higher education is so debilitating.”
—Fourth-year graduate student, Emory University, Georgia
“Employers understand that financing college imposes more constraints on some students than others. If you don’t have much internship experience in your field, go right to this framing: It was important for you to work, and this is what you accomplished in the jobs you held (your good work ethic, your time management, and so on).”

4.  Deafness and disability discrimination


“[It was problematic that I had] no access to communication: American Sign Language, transcripts, closed captioning, etc.”
—First-year graduate student, California State University, Northridge
“If your college has connections with companies that do a good job accommodating deaf and disabled employees, start there. Some employers can be identified through the Lime Connect Network for the STEM fields or through chapters of the US Business Leadership Network in all fields. Disclosing deafness or a disability is unpredictable—some employers will be much more receptive than others. In the US, your right to reasonable accommodations on the job is protected by federal law. You can encourage an employer to contact the Job Accommodation Network for free expert help in figuring out accommodations. Or you might decide an employer isn’t worth the struggle.”
—Lucy Berrington, editor of Student Health 101

5. Age and gender discrimination


“Discrimination based on age and gender is something that I have been faced with, as I am a young female in the engineering field, which is predominately male. I know I am sometimes underestimated and pushed aside by peers because of this, but it only fuels my fire to be stronger and show them my leadership skills.”
—First-year graduate student, Villanova University, Pennsylvania
“The STEM fields are looking to recruit more women. Recognize your value to them. There may be a certain amount of age and gender discrimination, so it’s important to determine what the company culture is like. The first thing to do is to network through the engineering department at your school. People are often kind to those who have had a similar experience. Look at Glassdoor.com for information about the culture at corporate engineering departments, and use internships to take the temperature of different work environments. A large company may prioritize discrimination training; a small company may give you a chance to get certain kinds of experience more quickly.”

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Article sources

Jodie Collins, supervisor, Multicultural and Student Programs, Olympic College, Washington.

Jeff Onore, career coach, Waltham, Massachusetts.

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2017).  Job outlook 2016: Attributes employers want to see on new college graduates’ résumés. Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/s11182015/employers-look-for-in-new-hires.aspx

Student Health 101 survey, February 2017.

The job prob: How learning to lead can help you succeed

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Midterms month: time to evaluate our national or local leaders, get into bitter online arguments, and even vote. But as much as we complain when our leaders fall short of our expectations, we all know that leadership is a profoundly important resource in both civic and professional life. And even if we’re not headed for politics, we’re all headed for the job market.

In the context of your future career, you might be wondering:

  • What exactly is professional leadership?
  • What will leadership skills mean for my career?
  • Which personal characteristics are the most important for leadership?
  • What if I don’t have a “leader’s” personality or skill set?
  • How can I gain leadership experience as a student?
  • How can I present those skills to future employers?

For stories of two students who developed their leadership skills in different ways, read further.

“Roles and responsibilities I had never had before”
Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps

William Edwards, 19
University of Central Arkansas in Conway
Degree: Health sciences/physical therapy

Program
The Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) provides men and women with an opportunity to prepare for service in the Army. “We make leaders from day one,” says Major Todd Gray, associate professor of military science at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Students who enroll in the ROTC “learn not just how to lead in the Army, but also at any company as soon as they graduate.”

More information.

What & why
William, a native of Texas, had turned down several soccer scholarships. He wanted a new way to challenge himself. “In the ROTC, I was instantly put into new roles and responsibilities. I had to organize my team and make sure they had all their equipment, showed up on time, and did their jobs. I was responsible for leading them from day one. In this program you learn to do things differently and take criticism.”

After
“I have surprised myself in my abilities to do things that I didn’t know I could do, like being a good time manager and commanding respect from my cadets.”

New goals
“I am committed to finding more opportunities to push me harder than I would push myself, whether that means taking on larger responsibilities each year, or something as simple as being the first to go at a task.”

Advice
“ROTC is a great thing to do and you can try it out without committing to it. Trying new things can’t hurt you.”

“Ideas are easy, practice is hard”
Disability advocacy academy

Lydia Brown, 21
Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Degree: Arabic major, psychology minor

Program
The Autism Campus Inclusion (ACI) Summer Leadership Academy brings together students on the autism spectrum for training in disability advocacy.

More information.

What & why
“We should be celebrating the diversity of students with disabilities, rather than trying to ‘cure’ them” (a concept known as neurodiversity), says Lydia. She was concerned too about the barriers to higher education facing students with disabilities. She helped create the No Wrong Door project, a listing of resources for students with disabilities; organized letter-writing campaigns, boycotts, and protests; and drafted legislation. When her school announced a panel on autism, she successfully advocated for the inclusion of an autistic person.

After
“I developed a much clearer idea of what leadership looks like. It is very easy to organize people around an idea, but very hard to put it into practice.”

New goals
“I founded the non-profit organization Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective to fill the gaps that still exist for students with disabilities.”

Advice
“Find leadership programs that line up with your values and passion.”

Interviewer shaking hands

Which qualities do you most admire in our national leaders?

“I admire people who do not strive for fame but work hard fighting for human rights and equality.”
Dana G.*, fourth-year student at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
*Name changed for privacy

“I admire anyone who knows the value they bring to the table. Everyone has different sets of skills and talents. Also I respect those who know when to let others shine and step back.”
Jorge Z., third-year student at Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin

“I admire any person who not only looks out for our country financially but also socially. America is one of the newest countries that holds any power in the world. I pride myself on our ability to accept differences and be pro-social change.”
Elaine R., fourth-year student at Towson University, Maryland

“Anyone who is self-sacrificing. Who puts themselves last. Who does not have an agenda.”
Laura E., University of West Georgia in Carrollton

Which US politicians do students most admire—and most despise?

Most admired:

  • Hillary Clinton [D] Former Secretary of State
  • George W. Bush [R] Former President
  • Elizabeth Warren [D] Senator
  • Barack Obama [D] President
  • Ron Paul [R] Former Representative
  • Bill Clinton [D] Former President
  • Ronald Reagan [R] Former President

Most despised:

  • Hillary Clinton [D] Former Secretary of State
  • George W. Bush [R] Former President
  • Barack Obama [D] President
  • John Boehner [R] Speaker, House of Representatives
  • Mitt Romney [R] Former Presidential nominee
  • Sarah Palin [R] Former Vice Presidential nominee
  • Paul Ryan [R] Representative

Source: Student Health 101 survey. 750 students responded to this question.

Students’ top leaders: dead or alive

  1. “My mother”
  2. Martin Luther King Jr.
  3. Barack Obama
  4. Jesus Christ
  5. Abraham Lincoln
  6. F.D. Roosevelt
  7. Mahatma Gandhi
  8. Nelson Mandela
  9. Ronald Reagan
  10. Bill Clinton
  11. “My father”

Source: Student Health 101 survey. 780 students responded to this question.

Which personal qualities do students rank highest for leadership?

  1. Confidence
  2. Communication
  3. Honesty
  4. Ability
  5. Organization
  6. Respect
  7. Decisions
  8. Good listener
  9. Trustworthy
  10. Empathy
  11. Patience
  12. Motivation
  13. Caring
  14. Reliable
  15. Open-minded

Student Health 101 survey, June 2014

How learning to lead can help you succeed


Get help or find out more

What is "leadership" and what makes a good leader?: Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute

Leadership characteristics: University of Oregon

Komives, S.R., Lucas, N., & McMahon, T.R. (2013). Exploring leadership: For college students who want to make a difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wagner, W. & Ostick, D.T. (2013). Exploring leadership: For college students who want to make a difference. [Student workbook.] San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Maxwell, J.C. (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. Nashville, TN: Thomas Neson.

Shankman, M.L. & Allen, S.J. (2008). Emotionally intelligent leadership: A guide for college students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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