Theta and pursuing a special academic major with Eliana Cohen ’17

Eliana is a senior from Ridgefield, Connecticut, and is an intern for the CIL. She is involved in Theta, the one Swarthmore sorority, and was the Theta Chief Operating Officer. She was a tour guide, she gives information sessions to prospective students, and she works for Career Services as a Career Peer Advisor and as an Office Assistant.

Can you talk about your senior project that related to leadership?

Yeah! I created my own major in Organizational Behavior. It’s a combination of Psychology, Economics, and Sociology. I was particularly interested in looking at the ways in which colleges, particularly Swarthmore, develop student leaders. For my final project, which I just finished last semester, I looked at four leadership institutions on Swarthmore’s campus: the Writing Associates, the Career Peer Advisors, the Resident Advisors, and the Student Academic Mentors. I looked at the ways in which they were instilled with Student Leadership Competencies, and the ways in which that translated to success in non-leadership capacities one and two years after graduation.

You have held a few different leadership positions. You were the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Theta. How do you think that prepared your understanding of leadership going into your project?

It definitely did. I’m really grateful for my experience as Theta COO, and one of the things that I so loved about it was that it was a relatively risk-free way to explore different styles of leadership. In Theta we have a ten-member officer structure, so you’re constantly working with all the different officers, and you’re also chairing a committee that has representatives for each of the class years as COO. So you really learn how to be a leader. One of the things that I really enjoyed about being a leader was empowering others to be successful, because that, I think, is when a leader really shines, and what makes a leader most effective. For example, on my committee, we held Sisterhood Events, and each person on my committee was responsible for creating and leading the event. In that way they were able to explore what they were interested in, and figure out what they wanted to do, and seemed to feel empowered by the fact that they were able to create and lead a number of successful events.

Do you think there are any qualities or skills that you’ve learned as a Tour Guide that you could utilize in a leadership role?

Definitely. I think that one of the best things that I’ve learned from being a Tour Guide is how to talk about an organization generally, and also your experience specifically. So essentially how to situate yourself in the context of a larger organization. And when you do that, you’re able to think about not only what your goals are, but also what the organization might need in order to be successful as an institution. When you’re a Tour Guide, you’re obviously showing them your classrooms, your dorms, your dining hall, etc., but you’re also trying to situate that in the context of ‘what does a Swarthmore education look like,’ ‘what does a Quaker heritage school look like,’ ‘what does a liberal arts education look like’. So in that way, when you have that dual lens of ‘this is what I’m doing’ and ‘this is how I’m a part of a larger organization,’ I think you’re able to use that to become a successful leader.

You’re also involved in the Yoga Club on campus. What do you get from this experience?

Yoga is one of the things that I do to relax at school. I’m not very flexible, but I really like it because it’s a way for me to clear my mind, to separate myself from any academic pressures, and completely clear my mind of everything. It helps me just be present in the moment, to listen to my body, and to be in tune with myself. It’s also wonderful because the student yoga teachers who lead the practice are really talented, and share their own unique stories throughout the practice, so it’s really nice to see them shine in that way.

If you were a leader of an organization and the people that worked for you were asked to describe you in three words, which words would you like to hear?

I hope they would describe me as effective, compassionate, and interesting!

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