5 Questions: Brown Leadership Institute

The ability to bring positive change to your community, no matter how big or small, is an invaluable skill in any setting: college, career and beyond. The Brown Leadership Institute, which takes place over three two-week sessions this summer, prepares students to do exactly that. The program consists of three foundational elements: academic content, leadership development and an Action Plan that allows students to apply what they’ve learned to have real-world impact. Below, Program Director Kisa Takesue discusses what students can expect from the program, the issues they’ll be tackling and how the Institute prepares them to lead the way to positive change back at home.

What can students expect to experience at the Brown Leadership Institute?

The Institute is two fast-paced weeks brimming with intellectual engagement and thought-provoking discussions with interesting peers. Leadership Institute students live together in the same residence hall on Brown’s campus, giving participants the unique opportunity to bond with all of their program peers, even those who are in different classes. Students are in class most of the day, with a break for lunch, and participate in leadership workshops most afternoons. Outside of the classroom, we cultivate an inclusive, welcoming and affirming environment where close friendships can develop. We know that many of our students are coming from competitive environments and we aim to make their two weeks at Brown invigorating rather than stressful.

What type of student does the Institute typically attract?

Leadership Institute students are woke and eager to become more informed and self-aware. They pay attention to current events, care about our global community, and are eager to find ways to positively contribute to the many issues facing us today.

Our students are from all over the world and students relish the opportunity to develop friendships with students with myriad different life experiences and perspectives. Although we are a diverse community, we strive to cultivate a sense of belonging and respect.

What are some examples of social issues can students expect to explore and how do they benefit from this exploration?

All of our courses explore contemporary social issues, delving into essential topics like global health, women and leadership, racial justice, human trafficking, and empathy. Students will be discussing and analyzing real-world situations, and gaining a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of complicated issues. When they return home, they will be able to offer fresh insight to family, teachers and friends, but even more importantly, students will be more motivated and hopeful about the role they can play in addressing community needs.

What type of skills and knowledge can students expect to gain?

Students leave with an increased sense of personal agency and commitment to their communities and, ultimately, gain a greater understanding of what it means to be a socially responsible leader. They participate in essential skill-building activities that focus on effective listening, public speaking, situational leadership and teamwork. Most importantly, we hope they leave with a sense of both inspiration and responsibility to make positive contributions to our global community.

Students use what they learn to create an Action Plan project that they enact in their own communities. What are examples of projects students have worked on?

We encourage students to think about the Action Plan as an iterative process that involves many steps: understanding the roots of problems, exploring and evaluating interventions, and finding ways to apply their own strengths and interests to the needs of their communities. We hope that students will not think of the Action Plan as a competition or something to feel pressured about, but rather a concrete way to explore socially responsible leadership and engage in meaningful activities. Some of the projects students have worked on upon their return home have included providing test-prep for low-income students, increasing student voice in their school government, lobbying local officials for green space, and introducing waste-reduction practices in their school. More examples can be found at on our website.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Leadership Institute program website for details and to learn how to apply.

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