Occupational Therapy major Victoria Donahue is a member and Treasurer for both Best Buddies and the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA). A junior from West Roxbury, MA, she spends her time as a student balancing her class responsibilities, student organization roles, and a job at the Wellness Center. Throughout the last two years Victoria has learned that leadership is about learning and growing through experiences, and her confidence in her leadership skills has soared.
What is your definition of a great leader? In my opinion, a great leader is someone who listens to their peers and uses the public’s voice in power. A great leader isn’t just someone who takes their own ideas and bases everything off of them- they need to listen and learn about what the public wants and how they can help them. A great leader is someone who is not cocky and knows that they need to hear everyone else’s ideas to help form their own. Lastly, a great leader is someone who looks out for others, and offers help when needed.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned when it comes to leadership? The biggest lesson I learned when it comes to leadership is that not everyone is going to agree with you and like you. This is something that took me a long time to learn because I am such a people pleaser. I try to have everyone like me and will do my best to change their opinions on me. I used to care so much about what other people thought of me, it took over my life. Although it has been hard, I have finally accepted that not everyone I meet is going to like me and that is okay. This is something a lot of people deal with because it brings them down and makes them think of themselves as less of a leader. There is no leader that everybody likes and agrees with, and I think this lesson was the most important for me to learn.
We really want to highlight the intersection of identity, culture, and leadership development. Can you share how your identity has shaped your leadership style throughout the years? When you meet me you would never guess that I could be shy, or get anxious in front of large groups of people. I guess I have always used being sociable and extroverted as a cover to hide my insecurities. I used to feel sick to my stomach when the idea of public speaking was brought up, and would try to avoid it at all costs. I came to the point of acceptance that no one wanted to listen to this girl from West Roxbury, MA and that I was going to let my male peers overpower me because that’s the way society is, right? Boy, was I wrong. I realized that as a woman, I had the right to share my opinions and speak my truth as much as any other male. My role model has and will always be Audrey Hepburn, and did she ever let a male stand in her way? No. In my opinion she was one of the strongest and most influential women in history, and taught me that it is okay to be yourself and to express your own opinions.
What would you say has been your best experience here at WSU? This is such a hard question to answer since I have had so many awesome experiences here at WSU. If I had to pick I would pick when my friends and I went to New York City with SEC in Spring 2019. I have been to NYC with my family before, but when I was given the opportunity to go with my best friends for only $10 I could not say no. The day started off with an early bus ride but after that- amazing. We walked through Central Park, visited the Museum of Natural History, ate a New York bagel with lox, and just walked around the city that never sleeps. Although we only went for a day, it was probably one of the best things I have ever done here at WSU! If the trip ever gets offered again, I highly recommend going!
What was your most meaningful experience while at WSU? The most meaningful experience while at WSU hands down has to be making the friends I have today. I am not going to list them, but they know who they are. To all of them: Thank you for making me feel like I have belonged at WSU, and caring for me and showing me what true friends are. People say that you meet your lifelong friends while in college, and I can truly understand why. Thank you to all of my friends who have stuck by me these past few years, I appreciate all of you, and truly believe that you all have made me a better person.
What has been your biggest accomplishment since beginning your journey at WSU? I always was on the honor roll in high school, and when I got to college I did not expect it to be any different. First semester went by and I realized “wow… this is hard.” When all my peers were making Dean’s List, I couldn’t help but get discouraged. “Was I smart enough? Do I have what it takes to be an OT major?” With all those thoughts and questions in my mind- I had one goal: next semester I was going to make the Dean’s List. I changed the way I studied, focused more, and learned what I needed to do to succeed. After all this hard work, I made Dean’s List, and have ever since. I would say that has been my biggest accomplishment because it allowed me to reevaluate myself and help me be my best.
What advice would you give to students who are just beginning to explore the type of leader, or the type of person, they hope to become? The biggest piece of advice I could give is never stop trying. If I stopped running for leadership positions after high school, I wouldn’t be the person who I am today. I would still believe leadership is about popularity, and that my ideas do not matter. I am so happy that I kept trying because I can honestly say it has made me a better person!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your leadership journey? It may seem cheesy but I honestly believe that everything does happen for a reason. If something does not go your way, you have to wait because it will all make sense later! It may seem hard and difficult in the moment, but I promise you- the best is yet to come.