Posted on July 23rd in REACH Blog

How a Venezuelan in Wisconsin Found Leadership in Diversity

Barbara Moreno

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Wisconsin Region Vice President Barbara Moreno.

I remember my first day at college as if it were yesterday.

I was on my way to my first class, the New International Student Seminar, which meant to help international students with their transition process at Madison College. When I found the classroom, I was nervous — mostly because I was afraid I would not connect with anyone. To my surprise, I had the chance to bond with students from all corners of the world. These are students that to this day have become my closest friends and coworkers, people with whom I have had the chance of learning about culture, traditions, and leadership.

In the next few classes, we did some teamwork activities to get to know more about each other. In these activities, our uniqueness became a valuable asset. The diversity among the cultures from the team members proved to increase the chances of success when it came to figuring out a solution to the problems we were given. This happened because we all had a different perspective on how to approach the issue.

One of our activities emphasized becoming a global leader and a representative of our home countries in our new home far from home. Although we all had different ways of thinking, we all had similar ideas about what characteristics make up a leader. A leader is someone that is able to communicate his or her ideas; someone that is able to guide, inspire, and motivate people; someone outgoing and charismatic; someone empathetic; and, most important, someone that is capable of being open-minded and considerate about all opinions. Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund once said that being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.

As a Venezuelan now living in Wisconsin, I use my uniqueness to make a difference in my college. Being a part of the Regional Team has shown me how hard work, determination, and, most important, collaboration are variables we constantly discover and strive for in the equation of success. Leadership in diversity comes in all sizes, colors, and forms; it comes from the coldest and the hottest places on earth; it follows different religions and has different tastes in food and music.

This is the type of leadership I also discovered in PTK as an organization. Being part of Phi Theta Kappa gives all members the opportunity to grow and become the open-minded, knowledgeable leaders the world needs. I know that being a member of Phi Theta Kappa will give me the tools to grow and learn about enhancing my personal and professional life, something I am looking forward to. It has also taught me to live in the present and learn, just like Amy Cuddy states, not only to fake it till you make it but to fake it until you become it.

I use my diversity as a way of being part of the change I want to see in my community and in my life. Being a Latina woman studying science in the United States has opened endless doors and opportunities that are now at my reach. At the same time, I create global awareness of my background and the things that make me, me.

Using my background, my communication skills, sharing my anecdotes, and thinking the way I was taught have helped me achieve things I never thought achievable. I am excited to see where my path will take me and those I will meet, who will be able to share their background and perspectives with me, helping me learn more about the world that surrounds me; motivating me to consider things from a different perspective; and supporting my growth both professionally and personally.

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