StrengthsFinder 2.0

A few Mondays ago during our WILL meeting, Dr. Susie Mahoney went through StrengthsQuest with us. Prior to the meeting we were instructed to take a strengths assessment. We each were given a copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0 by New York Times Bestselling author, Tom Rath. In the back of each book is a unique code to the strengths test. The test took about 45 minutes to complete, with various personality and behavior questions. Upon completing the test you receive five strengths. Initially, I was surprised with my results. I was eager to learn what these strengths meant.

During the WILL meeting Dr. Susie started off StrengthsQuest with asking us the importance of strengths. It is important to know your strengths to know what sets you apart from everyone else and gives you a chance to further develop what you already know and even boost your confidence. Next, we moved on to everyone’s results of the strengths test. My strengths are Restorative, Relator, Communication, Significance, and Arranger. Originally, I thought my strengths were just ordinary in comparison to the other WILLers who received results such as WOO, positivity, harmony and discipline. Later, I found the benefits of my results; I saw that they really did reflect who I am.

No matter what career path I choose I know that I’ll have to build relationships and know how to communicate effectively. According to the test, “People strong in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.” I would have to agree. People who are strong in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a common goal. People strong in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters. Whether this is a gift or a curse, I definitely have no problem communicating how I feel. People strong in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized. In any type or relationship, I want the other person to feel that I’m just as important to them as they are to me. People strong in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.   As an RA, I have learned how to work as a member on a staff and make collective efforts for the group as a whole.

The StrengthsQuest further reaffirmed my decision to change my major. This semester I made the decision to switch from Special Education to Communications due to loop-holes in the major requirements. Teaching is still my passion and hopefully my end result, I’ve accepted that it will just have to be obtained an alternative way. I was a bit hesitant to make the change but it has been a great fit. I love building interpersonal relationships. It has been said that I make great first and lasting impressions on people. I take my relationships very seriously whether they’re intimate or friendships. I love helping people and I’ve also been told that I’m gifted at learning and remembering names. Despite what I end up doing in the future, I feel more prepared now that I know my strengths. I also really enjoyed this assessment compared to the others I have taken before.


Tazia Segar is a Communications major and 1st year WILLer. Her self-awareness and unique combination of strengths have helped prepare her for her future. 

The Fear of Being the 1 in 4

Trigger warning: Sexual assault


Living off campus this year, I’ve never been more afraid of being sexually assaulted, raped, or attacked. I carry pepper spray, got a new keychain that is actually a dagger disguised as a kitten, and I try to always walk with at least one other person at night.

41+fsQcaUiL._AC_UL320_SR234,320_If I were put in the situation of being abused, would these methods even be effective? Honestly, it is tiring having to put in so much effort and planning to go out to my friends house because I can’t walk alone. I shouldn’t have to fear for my life whenever I go somewhere. I should be able to walk alone and feel safe. I should be able to meet a cute, nice guy at a party and not have to fear being raped.

A few weeks ago WILL went to a showing of The Hunting Ground film and it was an eye opening experience. It wasn’t until I saw the film and learned that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted or raped in college that I truly understood the problems of sexual assault on college campuses. Not only the problem that it is happening, but also the way many universities handle the situation.

Luckily, I am fortunate enough to have never been sexually assaulted and hopefully I never will be. But another fear I have is, what if it does happen? What is my university going to do for me? According to the Hunting Ground film, in 2012, 45% of universities reported having zero sexual assaults, which we all know is definitely not true. Universities often care more about their image as a school than about the safety and well being of their students. They think that having students complete (skim through) an online course about sexual assault and rape is an effective way of decreasing the problem. Universities need to be taking action in helping solve this problem, not taking away helpful programs such as Reclaim on our campus.

When I think about if I got sexually assaulted, raped, or attacked and know that my university might not be there for me, I know that the WILL community would be. I’m lucky to have this support system of people who are educated, passionate, and would be there for me if I needed. But some people aren’t as lucky, and don’t have anywhere to turn. The rape culture right now is not okay, and it doesn’t help that universities are standing idly by not doing very much to help the situation.


Jessie Paley is a first year WILLer and a second year Judaic Studies major.



Acceptance, Courage, and Wisdom

“…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”


In the midst of the hustle and bustle as expected I get a little overwhelmed. Working 19 hours a week, taking 18 credit hours, extracurriculars, and trying to have a life; all of which is not conducive to a stress free lifestyle. If anything it makes life exceedingly more difficult. When feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and just over life I always come back to this quote. “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” In those times when life is moving in fifty different directions, I find comfort in reciting this simple line. Of late I have been trying to make some much-needed changes to my life.   The first being extinguishing the excessive amount of worries and stress. To help with this I have created a self-check system founded on the principles of this quote. My system includes three easy steps:

Step 1: Acceptance-Learning to accept the things I cannot change.

These past few months I am coming to learn more and more that life is unpredictable and that is okay. Life will never be perfect. Life will never map out according to this superficial, ideal plan I have created. Accepting life as it is, also means accepting myself as I am. Like life I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. Weaknesses are a reality. I can do everything within my power to overcompensate for my weaknesses, but at the end of the day the reality is that I will just be better at some things than others. That is okay. I can always improve, but there is no need to focus solely on my weaknesses. With that comes accepting strengths and acknowledging that my strengths outweigh the weaknesses on any given day. This brings me to step number two.

Step 2: Courage-Focus on changing things I can.

The strengths test told me my top strengths are developer, harmony, input, context, and restorative. At first I was hesitant about the results, until it dawned on me that these are things that distinguish me from everyone else. No one had my exact same set of strengths. Instead of harping on being stuck with no control in the situation, I now realize that I hold more power and strength than I initially thought. I can utilize my strengths to effect change not only with in myself, but on greater scale. The skills I possess can be used to impact and enforce change within my community and beyond. It is simply not enough to possess the skills to effect change, but rather the courage to act. Seize the opportunity so as to be the change I want to see.

Step 3: Wisdom-Decipher when change is possible.

There will be times when I need to accept things are out of my control, and other times when I need to take action. The key to being at peace is to know what to do and when to do it. For some, the answer will come from that intuitive voice within. For others, it will be process of elimination. Whatever the means of assessment, know that the right choice was made in that moment. It takes all three things; acceptance, courage, and wisdom to stand firm in a decision made. When these three steps are internalized then and only then can one truly be at peace.

Myia Rucker is a graduating Psychology major and 1st year WILLer. She is growing in acceptance, courage and wisdom.

Consciousness of Self

For the past year or so, I have been struggling to figure out my future career plans. Since I was ten years old I have wanted to become a physician. I can remember learning about the different organ systems of the body and being completely fascinated, often studying the information just for fun. I fell in love with the complexity of the human body and knew that I wanted to work with it as a physician.

So for the past 13 years I have been steadily working towards this goal. I have studied neurobiology for 5 years of college, attended pre-med society meetings, volunteered over 600 hours at the local hospital, heavily engaged in research at a neurology lab, and shadowed doctors. I have done all the things a pre-med is “supposed” to do, but I have just had a revelation: I don’t want to do it anymore.

I recently made the decision to abandon my plans to attend medical school and instead attend graduate school to receive a PhD in neuroscience. I believe that I have known that I wanted to do this for a long time but was too stubborn and afraid to admit it to myself. I was scared that I would regret this decision because I had wanted to be a physician for so long. Maybe even more so, I was embarrassed to tell people that I was no longer going to be a medical doctor, because I was afraid that it would make me look like I failed. I now realize that this was a silly thought and I needed to do what was right for me; I had to gain more consciousness of myself.

Looking back I realized that preparing for med school made me very stressed, anxious, and unhappy. I was constantly comparing myself to others and never felt smart enough or good enough. I hated the competitive “pre-med culture” and to be honest it made me miserable. Then I would go into the lab and feel the complete opposite. I felt excited, capable, smart, and supported. I love the way that everyone in research is working towards a common goal and they often collaborate to do so. It is a much more friendly and inviting environment.

Also, growing up I never planned on being in such a committed relationship so early and I wasn’t even sure I wanted kids. But as you now, people grow up and things change. I have been in a relationship for almost 7 years now and we plan on getting married within the next few years. I have also realized that I definitely want kids some day and when I have them, I want to be able to spend lots of time with them. With the rigid, hectic schedule of medical school and residency (and often even as an attending doctor), I wouldn’t really have much time for any of this. I realized that I would be working away the ages of 25-33, which is a huge chunk of some really exciting years of my life and I don’t think I want to lose them. Although grad school and post-doc will take about the same amount of time, it is MUCH more flexible because research itself, is very flexible. I will still have time to take vacations, get married, and have a family, which is what I really want.

One more thing that really helped me choose graduate school over medical school: It’s free! All neuroscience grad programs (and I believe most other sciences) have completely free tuition. They also give you living stipend (usually between $20,000-30,000 a year) and even pay to fly you out for interviews and visits! Medical school tuition is incredibly expensive, you have to take out loans for living expenses, and flying out for interviews and visits have to come out of your own pocket. At the end of the day, I would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and although I would be making more to pay it off, I just really didn’t know if it was worth it.

All of these things were deciding factors for me but I think the most important one was that once I discovered this new career path, it felt like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders. I finally feel like I can breath again and I am so much more relaxed and happy. That was biggest sign to me that I made the right choice. I am aware that graduate school will still be difficult and stressful, but it will be a difficult and stressful that I think I will enjoy. I will get to learn, explore, and solve problems for a living, which I love! (It even fits in with my stengthsfinder top strengths: learner, input, and restorative). I finally feel excited for my future and I can’t wait to become a neuroscientist!

Lastly, I have to thank WILL. WILL has taught me so much and has helped me learn to explore myself as well as open up to others. Without them, I’m not sure I would have made this realization and I definitely wouldn’t have had the confidence to share it on a blog. I am so lucky to have this community and am looking forward to growing more with them this year.


This post is not meant in any way to bash medical school or those of you following in that path. I still love medicine and admire anyone who pursues it because it is very important. This post is about explaining why I realized that path is no longer for me.


Emily Devine is a graduating 5th year neurobiology major, WGSS minor and a second year member of WILL.

Writing My Own Narrative

Do you ever have those moments when something is happening around you –a comment, an action, a depiction, any something, really — and you are so surprised or perturbed or shocked by that thing that Bohemian Rhapsody automatically starts playing in your head and you can’t help but wonder if this is real life or if it’s just fantasy? Feel like you’re caught in a landslide, no escape from reality?

I don’t know if this has happened to you recently, but if it has, my friend, then this is the post for you.

I’ve definitely had those moments at least two times over the past few weeks, which I define as follows: when I hear or see something that I don’t agree with but can’t find the words or just don’t feel safe enough to speak. Usually this occurs when I hear something that feels problematic to me, but I can’t articulate my thoughts in a way so that someone else can see where I’m coming from, and results in me not speaking up and continuing to go about my business.

Queue Queen in my head, and I end up usually not bringing anything up and making a Jim Halpert-esque face to the invisible camera in the corner.

Okay, so quick tangent: I’ve been anticipating the deadline for writing my post for the WILL to Lead blog for the past coming weeks, and I’ve been feeling pretty confident about it. I’d talk about my personal experiences at UC, throw in a paragraph about what WILL means to me, add a classic Akshayaa pun or two, give a quick shout-out to the Social Change Model, and bam! I’d have a concrete contribution to mark my membership in the group, a succinct and humorous expression of my feminist ideals, and a way to track my growth all in one neat blog post.

Naturally, it hasn’t been that easy. I read and re-read the posts of fellow WILL members and feel so proud of them for their courageous and thoughtful words, and I sit in front of my computer for that same inspiration to pop into my head. And as I sit here with no idea about to write my post on, a miracle suddenly occurs, and the sweet, sweet tunes of Queen makes its way into my eardrums and I realize:

Whoa. I’m not having that many Bohemian Rhapsody Moments anymore.

I start going through my journal and start reflecting on my interactions since I’ve joined WILL, and I discover that the number of times I’ve been at a loss for words or have just given up on my thoughts and opinions has significantly decreased, and I’m getting better at speaking up for what I believe to be equitable and just. In WILL, we learn about the Social Change Model during the first few weeks, and I can feel myself actively engaging with certain tenets of the model. I’ve been able to develop awareness of my passions, identity and values while learning about those facets of the people around me in the WILL community, and every meeting I feel closer to a community of leaders who grow together by actively listening to each other and engaging in the mission of the group.

Most importantly, I’m learning what congruence means to me. I’m figuring out how to take my thoughts and implement them into my words and actions, and I owe a lot of the credit to my talented, compassionate and inspiring peers in WILL, who have advised me to write out my thoughts and expressed the importance of taking care of oneself and challenged me to live a more authentic and full life. The number of incidences where I feel helpless or unsure and have to resort to wondering if this is really the reality we live in is dwindling because I am learning to engage with my peers and challenge the systems of power and privilege that surround us.

The way the wind blows does matter to me, Freddie Mercury, and I no longer feel like I cannot contribute at a systemic level to improving the lives and experiences of those around me.

Bohemian Rhapsody’s still playing in the background as I type this (I’m at the Scaramouch! Scaramouch! part and I’m feeling real pumped) and I can finally change the title of this post from “I don’t know what to write about and I think it’s because I don’t know myself at all”, because I realize now that that’s not the case. I do know myself, and I know that I’m continuing to learn, and I couldn’t think of a better place to share that growth than in the WILL community.

Akshayaa Venkatakrishnan is a 1st year WILLer studying Neuroscience. She dreams of starting a feminist cover band and aspires to be an activist in health care.