Leadership and Expertise

Over the years, the first blog prompt was about expectations for the academic year. Students wrote about their fears, excitement, and everything in between. As directors, we provided encouragement and support while welcoming them into the program. This year, we decided to do something different. As a critical thinking professor, the final essay I assign is “what are you an expert on?” With guiding questions including the following:

  •       What do you know, and can you distinguish that from what you believe about your topic?
  •       Explain why you are an expert? How much have you invested in this topic (learning, reading, using, applying…)?
  •       Who are other experts/authorities on the topic and how does your knowledge compare to theirs?

This is usually a two-to-three-page paper. However, some students were so enamored by the topic they went over the required length and one submitted a seven-page paper and a PowerPoint presentation. Some students struggled because the thought of being an expert about something made them question themselves…this is one point of the exercise, shhhh.

What I noticed is that some students don’t value what they know to be of significance. Some devalue what they know because they don’t have a title, a job, or old enough. This sometimes is because of their perspective of the word “expert” and whether it applies to them. However, in true Futures Initiative fashion, this assignment “empowers the next generation of intellectual leaders.” It makes them evaluate themselves and the topic and the many ways they and others perceive it. By doing so, some not only express their passion, but also articulate an awareness that they may have not been conscious of. For this academic year, the Leaders have chosen “Advocacy and Accountability” as the theme, which sparks conversations about authenticity and credibility. Although not always explicitly, the Leaders have been touching on these subjects in their blogs.  To learn more about their expertise of the Leaders, I highly recommend you check out their posts!


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309