Everything I Needed to Know About Leadership I Learned from the NJLEND Cohort Crest Project

Dominique Reminick, MA (she/her); NJLEND Psychology Fellow 2021-2022

May 6, 2022

Of the multitude of meaningful didactic and experiential learning activities afforded by the NJLEND program, none is quite as unique as the Cohort Crest project. This project, which runs the span of the fellowship, entails the cohort working together as a group to create a crest, or emblem of some sort, which represents our communal identity as a cohort. While a seemingly simple idea, this activity serves several purposes (both overt and covert) that help us to strengthen and hone our skills as emerging leaders.

Firstly, this project offers an opportunity for all of the fellows to come together and begin the process of getting to know one another, both professionally and personally. Forging these connections is one of the most important aspects of LEND, as the ability to develop interdisciplinary relationships is an essential skill for effective leadership.

Secondly, this activity creates an impetus for us to intentionally join together in working towards a shared goal, and practice utilizing our leadership skills as we navigate our joint venture. In my experience working on the Crest, the process of leadership unfolded naturally, and was shared amongst our cohort, with each member bringing their valuable skills and perspective to the work. For example, one person used their extraversion and organizational skills to get the project going, sharing a notes document that could be accessed by all members, and creating a space for collaboration. Once oriented, additional members of the group began sharing their thoughts, using the knowledge and know-how from their discipline to contribute creative and useful ideas. When the time arose for implementing our ideas in a visual medium, the cohort member with technological skills guided the group through the online platform Canva to create the initial draft of our Crest, ensuring that everyone had the opportunity to engage with the technology in a way that was comfortable to them. Towards the end of the project, another member of the group facilitated the process of reviewing the final product, using an inclusive approach to ensure everyone’s suggestions were considered and incorporated. Further, we created a visual image description for our crest, as this aligned with our cohort values of accessibility and inclusion.

Developing a Cohort Crest together served as a model for how collaborative and effective leadership can transpire. In different ways, each member contributed meaningfully to the work, sharing their own expertise and appreciating the expertise of others. We explored our individual and collective identities as emerging leaders in real-time, practicing our interpersonal and communication skills in community with each other, while mutually motivating, inspiring, and support one another. In addition to this rich experience, we also have a tangible reminder of our time learning and growing together: our final Cohort Crest (see image below). Overall, participating in this project was an important phase in my leadership journey, and helped foster a better understanding of my values, and solidify my skills, as an emerging leader. Hopefully, my cohort members and I will bring this wisdom with us into our future leadership work in the field of neurodevelopmental and related disabilities.