LEAP Alumnae Profile: Alex Kohut ’12

Interview by Rebecca Shaw ‘13

Campus Activities:

Russian Club, Tour guide in the Admissions office

What made you decide to participate in LEAP?

I was drawn to LEAP because I was interested in developing a set of leadership tools and skills that I could apply in various situations. I was very excited to become involved in the Bryn Mawr community and I recognized that having so little leadership experience and training, this program would help me to contribute to the community in most effectively. Also, I was intrigued by the prospect of wellness credit.

 What are some key lessons you learned during LEAP? (about yourself, leadership, team dynamics, etc)

It’s been almost three years since I completed LEAP, so the specifics are a little bit fuzzy, but one of the best things I took away from LEAP was all of the experience I gained working with students who were naturally inclined towards different leadership styles. Not just working with such a varied cohort on different projects, but also hearing first hand their ideas on leadership gave me a really great understanding of different approaches and perspectives that I utilize and apply in my everyday life to this day. Also, I really appreciated the speakers we brought in to talk about developing certain professional skills like interviewing, resume writing, and communication. I felt like this provided me with very important information and skills, as well as a certain level of confidence that helped me to be a leader both in the traditional sense and within my own personal life.

What is your proudest accomplishment at Bryn Mawr?

Every time I lead a tour and I see the same excitement that I felt upon visiting Bryn Mawr for the first time in the eyes of a fresh, new prospective student, I can’t help but to feel a certain amount of pride knowing that I had some part in inspiring that. More personally, I feel very proud of the personal growth I’ve made at Bryn Mawr and my academic achievements in the field of Russian, due to which I have received a number of opportunities to represent the Bryn Mawr Russian department at various academic conferences.

What is a challenge you faced, and how did you grow from it?

I think one of the greatest challenges I faced during my time at Bryn Mawr was learning to pick and choose the areas of my life in which I took on a leadership position and learning to think about leadership differently than I was used to thinking about it. I feel that as a student at Bryn Mawr we’re always being encouraged to take on leadership roles and positions. However, after several attempts during my first couple years at Bryn Mawr to take on what I perceived to be “leadership roles” I found myself failing miserably in those positions. It was really hard for me to go through that because the conclusion I drew from that experience was that in spite of all of my training and good intentions, in spite of what I had been told, maybe I wasn’t a very good leader after all. Of course, I have since come to understand that this conclusion is very much false and learned to start thinking of leadership roles.

How did you figure out what you wanted to get involved in? (campus and career) And what you wanted to major in? Was there a pivotal moment?

With regard to my major and career path, I realized during the course of my sophomore year that the class (Russian) I had taken to compliment what I had intended to be my major (political science) ended up being the thing that I was enjoying most. So I decided to double major and eventually I dropped the political science major. As for extracurricular activities, I simply tried everything. I attended all the meetings I could, went to all the events I could manage. I signed up for things, talked to people, read flyers and emails. Of course this method also has its drawbacks in that it’s very time-consuming and very easy to get burnt out. What’s most important is to eventually make decisions and choices.

 What advice would you give to an underclassman?

Try to keep an open mind, ask for help when you need it (including funding) without worrying about what people will think (especially your professors, but also your classmates), and work hard and honestly – put in everything you have, that way people will give you the benefit of the doubt and you’ll find help when you need it.

Also, never give up. One step at a time. Not everything will work out. Sometimes you’ll mess up and there will be no fixing it. Sometimes things aren’t fair. But you can always do what you can and that’s respectable.