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About the Center

Image of a person writing on a Wurtele Center feedback session poster
The Wurtele Center for Leadership has its origins in two visionary and generous gifts from Smith College Trustee Margaret Wurtele ’67, beginning with $5 million in 2012 to fund what was then known as the Center for Work and Life. Wurtele followed this gift with an additional pledge of $10 million in the fall of 2017, in order to transform the center into a space dedicated to leadership development. Below, learn how our mission and strategic direction have evolved.

The Wurtele Center Mission

Our mission is to equip all members of the Smith community with the creativity, courage, and collaborative capacity to lead positive change at scales both large and small.

Our Core Values

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Leading collaboratively necessitates that we foster self-awareness and embrace the productive tensions associated with working in diverse groups to create better outcomes.

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Effecting positive change requires us to engage in the hard work of taking risks, building creative confidence, and practicing resilience in the face of failure and adversity as we build our leadership practice.

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Forging, evolving and pursuing a sense of purpose that is both personally meaningful and of service beyond the self is a necessary element of leading collaboratively towards the impact we seek to have in the world.

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Speaking up and amplifying the voices of those who have been pushed to the margins is essential to true collaborative leadership and central to the project of tackling inequitable power structures.

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Engaging in leadership from a place of humility and curiosity allows us to work collaboratively to create equitable and human-centered solutions to complex, urgent problems.

Strategic Plan

Our mission is to equip all members of the Smith community with the creativity, courage and collaborative capacity to lead positive change at scales both large and small. During the 2019–20 academic year, the Wurtele Center for Leadership undertook a comprehensive strategic planning project using an approach inspired by Human-Centered Design.


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 leadership development and institutional change work. Before coming to Smith in 2019, 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 activists for racial and economic justice in the mid-20th century United States.

Megan Lyster

Assistant Director of the Wurtele Center
Curiosity, collaboration and human-centered design have been at the heart of Megan’s 15 years of work in higher education. Most recently, she served as the instructional designer for experiential learning in the Center for Community Engagement at Amherst College, where she worked with faculty across disciplines to design and facilitate community-based and project-based learning. Prior to that, Megan taught courses and supported independent student work in social entrepreneurship at Hampshire College. She holds a B.A. from Hampshire College with a concentration in family and developmental psychology, and an M.A. from Prescott College with a concentration in education.

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.

Sarah Hampton
Sarah Hampton

Administrative Assistant
Sarah worked for 15 years in the frenetic world of magazine publishing in New York City before moving to Northampton in 2017. She developed her creative thinking and organizational skills through roles as a photo editor/producer and studio manager. Her appreciation for collaborative leadership and social innovation began with her upbringing in the Quaker community of Barnesville, Ohio, and continued at Earlham College, where she earned a B.A. in photography. Sarah values developing meaningful working relationships and has been learning the importance of strength, resilience and joy through nearly 10 years of trying to surf.


Annual Report 2022-23

"Leading well means recognizing the role we as individuals can courageously play in galvanizing those around us, and facilitating work towards collective impact in the midst of precarious and ever-changing circumstances."
—Erin Park Cohn, Director of the Wurtele Center