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Everyday Leadership

Aleks Syniec '18

Aleksandra Syniec '18 

Aleksandra Syniec '18 chose Dickinson because, as she puts it, “students here really get to dive deep into their passions while also cultivating themselves as community members and leaders." Now, that’s exactly what she’s doing as a double major in history and sociology. Whether it’s through her internship with the National Association of Attorneys General; her interdisciplinary Mosaic research course probing geography, class, race and gender in Brazil; or a student-faculty research project creating educational videos on history, she’s learning how to take her studies beyond the “ivory tower” and make an impact on the wider world.


History and sociology.

Clubs and organizations:  

Mock Trial, Community Advisor for Drayer Hall, Student Project Manager at the Clarke Forum, Wheel & Chain, Service Trip Leader, Liberty Cap Tour Guide, student interviewer for admissions and past student supervisor in the Dining Hall.


Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Alpha Theta, Omicron Delta Kappa.

On choosing my major:

I knew coming into college that I wanted to major in history. When I was little, instead of bedtime stories, my parents read me Polish legends that took place in a faraway time of dragons and castles. Ever since then I’ve had a passion for learning as much as I could about how our past informs our future. The decision to major in sociology came later, when I realized that I wanted to focus on social history. It’s fascinating to learn about how and why we interact with one another the way we do. Sociological awareness helps us to take off our blinders and see the world as multidimensional. By double majoring in both history and sociology, I hope to advocate for more authentic and conscientious stories of people who have been forgotten, ignored and silenced.

On choosing Dickinson:

I came across Dickinson rather late in my college search, but if I had to pick one crucial factor as to why I decided to attend, it would be the people. I remember sitting in the Admissions House and talking to a student double majoring in art history and music who was actually curating a museum exhibition in The Trout Gallery. Students here really get to dive deep into their passions while also cultivating themselves as community members and leaders.

Favorite learning experience so far:

Working as a student project manager at the Clarke Forum has been an amazing opportunity to learn about contemporary topics outside of my majors by interacting with some phenomenal scholars. One of my favorite experiences so far has been the opportunity to connect with Professor [George] Lipsitz, a black studies and sociology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. When interviewing him, he shared with me the value of learning about people with people, instead of treating people as research topics. His work focused a lot on using empathy and human understanding to rethink how we look at education and start learning from one another. His passion and optimism re-energized my efforts in a world so downtrodden with bad news.

Favorite book:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Favorite movie:


Most important lesson I’ve learned so far:  

Throughout my time at Dickinson I have gained many new skills through my coursework and experiences on and off campus. An overarching theme that always comes back to me is how we craft leaders and who gets to be one. Addressing large-scale problems can be very daunting and can seem impossible. However, if we take an individual-based approach, a more empathetic approach, we can make people care and feel cared for. This is the notion of everyday leadership. Everyday leadership is fueled by actions that make people feel valued and seen in our society. Once someone feels like they belong to the community around them, they feel more invested in protecting and bettering it.  So that’s what I try to do. In my many roles, I have learned that being approachable and working alongside peers as equals fosters a wave of some pretty amazing leaders who will do the same for others.

On study abroad:

During the summer between my first year and sophomore year, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a Brazil Mosaic, in which we traveled to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Salvador to study geography, class, race and gender. We had the chance to learn about people’s experiences with racial inequality, class segregation and community engagement. My main takeaway from the experience was that just because something is different does not mean that it is wrong.

Favorite place on campus:

The upstairs of the Quarry.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Steak fries with cheese sauce!

Biggest influence:

I am the proud daughter of two very hardworking individuals. My parents came to this country from Poland when they were about my age. They left everything and everyone they’d ever known to start a new life in the United States. It is because of their sacrifices, struggles and successes that I am here at Dickinson. They have taught me what it means to work hard and be resilient. Growing up in a Polish-American household has shaped me extensively and given me the privilege of embracing two cultures. Yes, I didn’t enjoy going to Polish school every weekend at the time, but looking back, I am so grateful to my parents for instilling in me the Polish language and culture. Seeing them work hard and long hours to provide for me and my brother has taught me the importance of taking pride in the work you do as well as persistence. Through the work I am doing now, I hope to give voice to the experiences of my parents in this country as well as others whose work is the foundation to this country.

About my internship:

In the fall of my junior year I had the opportunity to intern in D.C. through our externship program with the Washington Center. While there, I interned with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) as a meetings intern. I was drawn to this internship because I wanted to learn more about how attorneys general communicate with one another to tackle legal issues.

During my time with NAAG, I had the opportunity to learn more about the opioid epidemic. I got the chance to help advertise, prepare for and run the national conference for attorneys general coming together with pharmacists, law enforcement and legislators to attack the epidemic from multiple angles for a more holistic solution. Since I hope to become a lawyer, it was exciting to see how people from different professions can intersect and help one another out.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… Tadeusz KoĹ›ciuszko.

In a perfect world …

…our society would value love over power.

About my research:

During the summer of my sophomore year, I had the honor of working with [Professor of History] Karl Qualls to create history tutorial videos on topics in modern European history. It was a history buff’s dream come true. Once I heard about Professor Qualls’ idea to create videos that teach about important trends in history, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it. I think it is important that we do not keep academia in an ivory tower. Providing educational material [in this way] helps make knowledge more accessible to a greater amount of people. In addition, putting concepts such as Marxism or modernity into a 10-minute video is no easy feat; it forces us to pull important facets from these historical trends and revaluate how we write history.

Getting to collaborate with a professor I really admire and respect has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was inspiring to bounce ideas back and forth on how we wanted to cultivate and portray these histories. I also had the chance to conceptualize different theories and concepts in photos and diagrams while exploring visual and auditory learning techniques, and I got to play a camera operator with a whole green screen, lights and microphone setup!

Read more Student SnapshotsLearn more about how Dickinson shares student and faculty research with the wider world in “Sharing Scholarship.”


Published November 28, 2017