Stories are important to O’Neill student Anna Dubois.
First, there are the stories she tells others –
Childhood stories about backpacking with her family through the Hoosier National Forest and how her love of nature drew her to study environmental management. Stories about learning to garden and spin alpaca wool while interning on a sustainable farm.
Then, there are the stories that others tell her.
Through her work with both the Indiana Leadership Program and IU Student Government, Dubois has learned about the importance of listening to her peers. “That’s what representative government is all about!” she said.
Dubois has been active in student government since her freshman year and currently serves as the IU liaison to the Association of Big 10 Students, a collection of student government representatives from universities across the conference. Her most meaningful accomplishment, though, has been launching the Green Bandana Project – an initiative that encouraged students to tie green bandanas on their backpacks to signify allyship with peers facing mental health challenges.
“Everyone has their own life, their own stories. An effective leader will get to know the stories of the people they’re leading and figure out how people want to be led,” said Dubois.
Through O’Neill’s Indiana Leadership Program, which helps students develop professional skills through partnerships with local public or nonprofit organizations, Dubois is getting additional leadership experience as an intern in the Mayor’s Office of the City of Bloomington.
“The Indiana Leadership Program stood out to me because they’re so invested in giving back,” said Dubois. “I’ve gotten so much out of the Bloomington community. I wanted to return the favor.”
Dubois has been impressed by the egalitarian culture of the mayor’s office. “I was really taken aback by how supportive everyone is. I feel like my voice is heard.”
Although she feels professionally empowered in her role, she’s constantly reminded that the nature of the work of municipal government is to listen to stories from members of the community they serve. “I’ve had to learn how to stay totally focused on the constituents,” she said.
Finally, there are the stories she hopes to tell in the future.
Dubois is not yet sure where her future career will lead, but she wants to use the leadership skills she’s developed at O’Neill to inspire positive change.
As a research assistant in Prof. Shahzeen Attari’s laboratory, Dubois has been researching the way we tell stories about climate change. “A lot of environmental management focuses on doom and gloom. So, we’ve been examining climate storytelling and asking how we can inspire a more utopian, rather than dystopian, vision of the planet’s future to positively influence people’s behavior. It’s a game changer.”
Dubois hopes her work will make a difference on a large scale – but she also knows that change often happens at the individual level, one story at a time.
In her own words, “Leadership is most effective when it empowers others.”