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Courses & Cohort Programs

For students interested in growing their collaborative leadership skills at a deeper level, the Wurtele Center offers courses and cohort programs that bring together a small community of learners to develop into collaborative student leaders. These programs engage students in exploring their individual strengths, growth areas, and evolving sense of purpose (ME); help them build their capacity to work with others in a team and community (WE); and assist them as they seek to make positive change (IMPACT).

“Thank you SO much for this course. It truly has given me the confidence I needed to take the next steps after Smith. The practicality of all of the various skills I gained here—this probably was the MOST important course I took in my time here.”

Descriptions & Information

Fall Semester 2023

Tuesday/Thursday, 9:25-10:40 a.m.

Traditional conceptions of leadership set up leading and working as a team as diametrically opposed; “leaders” are often understood as those who achieve greatness through their own powers of persuasion or individual achievement, while “teams” are often framed as leaderless efforts that move forward by virtue of dispersed contributions to a project or initiative. This course challenges students to interrogate this perceived dichotomy by viewing theories and histories of leadership and collaboration through a critical lens and exploring alternative ways of imagining change-making as a collaborative leadership act. Through reading, writing, reflection and practice, the class will offer students new perspectives on how they might bring others into collaboration by intentionally creating a productive team culture and modeling processes that encourage others to step in and out of the lead. This course is especially useful as a foundation for those students whose future academic (or life!) work is likely to engage them in significant group work. It is a required course for the Collaborative Innovation concentration (CIX).


The Leaders for Equity-Centered and Action-Based Design (LEAD) Scholars Program is a one-year cohort program that focuses on building leadership capacity through both examining leadership through a social justice lens and learning skills of facilitation and design for social change. The Wurtele Center for Leadership and the Office for Equity and Inclusion have designed this program with the mission of equipping students with the skills to apply equity-centered design to address some of our greatest social inequities. A small cohort of students will explore who they are as leaders, how their social identities impact their leadership, how to develop deep and meaningful relationships with one another, and the processes of design and facilitation to serve as references and consultants to the greater campus community.

After year one, scholars have the opportunity to apply to be a member of the LEAD Corps. Selected corps members will engage with the community to offer themselves as solution and experience designers. They’ll learn and practice deeper facilitative leadership strategies, such as deep listening, radical collaboration, emergent strategy and liberatory design. As solution designers they will work to support community members in creating solutions to problems arising in such communities as clubs, organizations and teams. As experience designers they will create and offer facilitated conversations and workshops about social justice and lead programs in houses and communities around campus.

How To Get Involved

LEAD Scholars and LEAD Corps members are selected through an application process. Once LEAD Scholars are selected, they register for the two LEAD-affiliated courses: IDP 134: Examining Equity and Action based Design for Leaders (fall term) and IDP 135 (spring term). These courses are only open to students selected as LEAD Scholars and require permission of the instructors (Annie DelBusto Cohen and Toby Davis). IDP 134 meets on Wednesdays from 2:45–4 p.m.

The 2024 application and selection process dates will be updated fall 2023. Stay tuned!

Application Materials

Applications now open!

Students who are interested in becoming LEAD Scholars should apply via by Monday, April 22 at 8 a.m.

Faculty and staff may nominate a student who they feel would be an excellent fit for LEAD Scholars.


Collaborative Leadership, Design, & Innovation (CLDI) is a global internship program sponsored by the Wurtele Center for Leadership, Design Thinking Initiative, and the Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center. This immersive internship experience is for students who are looking for intensive opportunities to put collaborative leadership, human-centered design, and entrepreneurial skills into practice. The program connects teams of students with embedded, fully-paid summer internships around the world where they have a chance to practice collaborative change-making in the context of a local organization and help lead the advancement of socially, economically, and environmentally healthy communities.

Learning Outcomes

CLDI participants will emerge from their internships knowing or being able to

  • Step into a project already underway and find meaningful ways to contribute.
  • Practice human-centered design methodologies as a flexible set of work habits.
  • Employ entrepreneurial thinking to observe unexplored opportunities and creatively develop solutions to challenges encountered during projects.
  • Apply collaborative leadership skills in dynamic teams.

How to Get Involved


This program is open to any currently enrolled first-year, sophomore or junior in good standing. Students who will graduate in January or May 2024 may not apply. Applying students must commit to being in residence at Smith in spring 2024.


  • Apply in fall 2023
  • Train during spring 2024 (in the form of a required course)
  • Attend cohort building meals and meetings in spring 2024
  • Work a paid 8-week embedded internship in summer 2024
  • Deliver a post-immersion presentation at the fall 2024 Smith in the World Conference


The CLDI program is a fully-funded summer internship experience. For each Intern, the program will:

  • Cover the cost of travel to and from the host organization.
  • Cover the cost of obtaining a passport and any necessary visa.
  • Provide a stipend to cover living expenses while completing the internship (e.g., housing, food, local transportation, excursions).

Phase One: Complete Application by October 6, 2023

The online application* requires you to upload a current résumé and provide a link to 2-minute video that showcases

  • What you are passionate about and why.
  • The kind of change do you want to see in the world.
  • What excites you about the CLDI program.
  • Your goals for this internship.
  • What makes you a good candidate for the specific internship to which you're applying.
  • Experiences and learnings you have had working as part of a team.
  • What has prepared you for living in a new place and adjusting to an unfamiliar culture.

*You may apply for multiple opportunities, but you must complete a separate application for each desired internship.

Phase Two: Group Interview on October 16, 4:30-6 p.m.

Select students will be invited to participate in facilitated and observed small-team challenges. You'll be given quick and dirty design thinking prompts to get you working through a problem, collaboratively and rapidly.

Date Description
September 18
4:15-5:15 p.m.
Information Session with CLDI program directors.
Learn more about the opportunities and get your questions answered.
October 16
4:30-6 p.m.
Group Interview
November 3 Decision Deadline - you must confirm
acceptance of your offer by 4 p.m.
November 6-17 Register for required spring 2024 course
November 13
5-6:30 p.m.
Cohort Dinner

Busara Center for Behavioral Economics

Nairobi, Kenya

How cool would it be to join a team of psychologists, anthropologists, economists, health specialists, designers, data scientists, academics, and more to use behavioral science to design solutions that improve lives in the Global South? Busara is a leading organization applying behavioral science to help alleviate poverty by bridging the gap between research and application. They use rigorous research methods and evaluation tools to enable partners to improve program design, assess existing interventions, and optimize internal processes. Busara works with governments, NGOs, private companies, and academics to understand human behavior and design solutions to overcome behavioral barriers to products, programs, and policies as they scale. The teams work on projects related to agriculture, health, insurance, financial inclusion, climate and sustainability, gender-related, entrepreneurship, governance, conflict and fragility, and other issues central to development economics.

While it’s too soon to know exactly what project you’d be working on, as a member of the Qualitative Research and Design Team, you can expect to support research and applications of behavioral sciences in various ways. This might include; involvement in co-design workshops, UX/UI research, human-centered design projects, developing and testing prototypes, creating insights and reports, and developing ideas for interventions. You will also learn how to write winning proposals and be involved in end-to-end research activities. Just in case this is not enough, in your free time, you could use your time visiting the famous Mount Kenya, go on a safari at the Tsavo, or even spend a weekend or a few more days relaxing at the coast as you kayak or snorkel with dolphins.

Seeking two (2) curious and collaborative students with solid research, synthesis, ideation, and visual storytelling skills and an interest in experiencing how behavioral science and human-centered design work can make an impact and who are eager to explore East Africa.

Caribbean Centre For Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency (CCREEE)

Bridgetown, Barbados

CCREEE is committed to renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) across the Carribean Islands and to creating a vibrant sustainable energy sector. It is the implementation hub for sustainable energy activities and projects within the Caribbean. It is one node amongst a broader network of regional sustainable energy centres for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. This consortium is committed to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Seven: Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7).

As part of this work, you would be supporting CCREEE’s work to improve access to modern, affordable and reliable energy services, energy security and mitigation of negative externalities of the energy system (e.g. local pollution and GHG emissions) by promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency investments, markets and industries in the Caribbean. The CCREEE is working to find creative solutions to these challenges. Join this social cohesion project by gathering and synthesizing data, report writing, and engaging stakeholders in determining optimal solutions customized for local contexts.

Seeking two (2) intrepid students with strong communication, customer service, research, and synthesis skills. Passion for, familiarity with, or connection to, the Caribbean context will serve you well in this position.

Commission towards Resilience to Climate Change in Monteverde (CORCLIMA)

Monteverde, Costa Rica

Passionate about combating Climate Change? CORCLIMA is a community-led effort in the cloud forest of Costa Rica committed to uniting Monteverde to capture more carbon than it emits and serving as a model of climate resilience and sustainable local economies. CORCLIMA has many ongoing projects including; a women-run local bartering and upcycling center, improving water management, and helping to tell the story of climate resilience in the region. CORCLIMA works hard to define projects that satisfy both students’ interest and CORCLIMA’s goals. Below is more detailed information on two potential projects of particular interest. In your application, we ask you to specify what type of project you’re interested in, why, and how you’re uniquely qualified. Please recognize that projects might shape shift based conversations between you and the host and the evolving needs of the organization.

Join Rutas Eléctricas Costa Rica in accelerating a business to enable tourists to travel in electric vehicles. Costa Rica’s economy is primarily based on tourism–you can be part of reducing the environmental impact of this critical economic engine. Help Rutas Elétricas reach potential customers and create tools and systems to ensure they have a positive experience. There’s a lot to explore with this entrepreneurial opportunity.

Support CORCLIMA and the municipality in establishing a streamlined process to deal with compostable food container waste. Help design a system to transform used pizza boxes into good soil , from determining how people will know what trash bin to put them in, to how it will be collected, to where it will be taken, to how it will be chopped up, and how much the municipal compost can handle. There’s a lot to figure out in this waste systems design challenge. Seeking two (2) or four (4) fiercely independent workers and Spanish-proficient speakers who aren’t afraid to tromp respectfully through very damp forests, work closely with community members, lead work independently, and join in collective action.

Seeking two (2) students who are passionate about the future of Latin America and eager to experience intrapreneurship at its best. Familiarity with the Latin American context will serve you well in this position. Spanish and/or Portuguese language proficiency is a plus but not required.

Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA)

Medellín, Colombia

Are you interested in joining a dynamic community passionate about changing Latin America for the better? LALA’s mission is to develop a new generation of diverse, entrepreneurial, and ethical leaders who will serve the Latin American region. The team supports purpose-driven 14-to-20-year-olds — the majority of whom are from historically marginalized communities — and gives them access to programs that build leadership, entrepreneurship, social innovation, social-emotional learning, and critical thinking skills. These LALíderes join a lifelong community leading change across Latin American countries, industries, and governments.

LALA is entering a new stage in its strategic growth as it moves from a centralized to a country-based model. The Global Fundraising team needs your help determining which countries to expand the impact of their work into next. Through primary and secondary research, you will identify community partners and philanthropists who might make that expansion possible. Additionally, you might work to discover global organizations investing in leadership development in the Latin American context and articulate a value proposition for partnering with them on developing a new tool that measures and evaluates the impact of LALA’s leadership development model.

Seeking two (2) students who are passionate about the future of Latin America and eager to experience intrapreneurship at its best. Familiarity with the Latin American context will serve you well in this position. Spanish and/or Portuguese language proficiency is a plus but not required.

Yenne Kids’ Academy

Yenne, Sénégal

Are you a motivated climate change activist or passionate about entrepreneurship AND love working with kids? Are you driven to make change in this world? Have you always longed to explore West Africa? If so, a summer working with Yenne Kids’ Academy might be right for you. This is an opportunity to work with young students in Sénégal on one of two projects. In your application, please specify which of the below projects you’d be interested in, why, and how you’re uniquely qualified.

An environmental education project where you will work with children and community members at the nexus of climate adaptation and skill building. YKA has dreamed of engaging kids in the construction of a fishing boat for local use, but the project could take many directions and incorporate STEAM education.

An entrepreneurial education project where you will work with children and community members at the nexus of poverty alleviation and capacity building. YKA imagines a project where kids are introduced to entrepreneurial skills by developing and testing a small market stall in the community, again the direction of this work will be shaped by you and the organization.

Seeking two (2) or four (4) students who have experience and/or a passion for working with kids (K-grade 5) along with interest in adaptation to rising climate risks and/or poverty alleviation. French language proficiency is not required but is strongly recommended.