Week 1: Cause with Intention

Leann Pham, 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy intern

“Do things with intention.” This is a saying that I’ve always assumed that I’ve instinctively lived by in my work. It’s natural to believe that everyone thinks of themselves as intentional actors. Nevertheless, this first week as a CAUSE intern has challenged me to re-examine my actions with a new critical lens.

From the first professionalism workshop to the final speeches at the internship kickoff, community leaders have countlessly shared these meaningful words of wisdom. But it was the leaders that surrounded me, such as Kim, Adam, and the rest of the CAUSE staff, that reframed what it meant to be an intentional member of the community.

This became especially apparent when I noticed all of the staff members playing music and cooking together during the retreat. Not only were they making a delicious meal with homemade soba, but they were also taking the time out of their extremely busy schedule getting to know the interns. These little actions were a part of the bigger picture of investing in the next generation of Asian American leaders.

Another instance was the continuous presence and support of the CAUSE Board of Directors. I found it interesting that they advised us reach out and do more to climb the ladder of community leadership. Yet their presence at intern events this week also demonstrated to me their commitment to support and mentor those with less experience and social capital.

These selfless yet purposeful actions do not stop at the leaders around me, as I can see these thoughtful qualities embodied by own cohort as well. Whether it be through Benjamin Tran, who coordinated a group boba get-together outside of our structured internship time, or Jordan Agricula, who drove half of my cohort home after the retreat, these actions do not necessarily have the intention of furthering anyone politically, yet they create bonds and relationships that go beyond the workplace. In a way however, this theme may have stopped at me. This past week, as my cohort cooked s’mores together or grabbed boba, I found myself missing these bonding opportunities to do Resident Assistant work or to work on my applications. Where does the focus of my intention lie?

Leann Pham, 2018 CAUSE Leadership Academy orientation retreat

I always thought doing work “with intention” meant that I would be committing actions that would further me socially and politically, but that assumption is misguided. As I’ve seen through the examples set by the leaders around me, while my actions should always be purposeful, the purpose does not always have to be centered around myself.

Looking to the future, I want to challenge myself to be more mindful of my actions and reframe what it means to be purposeful. I hope to apply the mindset that intention does not only have to be about progress and personal success. Here’s to the next eight weeks of stepping out of my comfort zone and bonding with my peers, and to thinking beyond just my own career and towards a collective future for everyone.