Leadership studies student takes class project one step further

Hannah Hunsinger | Collegian Brett Herder, freshman in biology, shows off his “Kindness is Contagious” bracelets in Bosco Student Plaza on Thursday afternoon. Herder hands out the bracelets to anyone he sees doing something kind, like picking up trash or helping someone with a door. He was inspired to start the project over winter break by his “Introduction to Leadership Concepts” class, but he has only given out about 30 of his 400 bracelets so far.

Random acts of kindness often go unrecognized. Brett Herder, freshman in biology, wants to change that by rewarding people for performing acts of kindness to others through his Kindness is Contagious campaign.

Herder is minoring in leadership studies at K-State, where his campaign began. In what he believes is a pretty negative world, Herder wanted to make a difference for others.

“I was given $200 from my grandma,” Herder explained. “I didn’t particularly need anything, so I decided to use the money to make a difference.”

Herder spent that money on rubber wristbands imprinted with the message, “Kindness is Contagious.”

“Small acts of kindness can make an enourmous difference,” Herder said. “I have 400 of these wristbands to give out to 400 kind people. I’m carrying them with me wherever I go looking for kindness.”

His mission is to search across campus, equipped with wristbands, and hand one out to anyone he sees doing random acts of kindness. Hopefully, that person will pass it on to someone else they see doing something nice.

People are often encouraged when rewarded for doing something kind,” Herder said. “I just wanted to create a chain of people encouraging kindness everywhere.”

Herder started “Kindness is Contagious” a couple of weeks into winter break, when he was inspired by an activity in LEAD 212, “Introduction to Leadership Concepts.” His teacher was Kerry Priest, assistant professor of leadership studies.

“In LEAD 212, we learned many leadership techniques, mechanisms and styles that really showed me a different and effective way to go about making a difference,” Herder said.

In certain Leadership 212 classes, many of the students do service projects outside of class by helping with local organizations like the Flint Hills Breadbasket or Habitat for Humanity. Herder wanted to go a step further and perform a service around campus. Mike Finnegan, instructor for the School of Leadership Studies, said Herder’s work serves as an example to others.

“We’ve got a young man who really values recognizing and affirming others for the acts that they’re doing to better the community,” Finnegan. “I support it and support people in exercising leadership because they care deeply about it.”

Gilbert Davila, assistant professor of leadership studies, said she admires what Herder is doing to help bring awareness to kindness.

“Sometimes we take it for granted the little things people do for each other,” Davila said.

This isn’t the first time someone has decided to take on a unique project like this to spread happiness around campus.

“I remember four years ago, people went crazy about free hugs,” Finnegan said. “There have also been a couple flash mobs that have happened, and that always seems to make people smile.”

Davila said she has also seen similar projects.

“There are those people that give coupons around the Union,” Davila said. “That makes people happy.”

Herder started his project with 400 wristbands, and he has only given out 30 of them.

“Don’t be discouraged,” Davila advised Herder. “As long as you’re getting the satisfaction, continue on with it.”

Finnegan said rewarding kindness is a task best accomplished with a partner.

“Don’t do it alone,” Finnegan said. “I encourage him to reach out to people outside his network and bring people in that would like to partner with him.”

Herder has no plans to stop giving out wristbands, and he hopes to see many people around campus show kindness to each other.

“It’s been a fun hobby for me,” Herder said. “I hope it is making a positive impact in the environment and everyone around it.”