Skip Navigation

Wurtele Center for Leadership

Student in a classroom

The Wurtele Center for Leadership strives to help students discover their leadership potential in the classroom and beyond. Through a variety of workshops, intensives, speakers and other learning experiences, the Wurtele Center works to build students’ capacity to raise their voice and galvanize others in designing inclusive paths toward change. Recognizing that leadership development occurs across campus, the Wurtele Center also partners with other units and centers at Smith to ensure that students find opportunities to explore the many forms leadership can take, from collaborating with a research team, to spearheading a campus initiative, to writing an op-ed, to co-designing a community change project. We seek to empower Smithies with an understanding that they can lead from any vantage point, no matter whether they hold positional power or not.


Phoebe Reese Lewis Leadership Program

The Lewis Leadership program is an intimate cohort program developing the foundations of ethical leadership: self-awareness, courage, purpose and communication. Lewis Leaders will convene to learn skills in each of these domains. During an interterm leadership intensive, students will travel to New York City to continue skill-building, connect personally with global change makers and discover one of the most extraordinary cities on the planet. Directed by bestselling author Rachel Simmons, the Lewis Leadership program will focus on building close-knit community, courage through vulnerability, and practice by doing.

Past Lewis Leaders visited:

  • Jamia Wilson, Activist and Publisher of the Feminist Press
  • Playwright and actor Diana Oh ‘08, creator of My Lingerie Play
  • The Novo Foundation, the world’s leading funder of initiatives fighting violence against women and girls
  • Girl Up, a global leadership initiative positioning girls to be leaders in the movement for gender equality
  • The Narratives Project at Smith College
  • Trapeze School of New York
  • Rattlestick Theater

Apply →  

Leadership Workshops

These sessions require no preregistration and are open to all Smith students, as well as the community. Covering a wide variety of topics, these workshops explore the concept of leadership and build practical skills. Workshops are presented online and in person. 

Failing Well

Failing Well is a set of programs dedicated to the discussion of failure, risk taking and mistakes. A partnership between the Wurtele Center and the Lazarus Center for Career Development, our mission is to increase student resilience by teaching, telling stories, and opening a campus conversation about failure.

What does it mean to fail well?
  • When you can fail well, the world opens up to you. There's no challenge you can't pursue, no risk you can't take, because you know how to get back up when you're knocked down. Your potential for change, for possibility and for success as you define it becomes limitless.
  • 'When you can fail well, your self-worth doesn't ride on your success. You know that you are enough as you are, no matter what—and don't have to lose your sense of self when things don't work out.
  • When you can fail well, you have the courage to ask for help when you need it—and leverage every resource available to get the job done. You have the ability to be vulnerable about your limits and authentic with your peers—and forge powerful networks as a result.
How do I learn to fail well?

Failing well is a skill—a set of skills, actually. Skills are like muscles: the more you flex them, the stronger they get. Our programs will give you the opportunity to start learning and failing well.

Past Failing Well Workshops

To get a sense of some of the topics covered in the Failing Well Program, here are a few past workshops:

  • Self-Promotion for People Who Hate to Brag
  • Communication Norms Beyond the Bubble
  • The Art of Small Talk and Networking
  • Imposter Phenomenon: Why So Many High Acheivers Think They're Frauds
  • How to Quit Overthinking

We welcome students to invite us to do workshops on the following topics:

  • Being brave
  • Conflict negotiation
  • Everyday leadership
  • Failing well
  • Impacting social change
  • Leadership through co-curriculars
  • Leadership types
  • Public speaking
  • Self care
  • Smalltalk
  • Strengths
  • Teambuilding

And more! Contact us.


Featured Event

There are no events scheduled at this time.

Meet the Team

Erin Park Cohn
Erin Park Cohn ’00

Director of the Wurtele Center
Erin is a Smithie who trained as a historian and has since used her critical thinking skills as an educator and facilitator of institutional change projects. Most recently, she served as senior partner at Leadership+Design, a nonprofit consultancy working to transform K-12 education through developing educational leaders’ capacity as change agents and human-centered designers. Prior to her work at L+D, she served as dean of faculty and history instructor at a New England boarding school Erin holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania; her dissertation research explored the work of a group of visual artists who understood themselves as civil rights activists in the mid-20th century.

Annie DelBusto Cohen
Annie DelBusto Cohen

Leadership Development Designer
Annie holds a B.A. in psychology from Wells College and an M.S. in college student personnel administration from Canisius College. Trained in social justice mediation and intergroup dialogue, Annie has done work facilitating spaces to explore identity, equity and justice. She has a decade’s worth of experience in student affairs, specifically residence life and most recently managing the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network. She believes in the need for creating opportunities for students and the campus to engage at the intersection of human-centered design and leading for social justice/change.

Anna Devlin Gauthier
Ana Devlin Gauthier

Leadership Development Designer
Ana has over ten years of experience building effective teams and developing leadership capacity in college students and young adults. Her areas of passion include asset-based learning, adventure education and group development. She loves to work with students who engage in leadership on campus to deepen their experience and make meaning out of it. Ana holds an M.A. in student affairs and higher education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in environmental science from Alfred University.

Rachel Simmons
Rachel Simmons

Leadership Development Specialist
Rachel is the author of several books about the psychology of girls and young women, including the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl, and Enough As She Is. She is co-founder of the national nonprofit Girls Leadership, and currently develops women’s leadership programs for companies like Google, Soul Cycle and Converse. At Smith, Simmons’ programs focus on building skills for risk taking, resilience and emotional intelligence. She believes relationships are a critical classroom for leadership development, and that there’s nothing more inspiring than watching someone discover they are braver than they thought.


Throughout the year we bring a variety of speakers to campus to help students expand their leadership horizons. 

Past Speakers
  • Jamia Wilson (left), writer, commentator and feminist activist; executive director and publisher of Feminist Press at City University of New York, January 2018
  • Jamie Lee ’11 (center left), negotiation and leadership coach with SheNegotiates; specialist in working with self-starters to help them confront the fear of asking so they can own their negotiation prowess, November 2017
  • Tara Mohr (center right), author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create and Lead and an expert on women’s leadership and well-being, October 2017
  • Tarana Burke (far right), founder of the ‘me too.’ Movement, March 2019

Photos of Jamia Wilson, Jamie Lee, Tara Mohr and Tarana Burke



Wurtele Center for Leadership
Clark Hall
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01060
Phone: 413-585-4937

Contact: Erin Park Cohn, Director