Leadership ePortfolio

Tiburon Mariposa Lilies by Julia Kudler

Julia Kudler

Personal Introduction

As a leader, I am a deep thinker, creative problem solver, and caring mentor. These identities allow me to keep myself and those I’m working with solving problems together, thoughtfully and creatively, bringing us to a final solution that meets all criteria, but is more than any of us might have anticipated. As a collaborator, I do my best to empower those around me while at the same time challenging myself and others to continually examine our preconceptions and break through false limitations.

Creativity is important to me because I feel it is what keeps us progressing as a society. It is only by thinking outside of the box that we have been able to challenge our own norms and assumptions, and therefore find new solutions. 

Curiosity is important to me because it is what drives us to create a richer understanding of the world around us. If creativity is what facilitates human progress, curiosity is what drives it. It is also through curiosity that we forge greater understandings with experiences outside of our own.

Compassion is important to me because I believe that progress is not truly progress if it is only shared by a few. Nothing I accomplish will mean much if that accomplishment comes at a detriment for those around me.

I feel that integrity is especially vital given our current socio-economic system, which often rewards duplicity and ruthlessness.

Determination is important to me because I have that voice in myself that just tells me to quit when something gets hard, and yet all of my proudest moments occurred precisely because I didn’t listen to it.

I want to open and facilitate conversations. We live in a society where we struggle to communicate with one another, especially in areas where we have different experiences or do not agree. As a queer, disabled, Jewish woman it is deeply important for me to create a dialogue that allows others to understand my experience and the experiences of those whose identities are similar to mine. I believe that such a dialogue is the only way to reshape our system, which was not built with these identities in mind. At the same time, I do what I do because communication is a two-way street, and I can only create a conversation if I am open to listening to and understanding the perspectives, both of people with different experiences from my own, and people who have different views on their similar experiences.

As I move forward, I know that I will continue to be civically engaged and fight to make sure that all voices are heard. Nothing I accomplish will mean much if that accomplishment comes at a detriment for those around me. I will continue to nurture curiosity and innovation in myself and others, and ensure that expediency never overshadows creativity. I will be a life-long learner in the most holistic sense, not just because I am insatiably curious, but because it is only by embracing failure and examining the barriers in our way that we can ever grow.

Leadership Philosophy

Leadership is inspiring others to be the best they can be, do more than they imagined, find elements of creativity they did not know they possessed. The balance between when to challenge and when to support is difficult to find but essential to have. In some ways a good leader has as much positive space as negative space – you feel the leadership in what they don’t do as much as in what they do.

To me, the key principles of leadership are:

  • Innovation
  • Listening
  • Patience
  • Clarity
  • Curiosity
  • Transparency
  • Compassion

If you are looking for what each person can bring to the table, and are in pursuit of being the best support you can be, then you are meeting the individual where they can be most successful. You will celebrate and honor the different perspectives they bring. Being an ally centers around valuing a person’s point of view; an effective leader draws out an individual’s brilliance.

My views about leadership and my own leadership style have changed over time. My creativity, my ability to think outside of the box and come up with workable solutions that were effective for not only myself but also others put me in a particular kind of leadership position. I was the person who found the pre-teen campers hilarious, who loved finding kinesthetic ways to teach a difficult lesson, who came up with a different approach, who created the perfect work-around. Although a leader needs to be curious and creative and find the best in the people they’re working with, they also need to put others in the spotlight, design systems that encourage others to find those creative solutions, structure teams that can build upon the ideas of the people around them.  

Empathy and compassion are at the core of my value system as a person and as a leader. They are important to me because I believe that progress is not truly progress if it is only shared by a few. Nothing I accomplish will mean much if that accomplishment comes at a detriment to those around me. 

As a writing tutor my specialty is working with students across a wide range of majors, writing backgrounds, nationalities, and levels of English proficiency. It is essential that I come to meet each of these students where they are, rather than expect them to conform to some standard that I presuppose. My job is to support my students and foster their own skills rather than imposing some abstract ideal of academic writing onto them. The worst thing you can do as a tutor is assume you know where your student is coming from. 

I feel that this is true in leadership as well: a leader must work with the team they have on the problem they are confronting, rather than attempting to make the world (people and situations) conform to their presuppositions and preferences.

Examples of Work

Computer Skills Teacher

What Having to Rewrite a Curriculum on the Fly Taught Me about Teaching and Learning

My lanyards from teaching at iD Tech — over a dozen different camps at half a dozen campuses, but none more challenging than the very first!

My very first week teaching at iD Tech summer computer camp, I was asked to teach a class in JavaScript. The company provided a curriculum with detailed lesson plans. As soon as I met the students, however, I realized that these plans assumed skills that the students had not yet learned. Between the first and second day of the camp, I designed a new set of lesson plans that allowed the students to approach the material in a more incremental manner while achieving the same result by the camp’s end. This experience taught me how to work backwards: determine the end goal, establish the necessary steps to achieve that goal, and build in moments of assessment and quality assurance.

Teaching a computer language to middle-school students gives them the opportunity to enhance their ability to think logically, to understand the practical end of programming, and to develop neural pathways that enable them to think critically and analytically. It also helps them to better understand the technological world we live in. I have always been interested in the intersection between creativity and computation. Through this challenge, I learned that even in a field as apparently logic-based as programming, it is essential to remain flexible and imaginative. We are not yet at a place where machine learning and artificial intelligence can replicate the adaptability of the human frontal cortex.

For this job, I:

  • Taught week-long classes to groups of 8–10 students in Python (“Build, Invent, and Code Your Take-Home  Laptop”), Java (“Coding: Build Mods with Minecraft”), JavaScript (“Coding 101”), and Lua and Game Design  (“Roblox Entrepreneur”)
  • Instructed students in basic coding, debugging, and game design concepts and techniques
  • Worked directly with camp directors at 6 different locations (Santa Rosa, San Anselmo, Sacramento State, Las Positas College, UC Berkeley, and Stanford) to coordinate week-long programming and game development camps for children ages 8–18
  • Organized and prepared facilities and assisted in organizing load-out
  • Adapted curriculum for case-specific implementations

Through this experience I gained a number of competencies: 

Other perspectives

When I looked at the way the JavaScript curriculum was written, I was concerned; these campers were interested in computer games but had been signed up for a very non-games-oriented course. I had a sense of the kind of prepackaged coding tools that the students had been working with and I realized that the lesson plans that iD Tech had provided to me assumed more sophisticated knowledge than the students possessed. I put myself in the mindset of a twelve-year-old student, surrounded by other middle-school students they didn’t know, in an environment that was unfamiliar to them, and I recognized that the best way to get them to take a chance and grapple with a subject they hadn’t already become familiar with was to start with things they already knew and build incrementally toward more complex skills and concepts.

Systems Thinking

There is an inaccurate saying that those who can, do, and those can’t, teach — nothing could be further from the truth. In order to teach something, you have to know your subject so well that you cannot just apply it, but also dissect it into its component pieces, and then allow each one of those pieces to represent a skill that is teachable, assessable, repeatable, and applicable. Taking apart someone else’s curriculum, finding the parts that were going to work well and rethinking those pieces that were not, really did teach me how to see both the whole and the fractal parts at the same time.

Idea generation

Tackling this curricular problem, I found myself designing games that could be done both on and off of the computer. Not every idea achieved everything I wanted it to, but each idea had that sweet spot where the student could gain enough information to then transfer that knowledge to the next step in learning to use JavaScript. Nothing trains a person better to think outside the box than teaching a room full of students, all at different experience levels, to abstract, to analyze and to apply. Having to reach each of those very different intelligences forced me to be creative and layered in my approach, creating exercises that worked on different levels for different students (and that also kept the class fun and entertaining — this was, after all, a summer camp).


I certainly learned as much as I taught over that week. I gained an appreciation for the importance of introducing new information through using more than one modality — presenting the information kinesthetically, visually, auditorily, and tactilely. Each break I would madly take notes on what did work — and for which students — and what did not work — and for which students. There were times when just pairing the students up differently made the exercises more effective for each group. There were times when my well-laid plans completely failed and I punted, hard. I was always reassessing, challenging myself, and trying to give myself the same pep talk I would one of my students. That teaching job truly was a learning experience for me.


All my favorite, most impactful, teachers were constructivists. They created a learning environment where the learners, through a series of lessons, applications, and assessments,  taught themselves. It was my intention to allow each member of the camp to learn at their own pace in their own way — easier to do when the work revolves around creating something tangible. It helped that the code would either work or not, and that the student had the luxury of time (camp) to attempt to solve the problem on their own. It was about waiting and listening: waiting until their thoughts could be articulated, and listening to the way they approached the solution, and then echoing that back to them. It might have taken less time to give them the solution but it was much more rewarding to watch them succeed on their own. 

Group development

It is hard to create a group dynamic in a camp that is designed for the individual. One of the ways in which my scrambling to rewrite the curriculum as I was teaching really benefited the campers was that, out of necessity, I had to have them work together on some tasks. This gave them the chance to teach one another. That lesson keeps dancing on the periphery of my own growth — working together, sharing ideas, strengths, shoring up weaknesses is an essential part of creation. Even when I am writing, a solitary scrivener, I am using pieces of lived experience, my own and others. 


Having to make constant adjustments to meet the demands of each student allowed me to be both the teacher and the student. My campers loved the class, felt valued, felt empowered, and were successful. They were more willing to be inclusive because they felt included. Was it the panic I felt that made me such a keen observer and allowed me to get to know each camper better? Perhaps. Nonetheless, I know that I was able to make each of the campers, most of whom didn’t know each other before the week started, feel as if they were very much a part of the group.


My employer had provided me with a wonderfully thought-out lesson plan. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a lesson plan that would work for those students. In circumstances such as these, iD Tech tells teachers to turn to the camp’s lead instructor to problem solve — but I was the lead instructor for the camp. And since it was my first week with the company, I didn’t have any fellow teachers to bounce ideas off of or ask for assistance. And so I stood back and looked at what the lesson play was intended to achieve, I considered what my students were (and weren’t) already able to do, and I charted a course between the two.  

I learned a number of lessons that have affected the way I view my own approach to leadership: 

I learned that, as Prussian Field Marshal von Moltke is supposed to have said, “No battle plan survives the first engagement with the enemy.” That is, even the most meticulous, well-thought-out plans will need to be adjusted on the fly, once brought into the chaos of the real world.  Flexibility, creativity, and a clear sense of one’s objective are always essential qualities to embrace. I learned that, in working on any project, with any group of people, you must prepare to your fullest capability, but embrace the ability to turn on a dime at any moment to serve the end goal.

Teacher’s Assistant for a First-Year Writing Class

Do Freshmen Dream?

FYS 266 “Do Robots Dream” — a name inspired by Phillip K. Dick’s mind-bending speculative novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was the basis for the film Blade Runner 

I served as a Teacher’s Assistant for one of the freshman-year seminars offered through the English Department at Muhlenberg College, a course that all in-coming students had to take. This particular seminar was called “Do Robots Dream,” taught by Irene Chien, a Media and Communications professor, and so the main thrust of the class was looking at robots and artificial intelligence in film and television. As a Teacher’s Assistant it was my job to teach the composition section of the course. This position was meaningful for me in many ways. Learning to translate high academic ideals to a room of students unfamiliar with many of the concepts and with very different levels of preparation was an incredibly rewarding challenge. Again those core values of curiosity, compassion, and creativity served me well. 

This was the first time I taught people who did not necessarily care about the subject I was teaching or about learning to write effectively. I gained a great appreciation for understanding (and determining) where each student was at the start of this process. I learned to meet people where they actually were and not where I thought they should be. It was also a revelation to me that I had gone through such a transformation in terms of my own language, understanding and skills; in the two years since I had taken my own  freshman year seminar, I had developed a more academic understanding and the language skills to articulate that new found perspective in ways I might not have observed but for teaching a room filled with students who had not yet gone through that metamorphosis.

For this job, I:

  • Taught composition workshop to the class
  • Attended all classes, did all reading and watched of films
  • Helped lead group discussions
  • Met with individual students to workshop their essays 

Through this experience I gained a number of competencies: 


In order to determine where each student was in their understanding of composition, I had to learn to really listen. I learned to listen for the way they were able to articulate their own ideas as well as what elements of expository writing they could utilize. I listened to hear what they could do and built on that.  Part of listening is finding the right questions to ask; finding the right syntax, tone, and approach to make each student feel valued. If I could connect to them in some small way then getting past the I-don’t-want-to-be-here attitude was easier.  


Because I struggled (still struggle) with organizing my thoughts on paper I was sympathetic to the struggle each student faced. If you want to be brief then you must give yourself the time to revise. Time is a commodity we often spend without thought; this class gave me the time to really consider how I organize my own arguments. It still takes me much longer than I want to put my thoughts on paper but I have learned to make a well-crafted argument and to write with a clear, concise, voice. Oh, and I learned to value the art of proofreading.  


Although I had taken a writing analytic class in preparation to be a Teacher’s Assistant there is nothing more intimidating than facing a room filled with people just a smidge younger than you. There were many days when I did not feel confident — even though I knew the material, was well prepared, and loved the subject we were studying. As Amy Cuddy says, “Fake it until you make it.” I took this as an acting exercise and just pretended that I had all the confidence in the world and built on that. I met myself where I was. I think I did a pretty good job because I was able to get buy in from over 90% of the class. 


Having to work one-on-one with each student really honed my ability to mentor. Being a teen camp counselor in high school prepared me for building relationships with different types of people (at different places on the motivational spectrum). Watching the development over the term was rewarding. Allowing each student to build upon the success of the last paper, revisit all the ways in which they had grown as a writer was essential to me – it was how I had learned to love writing. I learned that mentoring is something that comes easily to me – it is how I approach a learning environment. 


How do teachers do it? We all have bad days but you just can’t bring that into the classroom. Students are like sharks in the water: they smell discontent like blood and they project that onto themselves. Again, my theater training helped me enormously – acting is not an individual sport. If you make each student feel seen, and valued then they will in turn make others feel valued. The obvious ways are the most effective: know their name, say hello, take the time to connect. On those days when I was not at my best I just put my focus on the students and tried to connect in some small way – and I felt better for it.    


As a writing tutor my specialty is working with students across a wide range of majors, writing backgrounds, nationalities, and levels of English proficiency. It is essential that I come to meet each of these students where they are, rather than expect them to conform to some standard that I presuppose. My job is to support my students and foster their own skills rather than imposing some abstract ideal of academic writing onto them. The worst thing you can do as a tutor is assume you know where your student is coming from.  

I learned a number of lessons that have affected the way I view my own approach to leadership: 

I learned that the greatest thing you can bring to a session with a client is an open mind and an open heart. My imposing an idea of what constituted good writing or a good paper was far less important than that each student should come away with a stronger, clearer idea of what they thought those things meant.

Theater Director

Bringing Brights into the Light

“Brights” performed as part of the Red Door Play Festival, a student-driven, highly creative crucible for creating theater art at a small, liberal arts college with a first-rate theater program

I chose to direct an extra-curricular Red Door Play Festival production at Muhlenberg College of the one-act play “Brights” by David Smilow. I was directing four peers, all of whom had conflicting schedules, and the rehearsal and performance spaces were always challenging to reserve. We had just six weeks to get the show ready for the one-act festival — have I said that this piece takes place in a car? This was an incredibly valuable experience for me because I had to adapt my vision for a show I loved and tailor the concept to the cast I was fortunate enough to cast. I learned a ton about time management, working around other people’s creative processes, and about not limiting myself. 

This directing experience was important to me for a number of reasons. I find it interesting that the lessons that stay with us we tend to learn more than once. When push comes to shove I am able to access a level of creativity that answers a number of different challenges. I have a fair amount of anxiety over whether my approach to any prompt, artistic endeavor, or problem solving opportunity will be creative enough, individual enough, well-thought through enough. But looking back over the different work experiences I have had, one of the recurring themes is my ability to find a creative solution that works for the whole, not just for me. 

For this job, I:

  • Chose the show
  • Created an artistic vision 
  • Selected the cast through the open auditions
  • Collaborated with my stage manager regarding design and technical elements
  • Collaborated with my stage manager regarding rehearsal schedule and location 
  • Blocked the play’s movements
  • Lead all rehearsals 
  • Monitoring the production’s pacing
  • Got the cast and set ready for the show
  • Struck the show

Through this experience I gained a number of competencies: 


Although I had studied theater quite seriously in high school I had never taken on the role of director. A good director guides the actors and designers to achieve the unifying concept of the show. I had never had to come up with a concept before! It required a different kind of deep analysis and understanding of the shape of each character’s journey. This did not mean I stepped into the role of the actor and told them what to do. This meant I stepped into the world of the play and gave the actors all the support they needed to find the characters, the interactions, the wins and losses. I also had to give the audience a focal point so that they could ride along in this car with these people and experience this moment. I had to learn to pull the narrative apart and shape it — quite literally — as movement on the stage. 

Productive relationships

I worked with each of the actors and the stage manager as individuals and as an ensemble to ensure that everyone was working in concert. I listened to the ideas and concerns of each actor and gave them the time to find some of the essential answers themselves. This was incredibly effective because everyone felt that the show was their own. This process takes time, and it takes a great deal of preparation, but the moment you hurry that process you spend four times the amount of rehearsal getting the actors back to feeling empowered. One of the things I set up was the ritual of conversation, rehearsal, and then reflection. Having this predictable, structured pattern made the time much more productive. 


I have had the experience of feeling empowered in a show, and of not feeling that way. I know I cannot do my best work when I do not feel a certain sense of faith in my ability. I know that gaining this faith is ultimately the individual’s responsibility, not the director’s, but waiting for the actor to self-evaluate before you give any feedback empowers the actor to take greater risks. I have found this patient approach a helpful tool in every work interaction; waiting until the person has had the chance to self-reflect allows them to address the problem more efficiently and allows me to push them toward being even more effective. 

Providing feedback

Theater requires constant feedback from the director, from other actors, from the designers, and from the stage manager. It does make giving feedback easier when there is an established protocol. However, it is all in the timing. Give an actor feedback before they are ready and you set them back. Give too little feedback and they rest on their laurels. Give too much feedback and they start to doubt their own ability. I learned that at each stage of the creative process there are different kinds of effective feedback. Whenever I am in a critique group I listen to determine what kind of feedback will be most helpful at this stage of the process: will just asking a clarifying questions be enough, will highlighting one choice be the right thing, will a direct piece of constructive criticism be most effective, or will waiting for the person to find their own feedback by having the luxury of time and attention serve the process best. 


Organization is not always my strong suit. Establishing a routine helped us all, but the rehearsals often had to be rescheduled because one of the actors had something else that came up suddenly. I relied on the stage manager to communicate the schedule change and I dealt with the inevitable disruption to the others this created. Organization is all about delegation — or about knowing what you can do well and what you need support in order to do well. I think it is better to be straightforward and create a good working environment than spend a lot of time running to catch up. 

Responding to Change

Nothing teaches a person to respond to change like theater — especially improvisation. I thought I would be able to adjust easily. There were some things I could adapt to; there were others that were harder. The same was true for the cast. The lesson here, and I am not sure I have learned this completely yet, is to be clear with yourself and others about the expectation. Rehearsals ran smoothly because they had a predictable pattern, a ritual. Everyone knew what their role was and what their responsibility was. The moments that were the most challenging were those that bled away from what the cast (or I) expected to do and what making the show happen required.  

Receiving Feedback

A director directs — in any theater production, there’s no question who is responsible for the overall vision and production. Yet I discovered in this process that the flow of information and insight must flow in both directions. My actors and my stage manager were constantly letting me know (verbally and non-verbally, directly and indirectly) not only new and interesting directions where we might take the play, but also better ways to run rehearsals or communicate between sessions. Insisting on imposing my vision and my process would have missed out on so many wonderful moments of theater, but also would have robbed me of many of the techniques I learned that have helped me in other, non-theatrical projects.

I learned a number of lessons that have affected the way I view my own approach to leadership: 

This project taught me that no job is too small, if it means the project can succeed, but also that focussing on the big picture (as a leader) allows your collaborators to focus on their own jobs and become truly creative. 

Exit mobile version