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Author Archives: Krista O'Brien

Review of The Road to Character

A guest blog post by Ian Fignon (Legacy 16) and some of his cohortmates who all read The Road to Character by David Brooks this summer as part of the Leadership Legacy Experience. 

On September 13th at 7pm in Laurel Hall 102, David Brooks will discuss the development and multifaceted nature of character as part of the Legacy Leadership Speaker Series at UConn. The American public generally knows of him as a political commentator from his OpEd column in the New York Times, where he has written on foreign wars, American culture, economic concerns such as income inequality, and Medicare. His talk will revolve around the more philosophical and moral questions posed in his book “The Road to Character”.

Immediately within the novel there is a line drawn between the two archetypes of Adam I and Adam II. Adam I is a productive, work-driven individual who rationally evaluates the surrounding world according to self-interest. The external world both encourages and directly rewards this extrinsic thinking, yet Brooks argues this way of building one’s own self fails to construct lasting and enduring personal meaning. Adam II, on the other hand, is a self-guided individual whose inward values and search for metaphysical fulfillment lead not to riches, but to a life of character. Though the world we live in directly rewards the accomplishments of Adam I, the manner and attitudes embodied by Adam II focus on personal moral improvement for its own sake. Rather than continuing an abstract and philosophical discussion of character, Brooks quickly dives into various historical figures of significance as exemplars of different moral ideals.

“Struggle”, Legacy 2016 Cohort Member Caitlin Briody

The character that continually returned to my mind is Dorothy Day. I found I could relate to her younger self- her restlessness, her adolescent pride, her interest in counterculture, and her desire to be ‘good’ without knowing exactly how. As much as I admire the reticent, self-controlled characters, I have to admit that Day’s wild side made her sympathetic.
Day’s commitment to Catholicism despite its flaws intrigued me as someone raised Catholic but who personally chose to leave due to institutional ideology I don’t support. Unlike many, Day did not merely write about improving the soul – she spent each day actively trying to live a pure life through service. Her practicality and tirelessness impressed me, and I appreciated that she approached service by living in the same conditions as those she served. She was not condescending or self-congratulating; she simply lived life according to her beliefs. This pure and genuine commitment to others is something I hope to cultivate in myself. Her care for Nanette was particularly touching, though she approached it so matter-of-factly. Additionally, despite my hesitancy toward religion, I was attracted to the way she devoted her life to serving God. Day constructed a very practical life in a very spiritual context, and found a purpose. I like that despite the suffering she wed herself to, her spirituality came from a place of thankfulness. Even with the hardships she endured, she was grateful, and that’s something I aim to be better at.

“Self Examination”, Legacy 2016 Cohort Member Ian Fignon

My favorite character is essayist and writer Samuel Johnson, born crippled and disfigured by scarring. Curiosity and intellect, combined with brutal honesty, prevented wonderment over the world’s complexities from clouding Johnson’s keen judgment. Unlike others, Johnson feverishly interrogated his own perceived decencies to understand them. He could not fix his chronic medical ailments, but, through willpower and conviction, he could mitigate and navigate them. Despite dropping out from Oxford, Johnson pushed forward. Years later he had not only written hundreds of works spanning dozens of topics, he had single-handedly compiled “A Dictionary of the English Language”. Whereas similar efforts for other languages had taken dozens of scholars even longer, Johnson’s unforgiving discipline demanded a breakneck pace that finished after nine years. Regardless, Johnson would sit in the pub and buy the everyman a pint. He opened his own doors to the downtrodden and to drunkards, and himself embodied the paradoxes he found so amusing and interesting. This strange combination of cutting intellect, harsh discipline, and compassion was what drew me to this character as my personal favorite. By facing reality head-on, unabated, Johnson forced himself to wrestle with life’s most meaningful questions. Though his search did not always glean the most universal or revealing of truths, it certainly bought Johnson some degree of peace. Only by constantly testing ourselves and by meeting our own demands to achieve more can we ever truly look back and be satisfied.

“The Summoned Self”, Legacy 2016 Cohort Member Marissa Piccolo

I would consider Frances Perkins as my favorite character discussed within Brooks’ novel. Perkins devoted herself to her chosen cause of pushing Progressive labor reform and was very aware of the unique role she had the ability to play in furthering the movement. Having felt called to use her educated, middleclass upbringing for the public good after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Perkins began locally and eventually moved upwards past New York state politics. As soon as she knew what her calling was, she immediately became involved. Perkins considered her cause and values to be greater than herself, and therefore was always looking forward, and often on a much longer and greater scale than others. It was never about her personal reputation, the offered salary, or the possible connections. Eventually, she worked within FDR’s cabinet as the Secretary of Labor and was largely responsible for cornerstones of the New Deal, such as Social Security, wage and safety regulations, and public works programs. Throughout her entire life, however, Perkins was always willing to place the cause above her own pride and person and take on less public roles. Largely as a result of her years in public service, Perkins only became more committed to the various causes she became involved in. The fights she weathered toughened her, and she stayed true to her beliefs and values in the face of challenges.


Brooks’ rich commentary is able to frame historical figures in an easily accessible, yet deeply meaningful light that provides context for distinguishing between Adam I and Adam II. “The Road to Character” provides insight that is rooted in both the abstract and in reality. On September 13th, Brooks will explore various traits and virtues like shame, reticence, duty, grace, and more through lives of various people to understand personal character and individual integrity better.

You Better Recognize: Student Leader Recognition Week 2016

We often joke in our office that April is the month of Banquets; that we could probably go the whole month without having to grocery shop. As the year winds down and folks get ready to finish up the year, we all take this time to celebrate our efforts over the academic year. We get dressed up, we eat some food, and we reflect together on what we’ve accomplished.

But so often this celebration focuses on the big things: the successful program, the service project, the transition of positional leadership, and the farewells to graduating seniors. We don’t always take the same time to recognize and appreciate the little acts of leadership and commitment that have contributed to our successes (perhaps because we don’t think they directly connect to our successes). The member who has never missed a meeting; the one who remembers birthdays. The member who steps in to help when help is needed; the one who trudges along silently, doing all that is asked of them.

While I like a good banquet, a good awards reception, a senior night, I love the smaller, quieter notes of recognition we give to each other. The genuine words of thankfulness, of appreciation, of gratitude. That’s why we started Student Leader Recognition Week, about three years ago. It was our attempt to recognize and appreciate the humble acts of leadership that happen on this campus everyday.

So this week, April 11-17th, the staff in the Leadership Office are attempting to recognize as many student leaders on campus for their dedication and commitment to the university and to the community.

Please take a moment to fill out this very brief form here to recognize a few of your peers for their leadership in all that they do.

If the link does not work, simply copy this link into your browser:

Throughout the week, we encourage you to tweet, post, and/or Instagram when you see student leadership happening on campus using #UConnLeads. A collection of the best photos, posts, and tweets will be compiled and shared on our social media sites. Visit our facebook page or follow us on twitter @UConnLeads to see if your contribution makes it!

Recognition: More than Just Gold Stars and Platitudes

The University’s Student Life Awards, which take place in April, recognize outstanding leadership and service by individuals, student organizations, and faculty/staff. Those who are recognized as recipients of the awards and those who are finalists all represent the outstanding values and characteristics of our institution, and more importantly our UConn community:

Scholarship. Advocacy. Innovation. Service. Pride. Community. Leadership.

From personal and academic integrity to the spirit of inquiry, outreach and service, to the celebration of diversity and respect for all individuals, these values have been personified by the actions of students, student organizations, and staff across campus.

Recognition only works when it is authentic, meaningful, and earned. Honors and Awards must be honest expressions of appreciation for a commitment to values, to hard work and effort, or to the dedication of a group to cause. Public celebrations allow the community to recommit to shared values, to highlight the best of us, and to inspire the rest to meet that bar.

Taking the time to recognize outstanding contributions to the University Community is a central responsibility of leadership; one of the five practices of Exemplary Leadership (Kouzes & Posner) is to Encourage the Heart by celebrating our values and victories. We all must take on this practice and celebrate the contributions of our fellow Huskies.

Think about a significant accomplishment that your student organization achieved. What impact did your group have on the community? What cause did you champion? What program was a resounding success? Who led that effort? Who supported that cause? Who worked hard even when no one was watching?

Reflect on your learning community experience. Who impacted your time there? Who challenged you to grow and to develop?

Think about the mentors and role models you have here at UConn. Have you recognized them for the impact they’ve had on you? Have you thanked your advisor lately? Your Teaching Assistant? Your supervisor?

The nomination process for the Student Life Awards is open until February 26th. Encourage Someone’s Heart and nominate them today. The form can be found here.

A Proud Member of the Leadership Learning Community

The Leadership Learning Community is, at it’s core, about community. Representing approximately 0.3 percent of the total population enrolled at the University of Connecticut, the LLC takes the large college experience and makes it remarkably smaller. By choosing to participate in the LLC you are gaining all of the benefits of attending one of the best public universities in the world, while at the same time, getting the small college feel that many students desire. By participating in our learning community, you will absolutely get the full college experience. Being the best of both the large and small college experience begins to define what we are all about, but it does not stop there.

Our students are leaders both in and outside of the classroom. This makes sense since we are the LEADERSHIP Learning Community. We have over 30 declared majors in our community and are especially proud of how interdisciplinary we are (from Accounting to Theater Studies and almost everything in between). This range of interest also translates to our involvement in extracurriculars on campus. If you have an interest, we have a student that you have something in common with. Our students take on leadership roles in these organizations and have even helped to create a few new campus organizations over the years.

Words on a page are great, but seeing us in action really begins to get at our personality. Last semester our students were required to think about the legacy they want to leave for their final project in the academic portion of the learning community experience. One of our students went so far above and beyond the requirement for this assignment and in doing so, really showed the true essence of what we are about. This video was Kurt Daigle’s submission, but was really a group project by the community, which is what we are about. This project had its own screening in our community and we were so impressed with the results that we want to share it with the world. We hope that you enjoy!


Welcome to UConn and to 2015-2016

A Guest post from Alex Hu, student leader and proud member of the Leadership Learning Community.

Welcome to the University of Connecticut. My name is Alex Hu, I am a proud member of the Leadership Learning Community172. I am also a junior majoring in communication from Guangzhou China, that’s why I always tell people, like a lot of things in this world, I am a hundred percent made in China. Choosing to live in a Learning Community is the best decision I have ever made in my life besides getting a Netflix Account. My Learning Community Americanized me and helped me transition into my college life ever since my first day at the University of Connecticut.

I can still remember when I first moved into my dorm after a sixteen-hour flight with two huge suitcases. A real-life, living American greeted me and told me if I ever need any help he would always be there for me. So I thought, “wow, thank you America, people here are so friendly!” This American’s name is Ali Etman, my freshmen year RA who became my mentor-for-life. Since then, making friends has always been that easy. In the LLC, we have an open-door practice where everyone leaves their doors open whenever they are free to talk. Through the open-door practice I met my best friends, and I knew everyone on the two floors in my Learning Community.  Now I know wherever I go and whatever I am going to do, I always have my Learning Community Family supporting me from behind.

There are several things that I wished I knew as a freshman from China. First, for my fellow international students, there are no actual spirits or ghosts in ‘spirit shops’, I learned that the hard way.  Secondly, push yourself out of your comfort zone. There is no doubt that you will be comfortable around people from your high school or same town or when speaking the same language as those around you. But doesn’t that sound really familiar? Doesn’t it sound like what your life was like for the past four years? Take a break with your clique, rather than staying with them all the time, reach out to people. College is an amazing place for you to meet new people and make new friends. By doing this, you can make this campus a lot smaller.

Also if you have an accent, don’t be scared and shy to speak English. Be proud of your accent, it is who you are and proof of where you come from.

Challenging the Traditional View of Leadership

A guest post by Nicole Lorenzo, Class of 2015; Co-Chair, H.O.L.D.U.P!


The majority of society seems to believe that the pair, “introverted” and “leader” do not quite go together as well as “extroverted” and “leader.” The former is more of a peanut butter and Fluff sandwich, rather than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Although less common, peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches challenge the “norm” of school lunches among a sea of jelly-stained brown bags.

Commonly, an image of the quintessential leader includes someone who thrives in a crowd, exhibiting an air of entertainment and confidence. It is someone who is gregarious, charismatic, bold, and extroverted. In society, there seems to be a common misconception that great leaders have extroverted personalities. However, several studies from the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking estimate that a full 40 percent of executives are introverts. Evidently, there is a large amount of leadership coming from individuals who society labels quiet, shy, withdrawn, diffident, or even antisocial. Consider the leaders Mohandas Ghandi and Mother Theresa, two of the greatest influencers of the century. They are historical examples of introverts that surpassed the boundaries surrounding what a “traditional” leader is pictured to be. Although introverts are usually the minority personality type, real-time statistics are difficult to evaluate because people are either unaware of their personality type, or they are ambiverts, falling in the middle of the introversion-extroversion Spectrum.

So, what makes an introvert? Introversion is one end of the personality continuum of introversion-extroversion. While extroverts are considered outgoing and gather energy from high-stimulation environments, introverts are more introspective and gather energy in low-stimulation environments. Learning from my time as a leader, I thrive in one-on-one situations, pairs, or small groups. For example, after H.O.L.D.U.P’s Fall Kick-Off, which lasts about 6 hours and includes about 30 people in one room, all I wanted to do was be alone. I just wanted peace and quiet for an hour so I could “recharge.” This is one way to gauge whether or not you tend to be more introverted or extroverted. We all have a little bit of introversion and extroversion within us. It’s important to remember introversion and extroversion lie on a continuum and are not mutually exclusive.

At first, introversion might seem like an inhibiting characteristic in a leader, but it has its advantages. I certainly don’t consider myself the one who commands a room’s attention with an entertaining tale from last night or a booming shout. But, I possess something equally as valuable as an extrovert; I use the introvert’s innate ability to captivate attention with an intentional presence, and deliberately crafted message. From freshman to senior year, I grew as a leader and learned how to confidently express my ideas to the group as a whole, no matter how novel. It was these unprecedented ideas that helped the organization consider things that they had not considered before, and it is this precise thinking style that helps progress into the future.

One challenge for me as an introvert in a predominantly extroverted world is delegating. Since I am introverted, I like to be on my own, and therefore have become quite competent at tasks without help. When I was 4, I would order my own food at restaurants and would ask my parents, with a confused look, why the older boy in the booth nearby had his parents order for him. When I was 5 years old, I remember visiting my grandmother. She always wanted to make me breakfast, help me get dressed, brush my hair, and do everything for me. But, I told her I wanted to do it myself and didn’t want help. I loved to do things on my own. To this day, I don’t like to ask for help. Yet, through my time as co-chair, I had a lot to manage and I learned how to delegate tasks to others and why it is so important for the organization on a long-term basis. After all, I won’t be co-chair forever!

In fall 2011, I applied to H.O.L.D.U.P, a completely student-run leadership organization at the University of Connecticut. I knew I had potential to be a leader, but I did not know how to reach it. The application asked, “What is the most important quality in a leader?” As a freshman and self-aware introvert, I answered that a great leader needs to know how to listen. I was told after I was accepted, that nobody else wrote about listening as the most important quality in a leader. That attribute allowed my application to stand out from the pool of responses. Through active listening, a great leader gains understanding and a basis for change. Listening to the feedback of others is the driving force in decision-making. Just like we cannot read minds, we cannot expect to know what an organization needs and wants unless we survey the internal and external parties involved.

Although I stand by my answer on that application today, I recently discovered another leadership quality that is important and seems more prevalent in introverts: humility. Being a humble leader allows you to put the focus on the individuals you lead. I noticed right away after being elected as co-chair, that I’m not interested in the limelight of leadership. I’m more interested in empowering others by being a humble leader. You won’t find me boasting about my accomplishments, but you will find me congratulating others on their accomplishments, and urging them that they can succeed past failures with grace and optimism.

After spending the beginning semesters without a leadership position, I realized I needed to do more in order to push myself to become the leader I envisioned freshman year. When the opportunity arose to start a new committee, I jumped at it and continued for a few semesters. Shortly after, I earned a spot as one of the co-chairs, and was elected to work with none other than an extroverted leader. Working with an extroverted leader was a surprisingly great experience. I’d rather connect with someone one-on-one than in a big group, because that builds a stronger more meaningful connection and network. Working closely with another leader helped me establish that connection, and helped me to be able to reach my full potential as an individual leader and a co-leader. The connections I have with each member in HOLDUP are unique, and I will cherish every relationship, however short-lived it may be. It is important for me as a leader to provide support to anyone in the organization, because I strive to be a receptive leader whom they can rely on.

After holding my last meeting as a H.O.L.D.U.P co-chair, one of the members thanked me for showing her that a leader does not have to be the loudest person in the room. Her comment inspired me to write this blog post about introverted leadership, and my journey. I hope you have a newfound understanding of what introverted leadership may look like. As you morph your view of a “traditional” leader, change up your lunch and try a peanut butter and Fluff next time.

For inquiries or comments, feel free to contact


Finding Authentic Bailiwicks in the ‘Age of Oversharing’

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it had surpassed 1.2 billion worldwide users.  Each one of those pages allows a person to essentially be a unique celebrity and promote themselves. In fact, it could almost be considered a quasi iMDB page: pictures, both candid and posed, to show your versatile interests and brag about experiences; links to other past roles; lists of supporting actors in your life; and of course random quotes and trivia. People are very quick to add the perfect selfie or Buzzfeed article that really defines their life at that moment—especially lists about midterms.  People are also quick to avoid posting information that could make them feel vulnerable, like occasionally turning on S Club 7 Pandora when you need to just dance around…

But what if Mark Zuckerberg added a section to identify your Bailiwick? Would people be empowered to be truthful or would they say what they thought people wanted to hear? Or maybe they would set their privacy settings to lockdown mode where only they can view it.

Offline, how do we, as leaders, foster an environment where someone feels encouraged and empowered to lower the proverbial privacy settings? Leaders should empower others to be genuine, to embrace their bailiwick and share it with the world.  If someone is unsure of their bailiwick, leaders can support others on a reflective journey to discover their interests and passions.

Here’s some advice from my experiences:

1)    Take the time to actually get to know someone and listen without judgment.  It’s hard to remove our own personal lens at times, but showing genuine interest in listening is exactly what someone might need.

2)    Ask open-ended questions about them and don’t interrupt with a personal story.

3)    After someone finishes their story, empathize and make connections that will validate the individual’s experiences.  If someone shares something rather deep or personal, thank him or her for being vulnerable.

By having an open mind and creating a space where individuals feel comfortable to be their authentic selves, you have an opportunity to empower others to find their niche… which can get a whole lot of likes.


Caroline Green

Graduate Intern/HESA Master’s Student

The Non-Bailiwick Post

We all decided as staff that in order to introduce our “Bailiwick” theme, we should share our own thoughts on the concept and perhaps reveal our own Bailiwicks. I was on board from the get-go. Heck, I’m pretty sure I was the one who suggested it. But saying and doing are two different things, and I’ve been staring at this same word document for two weeks.

In my struggle to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, as the phrase evolves), I spent a significant time thinking about all of the things beyond my bailiwick. I harped on it, I cursed it, I made snarky comments to coworkers about it. And then I just decided to embrace it. So here it is folks, my “Non-Bailiwick”:

  • Time Management… I’ve procrastinated for two weeks on this blog. I’m only writing it now because we have a staff meeting tomorrow and I don’t want to be the only one to have not done a post. Sure, I’m better than I was in college, and there are real skills I’ve learned here, but I just can’t shake the almost compulsive need to have the pressure of a deadline.
  • Editing… not just grammar (certainly that), but I mean the editing of thoughts and concepts that make tons of sense in my brain but sound small when I put them into words. I have so many things floating in my head that I wanted to talk about in this post: hedgehog concepts and finding your purpose, StrengthsQuest and leveraging your skills, humility and the awkwardness of owning and telling your stories. Every time I sit to write them, they don’t seem as profound as when I first had the thought.
  • Written Communication… I never feel as confident in my ability to write my thoughts as I do to say them out loud. There is only so much I can convey to you without my tone of voice, your verbal and non-verbal reactions, and the connection of an in-person conversation. I would much rather sit down with you, or a group of you, and have a thought-provoking discussion on the topics above, and not just tell you what I think.
  • Cooking a Whole Chicken… no joking here, I’ve never done this successfully. I’ve cooked a turkey with great results, but every time I try roasting a chicken, it’s still raw. The last time I tried and failed, I declared a truce; I haven’t made an attempt in 6 months.

Phew, that feels good to get it out there.

As I re-read my Non-Bailiwick, I’m struck by how these things that may be seen as weaknesses of mine also convey hidden truths about my talents, and perhaps about my actual Bailiwick. Sometimes it easier to find the things you’re good at by owning the things you’re not good at.

Sure, I struggle with time management, but I’ve also learned that my periods of ‘marinating’ on an idea leads to the ability to adapt to circumstances as they arise, to take in new information and ideas, and to connect seemingly disparate concepts. One of my Strengths is Input, and I can see that in my procrastination: I’m not lazy…I’m mulling things over. I like to think in the abstract, to see the big picture, to learn new things. I get excited with leadership theory, and I want to spark that excitement in someone else. I prefer conversations to the written word: My job is to facilitate workshops and discussions, and I’m naturally more comfortable surrounded by people than on my own. I’m a verbal processor, an interpersonal learner. It’s an ability that allows me to connect and relate to my participants and students; it’s why I love what I do.

If you’re anything like me, it may be easier for you to see your ‘weaknesses’, your areas of challenge, than it may be for you to see what you’re good at. Great. Start there, then flip the script. Try to uncover the hidden talents and strengths in your non-bailiwick. And if you need someone to talk it out with, find me, that’s what I do well.

Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that I’ve put chicken on the menu for this weekend. I’m trying this recipe.


Krista O’Brien

Coordinator of Leadership Programs