The guiding principle for the leadership education is the distributed leadership model developed at the MIT Leadership Center. There will be several sessions about the leadership model and each targets one of the four components of the distributed leadership model; sense-making, relating, visioning and inventing. During each session theory will be provided through a short lecture. However, STeLA is about developing yourself and this can be done better actively than passively. So, next to the lecture we will have discussions, small games and other activities to help you grasp the theory. These activities are of course followed by moments of reflection, individually and in a group, to learn the most out of them.
Next to the Leadership Sessions the Forum also consists out of Thematic Sessions. The thematic material is based on the theme of the forum, which changes every year (see past fora for different themes we've had). The theme will be on a very broad topic, but we then scope down the content through several sub-categories we believe stress the important aspects of the theme. Themes almost always involve a global issue that heavily relies on our utility of science and technology, but may not necessarily always be solvable from this alone. The material is generated new every year to maintain relevance, and we bring in professionals from the field to share their insight with us via Keynote Speakers. The Thematic Sessions are meant to help you put the theory of the Leadership Sessions in some practice and are therefore also linked to the four components of the distributed leadership model. The theme acts as a medium for discussions and activities.
We consider the group project as the capstone of the forum as you will work in international interdisciplinary theme putting the theories in practise solving a theme related problem. This project is usually three or four days with your primary group and requires intensive design, creativity and a lot of teamwork. The goal is to practice leadership skills in a 'close to real world' situation, and these group challenges tend to model real dilemmas relevant to the theme. We also stress a hands-on project, so that we have actual deliverables at the end of the forum, not just a written proposal. While no technical skills are required for this project, participants tend to gain a lot of skills because of the nature of the project.
Reflection is a key part of the STeLA Forum, because ‘we don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience’ as John Dewey has said. This means that we don’t only have small moments of reflection after activities during the Leadership and Thematic sessions, but we also have a group reflection at the end of each day. These reflection sessions are with your project group and you will reflect about your own development and goals for the coming days, but also about the development and the goals of others in the group and the group as a whole.
There are a number of other components to STeLA that we have maintained through the years, as we have found them to be rewarding for the participants.
At some point during the forum, we'll take half a day or more to go somewhere to see and hear about what professionals are doing in the field. These are always based on the theme. Site visits in the past have been to companies like Google, JAXA, Merck, Genentech and Lenovo, as well as to research laboratories at hosting universities.
Every year we'll have two or three keynote speakers that are renowned in their field and demonstrate a strong perspective on leadership or have made notable contributions to their technical field. These are followed by Q&A sessions for the participants.
Cultural evening and Farewell party
Next to all the serious activities during the forum (which are of course also a lot of fun), we also have two relaxing activities. First, we have the cultural evening where everyone will bring something of their own culture and share this with the others. This is done in a very relaxing environment with music, food and even some dancing. Next, we have the farewell party at the end of the Forum, which is always a great evening with a lot of music, dancing and a lot of fun.