Respecting All Voices
Lauren makes room for new leaders and transforms organizations
“Because I told you so.” The statement’s dismissiveness is something UC Santa Cruz student Lauren Porter and many young people remember often being told in response to a question. It shuts down conversations, and perpetuates static outdated policies and procedures.
“Telling someone ‘Because I said so’ undermines them as a person because it implies you’re not good enough to know the reason why something is happening,” Lauren said during a conversation about valuing every student’s voice in her organizations.
Instead, Lauren embraces the Student Agency Model, where asking questions is encouraged, and reevaluation solves problems and strengthens programs. Through multiple organizations, Lauren has fostered spaces where students are encouraged to speak up and suggest new things, or question old ones.
She realized the potential of student voice through her participation in the UCSC Greek-Letter community which practices student agency to unite organizations with widely varying ideas, opinions, and missions. The Greek-Letter Expansion Council, which consists of five students and two advisors all with equal voting power, was considering a proposal to expand Greek Life with new organizations. The vote to approve the expansion came down to 5-2 — it just happened the two opposed were the two staff advisors on the board.
The students expected the decision to be overturned. They figured that when it came down to the final policy, those in authority would decide what is so. When the staff supported the democratic process and upheld the decision, the students realized they truly were in charge of their programs. Their opinions and decisions mattered. It changed the way Lauren thought about her role as a leader, and the power students have to direct their programs — but not without dedication and collaboration.
“You have to work really hard in any space you’re in,” Lauren said. “You can’t just sit back and think that something is going to come to me really easily. You have to be more than just on top of your work, but willing to put in extra effort — you have to take initiative.”
Following Expansion Council’s decision, Lauren was voted in as the council’s president, and the same year was also the women’s club soccer team’s president. Whether they were organization advisors, women on the team and in her sorority, or her parents, Lauren relied on mentors to learn from and grow into her leadership roles while balancing a demanding academic course load.
“Inspiring others has always been the principle of student agency that I’ve identified with the most,” Lauren said. “You need to support the people after you because no one gets where they are just by themselves. They all have had help along the way.”
When Lauren sat down for her interview at Santa Cruz Biotechnology, she knew her academics were strong, but that they wouldn’t stand out from other applicants of a competitive laboratory job. A biochemistry and environmental studies major, Lauren chose a different emphasis for her interview — her experience through student agency and leadership gained through a vast array of extracurricular activities.
When fielding interview questions for her dream job at a local research facility, she spoke about what was closest to her heart — collective vision.
“We had a talk about mentorship, about my time with the soccer team and how I’ve been building up my organization so that it could continue on,” Lauren said. “I’ve learned you can’t just do something and let it drop and fall away. He was really impressed that I had these views already in mind coming into a business.”
Lauren has worked at the biotech company for almost two years now, and continues to suggest new ideas or processes when she sees room for improvement. She balances efficiency and effectiveness, never losing sight of the people she works with and what their input on a situation is.
“It’s the confidence that people have like given me throughout my college experience that has led me to be a leader,” Lauren said. “I love sitting and talking with people and throwing out the ideas and combining them with other people’s ideas to come up with innovative programs.”