"Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why." - Bernard Baruch

Category: Leadership

STEM Women Conference

During my time as a study abroad student at Liverpool Hope University, one of my roommates and I took up the opportunity to attend the STEM Women Conference in Manchester, England. At this event we were able to learn about different careers in STEM; listen to several executive women speak about their experiences working in the field; and network with recruiters from several STEM-focused companies including PWC, Morgan Stanley, Bloomberg, and Citrix.

STEM Women Conference in Manchester, England 2019

Beautiful Question: “Is it ethical to establish a mathematical standard for beauty that could potentially aid the understanding of facial aesthetics and its role in medicine?”

Warren Berger’s “A More Beautiful Question” defines a beautiful question as “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change”. This idea of a “beautiful question” has helped me rethink the way I ask questions depending on my intentions for asking them. In using this definition to structure my own beautiful question I originally came up with the question of; “Why would establishing a mathematical definition/standard for beauty aid the understanding of facial aesthetics and its role in medicine?”. My inspiration for developing such question came from my passion for mathematics which has drawn me to question the myriad ways we can apply it to our everyday lives and use it to solve current problems. I’ve encountered many people throughout my academic journey who are not only repulsed by mathematics due to its apparent complexity, but are drawn away from it because it appears irrelevant to their interests. For this very reason, I chose to form this question as a way to challenge such close-minded ideas and to prove that math can be applied to almost anything. After listening to a few presentations by professors who applied their area of study to the topic however, I reworked my question further as I gained more perspectives on the notion of asking questions. Professor Harald Thorsrud’s presentation in specific made me challenge the ethical components of my question. His presentation, revolving around ethics, touched upon the idea that although a question can be considered under Berger’s definition, “beautiful”, in the sense that it serves as a catalyst for change, it does not mean that the change is positive. The example he used to show this was a man’s question that led to the creation of 3D printed guns. In inventing a way of making guns more accessible to the public, society is put in danger, which then makes others doubt the “beauty” of this question in general. Professor Thorsrud brought up the point of weather or not this question could even be considered beautiful if it has such negative and unethical consequences, to which he then responded with the idea of beauty being subjective. He stressed that if beauty is truly is in the eye of the beholder, then even morally unacceptable ideas may be considered “beautiful”. While it may be easy to believe that Berger should specify what kind of  “change” should be catalyzed by the question being asked, and integrate the idea of ethics in his definition of a “beautiful question”, it is important to understand his original message. Berger is focused on the structure of the question as opposed to the idea behind it. Under his definition, the beauty of the question lies in the way it is asked rather than what is being asked. Therefore, a “beautiful” question is one that has the ability to bring about change weather that be positive or negative. For this reason, the idea of ethics helped me reconsider my beautiful question as I challenged the “beauty” of my original idea, as opposed to the question itself. My new question being “Is it ethical to establish a mathematical standard for beauty that could potentially aid the understanding of facial aesthetics and its role in medicine?”, can be categorized as “beautiful” in the sense that it is (in my opinion), impossible to answer without research and open-mindedness. It is a question that challenges the current ideas of mathematics, beauty and ethics, and has the potential to influence the understanding of facial aesthetics and medicine.

Leadership Reflection

When I first arrived at Agnes Scott, my perception of leadership was slightly different from what is is now. Throughout the course, I’ve learned about leadership both by first-hand experience in the assignments we’ve completed, and through the course readings. Before taking this course, my perception on leadership was such that a “good leader” is supposed to possess qualities that will enable him/her to influence others in a positive way. After one of our first assignments which was to elaborate on “Only Connect… : The Goal of a Liberal Education” by William Cronon, my outlook on leadership began to expand as I started to understand leadership from a liberal arts perspective. This essay clarifies the meaning and importance of a liberal arts education while emphasizing its core values. Cronon expresses that a true liberal education “aspires to nurture the growth of human talent in the service of human freedom”, and likewise, truly liberally educated people “have been liberated by their education to explore and fulfill the promise of their own highest talents.” Cronon then proposes the idea that an institution should focus predominantly on generating a list of personal qualities that embody the values of a liberal arts education. In doing this, an institution yields a more successful making of liberally educated students. Having the well-roundedness that a true liberal arts education offers is crucial to a leader, both academically and socially. Having people that model a liberal arts education in our society, will in turn result in a more productive and diverse community. For this reason, I chose to become part of a liberal arts institution, as I like Cronon believe in the importance of a diverse teaching approach. Part of being a well-rounded individual, is also understanding other’s beliefs and ideas. In the “All About Me” assignment I was given the chance to share something that represents who I am as well as listen to what others find representative of themselves. This exposure to differing perspectives was eye opening in the sense that I was able to see the way people perceive themselves and what they find important or valuable. In addition to these assignments, readings about the atomic era have also contributed to my new perception on leadership. The book we read “The Girls of Atomic City”, highlights the many struggles women in the Manhattan project faced as they contributed to the victory of WWII. One of these women, like myself moved from the northeast to the south. Although this change was dramatic, we both made a similar sacrifice for something that was important to us would contribute significantly to our futures. Such act shows great leadership in the sense that one must look beyond these challenges in means to find their own kind of success. In reading about such obstacles these women had to face, I became even more aware of different types of leaderships. This ability to persistently work towards an objective despite the difficulties of the times and lack of proper recognition, shows a level of leadership beyond one I’m familiar with. One of the class’ last assignments involved evaluating and classifying one of two important figures of the Manhattan project in their style of leadership. In this assignment I leaned significantly about positive and negative types of leadership and that perfection is not needed to lead efficiently. For example, J. Roberts Oppenheimer who despite having a rough childhood, an emotional character, and a sometimes prominent rude attitude, was an exceptional leader and physicist who in addition to influencing others and leading a team of scientists to war victory, made significant contributions to science during the atomic era. Although many of Oppenheimer’s leadership qualities can be seen as “negative”, ultimately used them wisely and lead his team to war victory. Oppenheimer was not a perfect leader in the sense that he did not possess qualities such as humility, empathy, and selflessness, which I initially thought were qualities one needed to posses in order to be considered a “good leader”. After having read several texts however, I observed that this lack of usually favorable qualities did not undermine his ability to lead efficiently. In fact, his superficial lack of vulnerability showed people “not to mess with him”. This allowed for proper order in his specific department and for a sense of urgency and importance to be taken with the project. People lead in different ways under different circumstances, and despite this difference in styles of leading, success can still be achieved. Oppenheimer’s type of leading was effective in this scenario but may not be acceptable in others. This understanding of variety of leadership, changed and expanded my perception of effective leadership. Having leadership diversity amongst a society is what makes it an effective environment for beneficial outcomes. As a result of learning all new perspectives on leadership, my capacity to lead has become stronger and it is my hope that it grows in the years to come.

StrengthsQuest Refelction

My StrengthsQuest themes consist of Input, WOO, Learner, Communication, and Activator. Although all five of these accurately represent me as a person, I resonate predominantly with Input, WOO, and Learner. “Learner” being the one I mostly want people to associate me with. Learners are those who not only love to learn but are drawn to the process of learning. Like I mentioned previously, the curiosity that has lived in me since birth has made me a passionate learner. My love for learning yielded a strong desire for wanting to acquire knowledge and in turn become wise. Those who are part of this theme, in addition to being drawn to this learning process, understand how they learn best. Acknowledging this, then results in their ability to learn quickly and effectively, allowing them to be a significant contributor to their groups/teams. This specific characteristic makes up a large part of who I am and is responsible for making my academic journey not only easier but much more enjoyable. Being a member of this theme speaks largely about the kind of person I am. Therefore, is important for others to become aware of my passion for learning in order to understand me holistically.