What is STeLA?

STeLA (Science and Technology Leadership Association) is an international student-run organization that brings science and engineering students together from top universities worldwide to provide leadership education and facilitate multicultural dialogue on global issues. 

The mandate of the STeLA is to create an intellectual network of advanced undergraduate and graduate students from prestigious US, Japanese, Chinese, and European universities in science and technology.  Some of the involved universities are: MIT, Berkley, Stanford, Harvard, TU Delft , ETH Zurich, Imperial College London, ParisTech, University of Tokyo, Waseda University,  Tsinghua University, Peking University, and Beijing Institute of Technology.

STeLA is a student run organization with four chapters: China, Europe, Japan and the USA. In August we organize an annual 9-day Forum. In 2014 it was held at Stanford University in the US. This year the forum will be held in Okinawa, Japan.

When was the organization founded?

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.

The first step to expand the STeLA community was made in 2008. Using the exchange connections of MIT and Harvard, Chinese participants were invited to that year’s forum. Finally, European students were involved in the forum of 2009, which initiated the constitution of a European branch. This completed the STeLA organization as it is right now.

What is our mission?

STeLA’s mission is to “create an international network of the next generation of leaders in science and technology and equip them with training in leadership, an awareness of global issues, and a vision for the future”. STeLA’s network of alumni will significantly contribute to future efforts to solve global issues in which science and technology are crucial components.

In order to fulfil this mission, STeLA aims to

  • Bring together future leaders - including scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers  from around the world.

  • Facilitate a multi-disciplinary dialogue on global issues.

  • Create a long-term network of the next generation of leaders in the fields of science and technology. 


STeLA differs from other leadership seminars and trainings. Through intensive counseling and peer reflections a mirror is held up to students; allowing them to critically reflect on themselves and thereby fostering their personal development. It is the merging of theories and practice, accompanied by individual and group reflections, that creates an atmosphere unique to STeLA. STeLA’s most important means is the organization of an annual Forum for 50 high potential students from around the world. Each Forum has a specific theme related to global issues and the host country.
The theme for the Delft 2013 Forum was urbanization, Stanford 2014  focussed on Health and Bioethics and Beijing 2015 was about the Era of Information Technology. 

The Forum is comprised of leadership lectures, thematic lectures, group sessions, projects, simulations, site visits and reflections. Working together in a multicultural and multidisciplinary group is key!

Students are taught about leadership using leadership models from the MIT Leadership Center. More importantly however, students are continuously challenged to employ newly taught theory during demanding exercises. Ample feedback from facilitators and in depth peer reviews give students a rare opportunity to learn about themselves in a way that pure theory never enables.

To summarize

In general, STeLA is for high potential students who are capable of and aspire to do more than what is expected: The true leaders of tomorrow! Students can be Bachelor, Master or PhD level. An affiliation with science and technology is strongly recommended. STeLA's mission is to "create an international network of the next generation of leaders in science and technology and equip them with training in leadership, an awareness of global issues, and a vision for the future." STeLA's alumni network will significantly contribute to future efforts to solve global issues in which science and technology are crucial components.  


In general, each STeLA branch has its own board that changes annually. By working together intensively they ensure the success of STeLA.


" STeLA was one of the most inspiring, exciting & memorable experience in my life."

Hiroki Fujiwara – JP

    For me, STeLA was one of the most inspiring, exciting and memorable experience in my life.
    When I applied to STeLA, I imagined of learning useful leadership skills through lecture-based session with some individual tasks. Actually, the forum involved many group works with brainstorming, discussions and presentation, which was more interactive than I had expected though some tasks during the forum was very tough, tackling it with people from different cultural background was very exciting and I learned so many things.We shared our ideas, life experiences and our future dreams. Every story were fascinating and inspiring, and in the end, we beacame great friends like we've been together for a long time. STeLA experience was totally different from what I've learned in university and if it weren't for STeLA, I could've never met such a wonderful friends and learned fundamental skills. . Thanks to all participants, facilitators.



"STeLA felt like a comfortable, humble, international community."

Alaisha Alexander – US

The STeLA leadership forum was truly a life changing experience. Each day felt like a lifetime had passed with all of the skills that we learned, cultures we were exposed to, and strength of the relationships being built. Going into the forum I wasn’t sure what to expect. Leadership was a vague word and notion expressed in impact and action. The forum really helped to define what being a leader within a team meant while bridging a culture gap that barely seemed existent between us. The lectures and exercises were insightful and excellent. They challenged us to think outside of our comfort zones and usual roles within a team to identify and implement objectives effectively. As excellent as the content was, the people are what make STeLA really amazing. The STeLA environment supports us all to learn and have fun. Every person I interacted with was eager to share with me about their experiences and hear about mine. By the end of the 9 days, STeLA felt like a comfortable, humble, international community. I came back home with a different outlook on how to live my life, lessons that make me a more productive member of society, and friends from around the world that truly care about me and my progress. The STeLA experience is truly a unique one that I’d recommend to anyone with a drive to improve themselves and better understand the diversity and potential of people.




Alexander van Geel  -EU

"Why I joined STeLA? - STeLA EU President 2015/2016"

There were originally two reasons for me to join STeLA: challenge and professional environment. I'm often looking for new ways to challenge myself and to learn in the process, which is something STeLA can help me do. It also offers the multicultural professional environment I'd like to experience working in, as it is really a worldwide organization.

These two reasons have certainly proven to be true. However, after being with STeLA for two years, I could probably come up with a thousand more!



We are one. We are STeLAers.

Xuefei Cheng – CN

It was my first year in STeLA Leadership Forum, and the forum really left me a deep impression. STeLA was a rare opportunity for me to meet excellent peers from all over the world with different backgrounds and cultures and work with them. No matter us participants or staffs are from Asia, Europe, or America, we are a big family at STeLA during these 9 days. I am the youngest member in my group, and I am the only girl in it as well. It was quite interesting to work with all the male participants and facilitators. I found it really inspiring to get used to their ways of thinking. And our team was really dynamic. There was a guy from Jordan who was a truly provocative driver, encouraging the whole team to do our best. He stimulated me to become an active opposer and devote myself to the team with no holding back, which also shaped me into a better version. And we also had a great Japanese bystander, who was very prudent and was always there to remind us to look at the big picture. Others were dedicated followers at most of the time, which really made our team more united and high efficient. Besides, our two handsome and patient facilitators also taught me a lot. They were always there to encourage us and give us feedback. Through their work I understood how much strength that group reflection could have on individuals. What’s more, the theme of this forum—Era of IT—was really close to life and highly technical. I had little background about IT, so I just took all the sessions as some science courses. Some viewpoints given by those speakers were so eye-opening to me such as the prospect of IoT and some trouble we had on cyber security. And final group project based on a dramatic background relating to IoT was the most interesting and technical thing among the forum, which was challenging enough to arouse my enthusiasm. As for the leadership sessions, those sessions did give me a better understanding of leadership, which was to find your most appropriate role you could play in the team and give you all to the team in order to make better teamwork. It kind of surprised me when I found out that I could be a pretty good opposer in a team and see things from a comprehensive angle. Nine days were obviously short, though, I still had deep friendship with many people in this forum. We Chinese branch were like old friends after those days we went through together. I also promised my cute Dutch roommate to call her once I visited Netherlands. And I will never forget those touching and beautiful memories we shared together, which may be an incentive for me to join next year’s forum as a staff. After experiencing the enchantment of this forum, I feel like creating precious memories for others and helping them become a better version of themselves. STeLA gives you strength to reconsider what kind of person you are going to be and it helps you to see your goal, your future clearer. It also reminds you of having so many excellent, similar yet different people all over the world who are working hard to be better and are willing to shape you into a better you.