Agile Leadership for a Digital Age: Student Leadership Institute Embraces New Technology

The Student Leadership Institute (SLI) of Scripps’ Laspa Center for Leadership, held each August, is the starting point for the center’s annual programming, a time when student leaders come together as a community and plan for the year ahead. With days’ worth of programming as wide-ranging as how to reserve event space for club meetings and an overview of campus resources to personal branding and empathetic leadership, the program aims to give campus leaders, including resident advisors, community coordinators, club and organization (CLORG) leaders, aspiring leaders, and more, all the tools they will need to successfully carry out their missions during the upcoming school year.

But during a pandemic that has rendered the patterns and practices of daily life unrecognizable, there is also the unanimous understanding across industries and organizations that leaders must now rethink how we convene, interact, and act. “Those who adapt their leadership to the new digital reality are going to have a decisive edge,” says Craig Janssen, a strategist who helps leaders navigate shifts in technology and engagement.

Cognizant of this critical shift, this year’s SLI will explore what it means to be a leader in the age of COVID-19, how to connect despite social distancing, and how students can stay true to their mission when so much is unclear. “Our student leaders are stepping into the unknown and are needing to pivot to address unexpected changes and information as they think about their own leadership practice,” says Vicki Klopsch, executive director for the Laspa Center for Leadership.

Over the course of the five-day program, which is open to all students and will be held August 16–21, students will be exposed to best practices for online spaces, including how to make Zoom accessible and inclusive. The institute will also include a panel on resilient leadership in challenging times with alumnae Yoon Choi, PhD ’00 and Reverend LaThelma Yenn-Batah ’13 as well as Linda Furness P’23. These novel workshops will accompany traditional institute programming, such as tools for conflict management, project management, self care, and strategic planning.

“The Laspa staff is incredibly heartened by the number of students who have already registered. These numbers show us that our students are really committed to continuing the conversation about leadership,” says Klopsch. “Their attitude is ‘yes, this is hard, but we are going to do this together and be part of the change.’ I’m given great hope.”