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Compliment Train: All Aboard

(A reference to my favorite book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. You can buy this patch at

As many students continue to participate in distance learning, it is very easy to lose connections with classmates, especially when meeting new people for the first time. Students can feel isolated, overwhelmed, and anxious as they study new material. I am one of those students. During my first semester of graduate school, I was constantly worried about not living up to my own potential and that I did not understand why I was chosen to be in my cohort. What I was experiencing is called imposter phenomenon. Here is. short video on it by TED to explain what that means

As I prepared myself for my second semester of graduate school, I felt more confident in my online learning ability. Yet, there was one challenge I was apprehensive about Group Projects. This semester, four of the students in my cohort took MEJO 634, also known as Public Relations Campaign, where undergraduate seniors in their capstone courses and second-semester graduate students work together to create a client's public relations campaign. Our classes' client is Chick-fil-A (don't worry, after my class, I will write a post about what I learned on that project) where the groups were assigned to do an internal campaign. I was assigned a group with five other students; four seniors and one graduate student.

(Gif courtesy of

I barely knew the graduate student, and I never met the four seniors. I was worried about the project, moreover the stress that six strangers can experience in three months. During my winter break, I read a book about icebreakers' benefits called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A leadership fable by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni describes how icebreakers can create a level of trust in a pre-existing or new team. Inspired by this work, I knew that I wanted to implement it to this team.

Each team member volunteered for a role, and I volunteered to be Team Leader. Being the Team Leader, I usually create the Zoom calls and do the housekeeping at the beginning and end (and let the subproject leaders discuss what needs to happen with each assignment). While waiting for team members to get on a call, I created the now-famous Compliment Train. The Compliment Train is an icebreaking activity where people on a Zoom call go in order and compliment each other. The compliments are not " I love you tee-shirt" or "You have nice handwriting." Instead, the compliments are about the person's professionalism, teamwork, enthusiasm, growth, and more. The compliments show that you care about the person and love to see them when we return to an ordinary world. Whenever we start this meeting on such a positive note, people are more receptive to constructive criticism and create an open dialogue environment.

(Gif courtesy of

The Compliment Train will survive beyond this semester. There will be times in my life where I will feel like that I don't know how I got into here. I just need to remember that other people are probably just as worried as me and that if we do The Compliment Train, we will make a great team. All Aboard!

(Gif courtesy of


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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