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Courses & Cohort Programs

Cohort program group shot of students engaged in a project in the Campus Center
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).

IDP 133: Critical Perspectives on Collaborative Leadership

Fall Semester 2021

Wednesday/Friday, 1:20–2:35 p.m.

Traditional conceptions of leadership set up leading and working as a team as diametrically opposed; “leaders” are often conceptualized 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 given 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 being knowledgeable about what it means to team (as a verb), 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.

“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.”

LEAD Scholars and LEAD Corps


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 1:20-3:20.

2022 Application and Selection Process Dates

Date Description
March 2, 2022 LEAD Scholar Info Session (12:15-1:00PM, Location TBD)
March 8, 2022 LEAD Scholar Info Session (12:15-1:00PM, Location TBD)
March 21, 2022 Applications DUE
March 28, 2022 Offers extended
April 1, 2022 Confirmations Needed
April 22, 2022 Mini cohort retreat 

Application Materials

Applications are now OPEN! Applications due March 21!  APPLY HERE

For faculty and staff who would like to nominate a student who they feel would be an excellent fit for LEAD Scholars:

All applications must include a recommendation:

Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersions (CLDI Fellows)


Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersions is an integrative cohort program sponsored in partnership by the Wurtele Center for Leadership and the Design Thinking Initiative. CLDI is for students who are looking for intensive opportunities to put collaborative leadership skills into practice. The program offers students an opportunity to learn, develop and apply human-centered design leadership in a real-world setting. CLDI connects students with embedded, fully paid summer experiences around the world where they will 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. We support CLDI Fellows through deep learning in human-centered design and collaborative leadership prior to their internship experience, and help them reflect on and share their experiences upon their return.

How To Get Involved

CLDI Fellows apply in the fall to participate in specific internship experiences, and are matched with a sponsoring organization through the application process. Once accepted into the program, CLDI Fellows will meet as a cohort in late fall to connect with each other and learn about their sponsor organizations in order to begin preparing for the summer internship experience. In addition, they enroll in two 1-credit courses in the spring semester before their internship:

  • IDP 116: Introduction to Human-Centered Design (1 credit) 
  • IDP 132: Designing Your Path (section geared specifically towards CLDI Fellows) (1 credit)

These courses provide CLDI Fellows with foundational skills in human-centered design and collaborative leadership that will prepare them well for their internships. Students complete their internship over the summer, with periodic communication and support from WCL and DTI staff. Finally, during the fall semester following their internship, we assist CLDI Fellows to make sense of their experience and coach them to share their learning with the Smith community through developing a presentation for the Smith in the World Conference.

Who Is Eligible

Because the program spans across a summer, the application to become a CLDI Fellow is open to all current students except for graduating seniors. Each year, we accept ten CLDI Fellows to participate in the program.

Applying for CLDI is a Two-Phased Process

Phase One: The application.

The application is due by midnight on October 6, 2021. The application will include the following items:

  • Filling out a general application form
  • Your résumé, which should include all relevant experiences, academic and beyond.
  • Making a 2-4 minute video that speaks to and/or shows us:
    • What you are passionate about and why.
    • What kind of change you want to see in this world.
    • What excites you about the Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersions program.
    • What your goals for an immersion are.
    • What makes you a good candidate for the immersion of your choice.
    • What experience and learnings you have from working as part of a team.
    • What has best prepared you for living in a new city on your own.
    • For CRXLab applicants, please answer the following questions "Why does racial and ethnic equity matter to you?" and "Why are youth the equity leaders we need?"
  • Something “Made”: Do you make gourmet popcorn, fashion your own scarves, give great haircuts, embellish your own wardrobe, paint fab nails, repair bikes, craft gifts for loved ones, construct your own furnishings, make drawings, sculpt stuff, build robots, choreograph your own dance routines, engineer contraptions, program your own snapchat filters, knit sweaters for hairless cats, curate playlists for every occasion, fix your own shoes, or bake crazy confections? Making can mean many things, please show us something you make or have made that represents something we might not otherwise know about your passions, personality, or life experience.
Phase Two: Group Interview

Phase 1 finalists will be invited for an hour-long group exercise the afternoon of October 19th where staff will observe and evaluate how candidates navigate group dynamics. Small teams will be given a quick and dirty design thinking prompt to get them working through a problem together rapidly. It should actually be pretty fun!

Please Note: The Wurtele Center and Design Thinking fully cover the cost of travel, and support students with living expenses during the internship abroad. In addition, CLDI Fellows receive Praxis Plus grants. Upon being accepted to Design Immersions, students will be required to fill out a Praxis Plus application. Students who have already received Praxis funding are still eligible for a fully funded Immersion experience.

Date Description

Thursday, September 16, 2021
12:15-1:15 p.m.
Capen Annex

Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersions Program Information Session

October 6, 2021

Applications Due by Midnight EST

October 19, 2021
4:30-5:30 p.m.
Location TBD

Group Interviews for Candidates

November 1, 2021

Offers Extended

November 8, 2021

Decision Deadline

Monday, November 8 –
Friday, November 19

CLDI Fellows Register for IDP 116 and IDP 132

November 18, 2021

Cohort Gathering and Orientation #1

Summer 2022

Go on Immersion Internship Experience

Summer 2022

Two virtual cohort gatherings

September 2022

Three cohort gatherings to reflect on experience and develop Smith in the World presentation

November 2022

Deliver presentations at Smith in the World Conference

Opportunities for Summer ’22

Opportunities are listed in  alphabetical order.

Busara Center for Behavioral Economics Nairobi, Kenya
How cool would it be to join a team of psychologists, anthropologists, economists, health specialists, data scientists, and more to advance and apply Behavioral Science in the Global South?
Seeking 2 curious and collaborative researchers who have an interest in behavioral economics, research, and community-engaged projects in the Global South to join teams that lead research for clients and help them understand human behaviors and design solutions to scale products, programs and policies.

CORCLIMA (the Commision towards Resilience to Climate Change in Monteverde) MonteVerde, Costa Rica

Passionate about combating Climate Change? CORCLIMA, a community-led effort in the cloud forest of Costa Rica, is committed to capturing more carbon than it emits and serving as a model of climate resilience. CORCLIMA has two potential projects for next summer; one that focuses on creating upcycled products from denim and other materials to help economically sustain a women-run local barter center, the second project would involve the construction and iterative improvment on home-composting-systems to serve as demonstration projects and potenial products for community members. In your application please indicate which of these two projects you'd be interested in, why, and how you're uniquely qualified for it.  

Seeking 2-4 fiercely independent workers and Spanish proficient extroverts who aren’t afraid to tromp respectfully through very damp forests, work closely with community members, and show the exponential impact of collective action.

Creative Reaction Lab (CRXLab) St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Curious about the multiple approaches that can be applied to amplify the power of young people? Challenging the assumption that only adults in titled positions of power have the right and ability to take on societal inequities, CRXLAB educates, trains, and challenges Black and Latinx youth to become leaders designing healthy and racially equitable communities. As well, they are building the capacity of adults to understand their roles in challenging injustice in the many arenas of their lives.

Seeking 2–4 fiercely courageous, collaborative, and creative students to help this organization rally an intergenerational movement of Redesigners for Justice. Please note special instructions for CRXLab applicants for the video element of the application. 

itdUPM (Center of Innovation and Technology for Development Centre) Madrid, Spain
Interested in joining an interdisciplinary team within Madrid’s world-renowned technical university, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, working to deliver on the EU's Carbon Neutrality goals by bringing together NGO, business, academic, and civic leaders?

Seeking 2 driven Spanish-speaking students interested in the nexus of sustainability, social innovation, government, and community-engaged leadership.

Latin American Leadership Academy Medellín, Colombia
Imagine joining a team whose mission is to promote sustainable economic development and strengthen democratic governance in Latin America by developing and connecting the next generation of principled and socially innovative leaders?

Seeking 2 independent and self-motivated students who are passionate about leadership, education, and the future of Latin America.