Anna Johnson, a junior studying sociology with a minor in pre-law, is all-in when it comes to life as a Worcester State student. A Worcester, MA native, Anna has spent the past two years building an impressive resume of leadership and involvement experiences. She is currently the Student Trustee, a Presidential Student Ambassador, Third World Alliance Chair, and member of the Academic Policy Committee, Bias Incident Response Team, and Christian Fellowship. That’s all while balancing community work with the Cultural Exchange Through Soccer, the Liberian Association of Worcester, and the Student Advisory Counseling of the MA Higher Education Department.
How do you think you’ve changed as a leader throughout your time at WSU, and what aspects of your experience most influenced this change? I believe as a leader I am always growing no matter where I am, but since coming to WSU my different leadership roles have helped me become a more mature leader. Working on different projects as a leader allowed me to be open and willing to learn and hear from others. To me, being a leader is all about building a relationship where you can understand your teammate and they can understand you; we all have different personalities and different skill sets that make us who we are. As a leader I learnt to always be open to learning from others while trying new ways to become a better leader.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned when it comes to leadership? The biggest lesson I have learned as a leader is that leaders are followers. For me to be able to lead and lead effectively I must first be open and willing to follow and learn for others, because that is the only way I can grow as a leader. My grandma is a very good baker and decorator so she does a lot of wedding catering and decorations, but when she is hired to decorate and someone else is hired to cater she listens to the other person and learn from them instated of saying “I can do this” or “I can do it better,” she is always open minded to trying out the other persons way of doing things . So I learned from her how to be a better follower so I can be a better leader.
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? As a Black woman, not many opportunities are handed to me and I don’t always get to be seated at the decision making table, so I always have to work twice as hard then my white counterpart to be afforded an opportunity. So as a leader I am constantly working hard to make sure I am leading the right way and by example so that other Black girls out there can see me as their representation and know what they can be and do what they set their mind to do regardless of societal barriers. As a leader, I want other Black girls to see me advocating and know that they can also use their voice for change. As a leader I am constantly looking for a new way to highlight who I am and my identity to give others the power to be themselves and strive for more with confidence.
What would you say has been your best experience here at WSU? My best experience at Worcester State was hosting the Multicultural Fashion Show for Third World Alliance, and putting together a photo shoot called “A Different Shade of Black.” The portraits from the shoot showed Black hair, Black identity and Black fashion. These were my best experiences because these tasks allowed us to showcase the beauty in multiculturalism and showcase the beauty in being different and also functioned as a way to help change the narrative of how Brown and Black people are seen in our communities.
What was your most meaningful experience while at WSU? My most meaningful experience at WSU has been finding a major that speaks to me and my abilities and one that fits the person I am perfectly. The experiences I have had in my class learning and doing what I enjoy the most has been the most meaningful.
What has been your biggest accomplishment since beginning your journey at WSU? My biggest accomplishment is getting to serve my fellow students and advocating for them any way I can. Using my voice to advocate for things students are facing and see change happen is one of my greatest accomplishments.
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? I will say to those people or to that person to believe in themselves, it is first step in believing you can do and be whatever you set your mind to, then go on to love and appreciate yourself because that builds up your confidence. And above all don’t be afraid to be yourself while learning from other and listening to others.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your leadership journey? After undergrad I plan to go to law school; I hope to serve the youth in our communities that have been under served by the justice system. I believe that our justice system is broken and a lot of young Black youth has been victims of this failed system. My goal is to become a defense attorney to help bring justice to people that have been denied justice by the system.