STeLA was founded in 2006 by graduate students in science and engineering at universities in the United States with the desire to change the global community. The founders recognized the importance of multicultural and interdisciplinary perspectives in addressing contemporary global issues and recognized that, in order to make an impact, the ambitious young generation needed to be brought together. A network needed to be established in order to exchange ideas on in which direction we can lead the global society and how we individuals can contribute to the needs of society's leadership.

In 2007 the STeLA community was extended with the Japan branch and the community grew further in 2008. Using the exchange connections of MIT and Harvard, Chinese participants were invited to that year’s forum. European students were involved in the forum of 2009, which initiated the constitution of a European branch. After being part of the European branch for a few years the Middle East branch became official in 2018 and this completed the STeLA organization as it is right now.

STeLA stands for Science and Technology Leadership Association, so initially we were only for science and technology students. However, during the years we also had participants from other fields of study, mainly economics and business, but also humanities and social sciences. So nowadays, STeLA is open for students from all majors.