A Personal Introduction: Leadership in a Global Context


Hello! My name is Ryan Young, and I’m a rising sophomore majoring in math and physics & astronomy, with a minor in political science concentrated in international relations. I’m looking to go into research (hopefully in discipline-based education) in either math or physics in the future. I’m from Bucks County, Pennsylvania—about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia—and I’m really excited to participate in this program over the coming days!

If it’s not already clear, I’m pretty interested in math and other stem adjacent things, but I’m also involved with local community theater in my hometown and I really like minesweeper. I sit on the executive board of a non-profit arts company that regularly puts on shows at one of the oldest continuously operating movie theaters in the country, and am especially interested in theatrical sound and sound design. At Pitt, I’m the TEDx@Pitt VP and the secretary & under-secretary-general for Pitt Model UN. I’m also active in several math and physics groups, especially Ultraviolets, an LGBTQ+ affinity group in the physics department. Outside of these clubs, I really like exploring Pittsburgh with friends, and I love museums!

While my first year at Pitt was atypical to say the least, I’ve really loved the time I’ve spent. What has especially stuck out to me is the community—even through a pandemic, I’ve felt welcomed by everyone, on my floor and in Pitt clubs and everywhere else. I was able to jump right in, and have already made some absolutely wonderful friendships and met really impressive and inspirational people. Another element I’ve loved as a Pitt student is related to the community: opportunity. The advice I’ve gotten from other students has been invaluable and has gotten me connected with everything I could want, including research and internships.

I’m taking this course because effective leadership is universally useful. Increasingly, research—especially astronomy and physics—consists of massive, multinational collaborations with up to hundreds of other scientists. The notion of a reclusive professor tucked away in her office silently working alone is exceedingly rare, and any collaboration, especially ones spanning so widely and with so many people, will require effective leadership to see productive results. Beyond research, developing my leadership style will be applicable in every other part of my professional life, from student clubs to theater. The design of the program, with its focus on experiential learning through simulations, also seems especially interesting and valuable as compared to a traditional course. I’m hoping to walk away with some useful and applicable simulated leadership experience that I will be able to exercise in all aspects of my life!

For me, leadership means acting as a focus: taking the positive and correlated but unorganized energy of a group and actually getting things done. To do this requires a great amount of skill, not just in communication but in competency; to get something done, you do need to know how to get that thing done. For every great leader that I’ve looked up to in my life, they have provided this role. Take a teacher: they focus the positive energy of a class that is there to learn and actually provide the organization and know-how to learn the topic. In this way, leadership is a fundamentally influential process. It’s about seeing the potential of a group actualized. Hopefully through this program I’ll be able to hear other perspectives on leadership and develop my ability to ‘focus’ such a group!

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