The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Vanessa Haggans '23 RGLP Reflection: Adaptability and Discomfort Benefit Global Leaders

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Adaptability in an increasingly globalized world requires self-awareness, an understanding of different cultural values, and learning to be comfortable with discomfort. Additionally, adaptation involves respecting others and a willingness to pursue new and unfamiliar circumstances. While it might require modifying certain behaviors to respect cultural norms in some situations, adaptation does not require total conformation to the surrounding environment. Rather, it is a balance of honoring one’s own background and perspectives while simultaneously exploring the similarities and differences that exist between cultures.


Self-reflection is very important for effective adaptation to new experiences and cultural environments. Effective leaders must maintain self-awareness to understand the biases and perspectives they bring when entering into new situations. Reflecting on the values and experiences that influence one’s worldview is therefore essential to maintaining respect and self-awareness. RGLP gave us the opportunity to explore these personal perspectives, and I plan to continue this self-reflection far beyond the program.


The ability to adapt to new cultural situations is very important for global leadership at a professional and personal level. Through scenarios and activities in our weekly RGLP sessions, our cohort experienced firsthand how understanding different cultural norms and practices is relevant for business negotiations and interpersonal relations. As students, we learned how to adjust our mindsets to respect differences instead of making split-second judgements. RGLP taught me that adaptation requires getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, and that uncertainty helps leaders grow. Beyond the professional sphere, adaptability is important for individual intercultural interactions. Those who can find comfort surrounded by people with different perspectives and views will benefit from the wealth of knowledge these individuals bring. Diversity of thought and perspectives strengthens individual understanding of issues and motivates action on a global scale.


In my time at Dartmouth and beyond, I hope to apply these lessons of adaptation to my daily life. I seek opportunities to connect with new cultures and understand how my world might look similar and different than others’. Adaptability ultimately involves curiosity and a willingness to pursue new experiences that bring comfort and discomfort.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences