From The Office to The Good Place: Learning Leadership Skills from Fictional TV Shows

Tufts seniors Sophia Song and Kenar Haratunian believe binge-watching television shows isn’t just fun, it can be educational, too!
Open laptop with Netflix on screen.

Netflix and Networking is an in-person course that explores leadership skills using fictional characters as points of comparison to teach us about ourselves. Students analyze characters' strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth in order to develop a strategy for productive self-reflection.

Early on in the semester, Song and Haratunian asked students to set long-term leadership goals that they revisit each week. Assignments for a typical class meeting include watching an episode of a show and completing readings related to the leadership qualities presented. Even a quality as subtle as being confident in one’s purpose is considered an essential life skill and adds to leadership qualities. Highlighted shows throughout the course include The Good Place, Gossip Girl, NCIS, The Office, and more. 

Students often begin class by discussing what they watched before participating in self-awareness, leadership, and team-building activities. Each person is paired with another student to hold each other accountable for long-term intentions. Together, they will complete a reflection about their goals at the end of the course. The class culminates in a final assignment in which students employ their leadership skills to make a creative piece of their choice, such as a paper, video, blog, podcast, presentation, or art project.

Song and Haratunian hoped that teaching a class on leadership would provide first-years with practical skills that will last them through their college years. “I have learned many different things about leadership throughout my time in college, whether that be through classes, clubs, friendships, internships,” Song says. “So, we thought it would be a good way to help first-years develop a strong foundation of awareness and self-reflection for their time at Tufts and beyond.” 

Haratunian’s experience at Tufts was also instrumental in her decision to teach:

“I was in an Explorations course that provided me with a comfortable environment to meet others, be vulnerable and share my experiences, engage with others, and learn about a topic that was totally different from my other courses. I was really looking forward to providing this environment to our students and also encouraging them to develop this self-awareness early on so they can reap the benefits of this awareness and intentionality during their years ahead of them as Jumbos.”

Both instructors agree that they had a tough first semester at Tufts because they had trouble feeling comfortable in a new environment, so they wanted to teach a course for first-years to mentor them as they transition to college life. They are excited to see their students grow closer and get to know each other better.

In addition, Song and Haratunian want their course to have a positive effect that will endure for years to come. Haratunian adds, “I hope their experiences in this course enable our students to confidently enter environments they are exposed to and know how to articulate the contributions they'll be able to make to any team. We are excited to see the great leaders our new Jumbos will become and what kinds of stunning things they will do in the future!”

As for their futures, Sophia Song, an International Relations major with an Entrepreneurship minor, has a Software Engineering certificate that will allow her to become a Tech Analyst for Rockefeller Capital Management. Kenar Haratunian is majoring in Cognitive & Brain Sciences with minors in Entrepreneurship and Child Study and Human Development and is interested in applying her understanding of people and behavior to business strategy. She is also a student associate with The Madison Square Garden Company, working in Data and Analytics.


Written by Kaycee Feldman, Class of 2024
Published on November 30, 2020

About the Author:
Kaycee Feldman is a sophomore planning to double major in Film & Media Studies and Astrophysics. Hailing from the small town of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, she is highly interested in both the arts and sciences and how they can overlap. When not writing for the ExCollege, she is the Head of Scripted for the student-run production studio TUTV and can be found writing science fiction and horror stories that she intends to convert into screenplays.