Student Life & Leadership IT

AntLeader Spotlight

September, 2016

Janani Venkateswaran

Janani Venkateswaran
Drama, Psychology & Social Behavior

UCI Involvements:
Across the Bridge Discussion Facilitator, Across the Bridge: Diversity Dialogue, Antleader Mentorship Program Mentor 2015-2016; Mentee 2014-2015, Asian Pacific Student Association High School Outreach (R.I.S.E.) Co-Chair 2015-2016; High School Outreach (R.I.S.E.) Intern 2014-2015, Cross-Cultural Center Volunteer Program, Global Leadership Certificate Program (GLCP) Information Session, New University Newspaper Copy Editor 2015-2016; Copy Intern 2014-2015, Passport to Leadership, Summer Orientation Staff, The CCC Intern Program

Who in your life has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My theatre mentor V. Balakrishnan and my supervisor Anna Capinpin. My theatre mentor, V. Balakrishnan, otherwise known as Bala has been very encouraging and supportive and helped me discover my love and passion for theatre. Even after I moved to California for college from my home in Chennai, India, he would always check in with me and guide me whenever I needed help with anything. He helped me improve my self-esteem and most importantly believe in my capabilities. On the other hand, Anna was my first boss, and she would make sure that I never feel overwhelmed. She made it a point to set aside time for weekly one-on-one check-ins, which would be for both work and personal check-ins. She was a major support for me and the best thing about Anna is that she trusted me to do my work the best way possible. She let me make the important decisions and would guide me if I needed any help, but apart from that she trusted and encouraged me to make the decisions and choices. Those are things I think are so important when it comes to being a leader — Bala taught me to believe in myself, and Anna gave me the freedom to make decisions with regard to the position I held.

What would you say is your greatest strength?
My ability to manage and supervise groups of people while being sensitive to their personal well-being is my greatest strength. As a volunteer coordinator with the Cross-Cultural Center, I made it a point to do one-on-ones with my volunteers twice — mid quarter and towards the end of the quarter. This is because everyone has something going on in their lives and in order to be a good leader and supervisor, I needed to check in with them and make sure that they were comfortable with sharing their concerns with me. Establishing a strong foundation is so important, and my mentors did that with me so it is my way of passing on the good that I received.

What is your favorite quote?
First is: “If those whom we begin to love could know us as we were before meeting them … they could perceive what they have made of us.” ~ Albert Camus.
When people think of love, it mostly tends to be romantic love, but for me this quote encompasses all kinds of love from romantic love to friendships to the relationship with your boss. I truly believe that love is the strongest foundation that can be laid in any relationship. After having personally experienced the positive ways in which my relationships with people have changed me, I came across this quote and it perfectly summed up how I felt.
Second is: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~ Audre Lorde.
I learned about self-care only after coming to UCI and through the CCC. I realized how powerful and restorative self-care can be. It is definitely something to experience in order to understand its complete power. Self-care isn’t just treating yourself to a massage or getting an expensive meal on your own. It is about taking the time you need in order to heal and be your best possible self. No one can be 100% all the time. We all need a break and it is taking that break (which sometimes might be a forced break) to let your mind and physical body recover and giving yourself the permission to breathe and just be. Even if it is just five minutes a day or five minutes a week, there is always that time that needs to be set aside to be with yourself and do whatever you need to do for yourself in order for you to be at your 100% again.

What has been your proudest accomplishment?
My two greatest accomplishments are getting accepted into UCI, because it was my dream school and getting the position of volunteer coordinator at the Cross-Cultural Center (CCC) in only my second year. The CCC was my second home, and you can always find me there whether I’m on work hours, studying, or resting. When I moved to California in June 2014 I was not sure what my college experience had in store for me, but then I came across the CCC booth in the Anteater Involvement Fair and was given a flyer about their volunteer program. The same day I went into the office and was greeted by Kevin Huie--little did I know, he was the director of the CCC at the time. I told him I wanted to apply for the program and had come for an application. He invited me to his office and emailed me the link to the application immediately. After being accepted into the volunteer program, there was no turning back. I met some of the most inspiring and socially aware individuals who were passionate about social justice and welcomed diversity with open arms. I felt at home on the very first day and it’s been two years since that day. I could see myself learning from the dynamic staff and peers I was surrounded with every single day.

What is your favorite memory at UCI?
My freshman orientation (SPOP 3 Woot Woot!) is my best memory at UCI so far because in two days, all my fears about settling in a new place were quelled; I felt like I had made some good connections that would last through my four years here. My staffers were so energetic, and I still keep in touch with all five of them. I think the activities that involved being vulnerable touched me the most. Even though I was in a room full of people I had never met before, everyone really opened up and courageously spoke about their fears freely. The best part is, I was able to come full circle and sit in the same hall (Camino, Mesa Court) during SPOP 3 as a staffer for the program and tell the freshmen there about how I was in their exact spot one year ago. I staffed that SPOP with one of my own staffers, Danna Yang, and honestly I cannot even explain how wonderful that felt. It was the same hall, same SPOP, and with my staffer. It is one of my most special and favorite memories at UCI.