Career Advice >> Browse Articles >> Tips for Entering the Nonprofit Field


Students as Teachers: Lessons Learned from the 2007 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award Winners

Students as Teachers: Lessons Learned from the 2007 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award Winners

Change Magazine

It was in grade school when I first heard the popular slogan “knowledge is power.” As a child growing up in a large working-class family, I saw firsthand that there are many individuals whom policies fail to protect. I knew I wanted to do something with my life that would bring positive change for those who need it. Thus, for my master’s thesis, I examined the effectiveness of sexual-assault-prevention techniques and strategies used by colleges and universities in the United States, in order to see whether these measures actually protected college women from rape. I reported on both the ineffectiveness of these strategies and the possible usefulness of alternative ones, in order to inform university efforts to better protect their students.

Currently, I am examining public perceptions of stalking behavior. Using college students, a sample at great risk of being stalked, I examined whether the gender of the victim and the gender of the offender, as well as the prior relationship between the victim and offender, have an impact on whether a situation is considered to be stalking, considered to be serious, and likely to be taken seriously by practitioners throughout different stages of the criminal-justice process. I also investigated whether these extra-legal variables affect the extent to which the victim is viewed as responsible for his/her victimization.
—Amy Cass

My mother likes to say that leadership is inborn in our family line. This proved a significant challenge to her as in my youth, any leadership potential I had was expressed only through my stubbornly independent spirit and my interest in bossing around my smaller brother. I recognize today that adults channeled this leadership potential into useful expression. My parents and teachers continually encouraged me to “lead by example” by doing my best in all my work. One teacher nominated me for participation in a student-leadership conference, while another encouraged me to apply for admission to a statewide summer science program. Most significantly, though, Girl Scout leaders seemed to intuit that while my introverted personality was challenged by our troop of gossipy girls and that badges meant little to me, I would enjoy the culminating experience needed to earn the Gold Award.

They were correct. The experience, which involved coordinating an appreciation dinner for local homeless-shelter volunteers, was seminal. It was the first event that I had organized with a team and the first where I experienced the intrinsic rewards of volunteerism. I discovered, too, that logistical organization, delegation, and public speaking were skills that I enjoyed using.
—Sarah Wise

In August 2002, I was well on my way to becoming a serious researcher in the area of theoretical computer science. I had recently graduated with highest honors from the College of Charleston, where I had earned undergraduate degrees in both mathematics and computer science. Additionally, I had already been involved in several research projects and had had a few papers accepted for publication. I arrived at the University of Georgia with a research assistantship in hand, and I was excited to begin my graduate-school career. That month, however, two things happened that would change my life.

The first was that the modem in my computer failed.

I had purchased the modem less than two weeks earlier, so my first instinct was to return it to the retail store that sold it to me. I arrived at the customer-service counter, where one of the computer technicians came over to help me. I explained the situation to him—the modem had just stopped working.

Without even examining the modem, the technician claimed that the failure was the result of a power surge. Asking no questions, he explained that this situation was not covered under the 30-day return policy, because I did not have the modem connected to a surge protector. Finally, he offered to sell me a surge protector so that my next modem wouldn’t be damaged.

I explained to the computer technician that lightning storms were usually the cause of power surges and that there had been no storms in the area since I had been using the modem. I also asked him how he could tell that the modem failure was caused by a power surge without testing or examining it. He turned the modem over and showed me some places where he claimed that the modem had melted due to the surge, just as he had suspected. I replied that, in fact, he was pointing to a type of gel that is used to bond parts of circuit boards and that the modem had not melted.

Clearly the technician had not been prepared to discuss the issue with someone who was knowledgeable about computers, and he decided at this point to end the discussion. Annoyed, he explained to me that it was his decision, he was not going to exchange the modem because he knew that the failure was due to a power surge, and that such an incident was not covered by the warranty. Furthermore, he reiterated that it was my fault for not having it attached to a surge protector.