In spring of 2015, I took the international studies course “Disaster Capitalism” with Barb Stuart and was inspired by the professor’s decentralized approach to pedagogy. Not only was the subject matter of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine challenging and engaging, but the student-lead nature of the course challenged traditional expectations of what a college classroom should be.
After taking the course, Professor Stuart invited me to collaborate in researching a case study of the course and its attempts at incorporating decolonized pedagogy tactics in the classroom. When I studied abroad in Cochabamba, Bolivia during the fall of my junior year, I completed a month-long research project on decolonizing research practices and the indigenous pedagogy practices of the Casimiro Huanca Quechua Indigenous University. Decolonialism, while incredibly complex, critiques Eurocentric and Western-dominant methods of learning, knowledge formation and being. Decolonialism in academia calls for challenges to oppressive power structures, a re-imagining of research ethics and a commitment to centering historically marginalized voices in the classroom.
Professor Stuart and I co-authored our paper for the sub-theme “Decolonizing Organization Studies: In Search of a New Bandung” for the 6th LAEMOS Colloquium in Viña Del Mar, Chile; it was selected amongst a pool of over 250 submissions. Professor Stuart was unable to attend the conference, so I was accepted as the primary presenter of our paper.
The PLP Passport Fund was instrumental in supporting my dream to present research at an international conference. I used the fund to cover my registration and accommodation expenses. In all honesty, I would not have been able to the conference without the support of PLP, and I am humbled to have been chosen as a scholarship recipient. Presenting as an undergraduate researcher alongside academics well into their professional careers was a nerve-racking experience; however, I learned that taking risks and engaging with authenticity, even when you may not be the most ‘knowledgeable’ or ‘experienced’ person in the room, are valuable ways to grow as a leader, listener and person.
I’ve been dwelling a lot on the aesthetics of leadership. We don’t really like to talk about the ugliness of leadership- about the discomfort or imperfectness that finds us in the quiet moments of the process. Instead, leadership is represented as individual accolades: a desperate attempt to promote achievement until your name becomes synonymous with ‘success’. Through accolades, we skip right to an immaculate end state. This end state is not untrue, but rather, incomplete (to quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).
My experience was an incredible extension of my research in Bolivia and helped prepare me for a career pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition (with hopes to someday become a college professor). Below, I have written a short story reflecting on my time in Chile, my role as a novice presenter and lessons learned about leadership. Thank you for reading!
Blog post written by: Aly Higgins
This project was made possible through the awarding of a Passport Grant made possible by the generous contributions of PLP Alumni and Friends. Thank you to all who empower PLPers to do amazing things!