TASIS Leadership Academy
The TASIS Leadership Academy is a new program that gives students direct experience in understanding leadership through opportunities for personal growth, leadership development, and community involvement. Through this joint program with TASIS Lugano, students will discover their own leadership strengths and have opportunities to not just learn about leadership, but to experience leadership.
Selected sophomores will engage in Leadership seminars and case studies to learn more about leadership theory, study leaders of past and present, and develop an understanding of their own leadership traits.
Students will participate in a two-week Summer Academy in which they will travel to Europe. They will explore the elements of effective leadership and have opportunities to be leaders themselves.
In the junior year, the leadership ambassadors will apply their leadership skills to a personal leadership project (Capstone) in a chosen pathway.
The Leadership Academy provides students with both a common grounding in the field of leadership and engagement with leadership through three key pathways. These pathways provide a framework for deep study and hands-on engagement. The Pathways are: Politics and Diplomacy, Service to the Common Wealth and Entrepreneurialism and Business.
The TASIS Leadership Academy seminars, case studies, summer program, and final capstone project will focus on the study of leadership development within these pathways.
- Students must be a 10tth grade student enrolled full-time at TASIS who plans to attend, minimally, through the junior year.
- Nominations will be accepted from teachers, coaches, dorm parents or self-nomination.
- Students must be committed to completing the entire 2-year program including the summer program.
- Demonstrated leadership abilities in school, community, and/or social organizations are helpful but not required.
- To obtain an application students may pick one up from Jason Tait.
- In addition to the application, 2 reference letters are required from a teacher, coach, or dorm parent who knows the student well.
- Top finalists will be required to interview with the TASIS Leadership Academy Committee for final consideration.
- Six Student Leadership Ambassadors will be chosen to participate in the TLA program.
While we had TLA meetings throughout the second semester of 10th Grade, and an introductory weekend in Switzerland, the first time I truly understood what the TLA was about was on the first day of the summer program in London. The TLA is essentially a program to help people develop their problem-solving and project-managing skills, and the entire program is centred around honing and crafting those skills.
The summer session of TLA was divided into two different parts: London and Lugano. In London, we did two things. Firstly, we worked with Esko Reinikainen to figure out what our TLA project would be. He introduced us to a variety of different tools and approaches that would help us in project work and development. The workshop sessions in London with Esko were incredibly helpful. He gave us several important skills, such as different ways in which to approach a problem. While these skills may sound obvious, they’re incredibly useful and vital for someone who has next to no experience working on projects. It may sound cliched, but we genuinely learned to think in a different way - thinking about logistics, next steps, and the people you need to meet. The most valuable skill that I took away from these workshops, without a doubt, was learning to write down everything that you need to do. Again, it sounds like common sense, but that simple task helped me organize my thoughts and actions significantly.
The other portion of the program in London was the exercise at the American Embassy where we had to prepare a presentation on how we would respond to the then-recent earthquake that had ravaged Nepal. This task had been set to us at the introductory weekend, and we had been working on it for a few months. I liked creating the presentation - It was very good practice on how to organize a presentation and how to present when nervous - I just wish the task had been a little more specific, as that would have made our presentations more focused, and as a result, higher in quality. Still, I felt that the project helped develop our group work and collaboration skills, and was therefore worthwhile.
After we arrived in Lugano, we began our second project: tracing the life of a pharmaceutical drug at a local pharmaceutical company in Lugano. While it was a nice idea, I didn’t really get a great deal out of the experience. I didn’t discover any new insights about leadership during the process, and we spent an entire morning touring the pharmaceutical facilities - time that I believe could have been better utilized elsewhere.
The third and final project was also the most taxing and fulfilling: Setting up a three-day summer camp for children who had fled their homes in war-torn countries. When I first heard about this project during the introductory weekend in the spring, I panicked. I didn’t think there was any possible way for 12 high school students to run a fully-functioning summer camp on their own - especially when seven of them couldn’t speak the same language as the campers. But as we started planning the camp, and different pieces began to come together, what had seemed impossible became more and more tangible before my eyes. The night before the camp started, everything seemed perfect - we had all the activities planned, all the resources we needed, all the bookings made. Indeed, it seemed like nothing could go wrong… until I woke up the next morning with a bad case of food poisoning.
The food poisoning more or less crippled me for that entire morning, and made sure I wasn’t able to do any of the activities that we had planned. Therefore, the next morning, I was meeting the campers for the first time when they had already formed bonds with all the other TLA students. Thankfully, the campers were very enthusiastic and kind, and I was able to get involved very quickly. The actual camp ran smoothly, and I really enjoyed acting as a camp counselor, but the ease of the camp was all down to the depth of the preparations. Out of anything in the TLA program, preparing for the camp was where I learned the most. Skills like effective communication, collaboration, working through disagreements, and creating backup options were all things that we needed to use - and are all things that make life much easier.
I conceived the idea for my TLA project in one of Esko’s workshops in London. My plan: To create feedback forms that students could fill out about their classes and then submit to their teachers. During the workshops, I worked out some key details: the feedback could be facilitated using Google Forms, the responses would be anonymous, and students would fill out one form for each class. Eager and ready to begin work, I arrived at school full of enthusiasm for the project. In my first meeting, with Mr. Arcay, I found out that Dr. Hong was working on a similar project. I thought this was great - the project was more likely to be successful if the headmaster was working on it as well. I met with Dr. Hong, and it turned out that our visions for the feedback system were very similar. There was, however, one key difference: Dr. Hong wanted the feedback to go to the teachers and the administration, while I had only planned for teachers to see the feedback. This difference was significant - and it almost meant that I did not work with Dr. Hong. However, I took a step back, and looked at whether Dr. Hong’s approach would compromise the goal I had set myself: To let students give feedback to their teachers. I realized that her approach would also let me accomplish my goal, and so I decided to work with Dr. Hong, with the feedback going to both teachers and the administration. The project progressed successfully. I was able to take a series of questions, and retool them so they were more in line with what students wanted to see, and the survey finally was sent out this past March. However, the further the project progressed, the more I realized I wasn’t completely happy. I was very happy with the project itself, and plan to continue improving it for next year, but I felt as if I had not been involved enough. Because Dr. Hong had been developing the project before I even talked to her, she did a lot of the work, making my life relatively straightforward. I felt like I could accomplish more, and so I decided to work on another project.
Along with Joanna, another TLA participant at TASIS England, I started working on a project to help start a skills training program.
Surprisingly, a number of students were not completely proficient using a program like Microsoft Word, or did not feel comfortable using the LMS. Teachers then had to take time out of their class to teach their students how to use these programs properly. We wanted to find the most effective way for students to learn these skills - and we decided that would be by learning from other students. Teenagers tend to interact better with other teenagers than when they interact with adults, so we decided to maximize this as much as possible.
Furthermore, this would allow the student-teachers to gain CSP hours for this service. We established a system where students who needed CSP would learn a skill, and then advertise their availability. That way, when a student arrives who needs to learn more about a certain area, they can find the student who can teach them, and set up a time. We have tested the Beta version, and hope to expand it much further at the beginning of next year.
While the TLA helped me develop the two aforementioned programs, I believe its most significant benefits are yet to come. It has given me skills that I will use throughout the rest of high school, throughout college, and for the rest of my life. This program has made me a better thinker, a better worker - a person who is better equipped to deal with whatever life throws at me. So much of school is spent focusing on how to learn - the facts and skills that we learn are almost incidental. The TLA has taught me how to work - and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Plan of Action
Problem Statement: The lack of efficient communication between students and teachers.
We picked to improve communications because it is a problem that we have seen in our high school community. Our goal was to better the learning environment and create a better communication system in the TASIS learning community. We believe that it is a problem based around a combination of not fully understanding how we can use the technology we have available to us to its capability and the stress that both students and faculty experience on a daily basis. We went through various pivot points and we fist saw this when we decided to create an app. We truly thought this app would help achieve our goal of improving communication because it would bring communication to our mobile devices. Making it easier to communicate, and resulting in possibly being used more because of its easy accessibility. We were passionate about our vision, however none of us had prior understanding about coding or what it takes to create an app, so we decided to ope n a club to get anyone who was interested involved. The club met every Monday, and we discussed possibilities with the app, and held calls with Answerhub, a potential developer. However as our project progressed, we hit a couple problems. Perhaps our biggest problem was the funding because the app was going to roughly cost 5000 pounds per a year. Another problem we had was the mixed response we got from teachers about the app. Although many teachers supported the app, many teachers also believed that it would make communication more confusing given the technology that TASIS already has. Many teachers also disliked the idea of bringing school life even closer to their personal life by having the app on mobile devices. For our vision to be a success we had to draw the attention of both students and teachers. As a result, we hit a “pivot” moment and decided to change our project as a whole. We still had the same problem statement, and only changed our solution. We realised that we had become too invested in the idea of the app as a whole, rather than solving the problem, and so we decided to help deepen the understanding of how to use technology that TASIS already has. We looked into how we could use the Learning Management System (LMS) to solve our problem statement, and found out about the discussion boards. The discussion board has always been apart of the LMS but not many teachers knew about it, or knew how to use it, so we decided to make our project to teach the teachers how to use it and why it may be beneficial.
NIRUK: The process of joining the TLA involved a nomination by our peers, an interview, and a presentation about how we would solve the water problem with the help of our peers at TASIS. After being selected to the program, our first activity was an introduction weekend into the program in Switzerland. This was where we first met the other six TLA students from TASIS Switzerland, our sister school. Over the course of the weekend we had to complete multiple projects, such as advertising your own yoghurt and gaining investors. After the introduction weekend, the twelve of us would only meet again during the summer where we had more projects to complete to help us gain an idea about what we would like to pursue for our capstone project. These projects included presenting to a panel at the US Embassy in London
JADE: When we wanted to join the TLA program we first had to be nominated by others who believed that we would be successful in the program. Our next step was to answer questions about the program and why we should be picked. The last step of the selection program was to present in front of Mr. Tait and Mrs. Reinikainen in order to show that we had the skills they were looking for. After we had been selected to join, we had weekly Friday meetings to discuss what a leader was and to look at successful leaders from around the world. A few weeks after being selected the six of us, Mr. Tait and Mrs. Reinikainen flew to Switzerland to order to meet the kids from TASIS Switzerland who had also been selected. During the weekend we took part in different leadership games that allowed us to start to build leadership skills such as communication and cooperation. After the weekend we continued with the leadership seminars until the end of school. In summer we spend two weeks all together first in England and then in Switzerland taking part in leadership challenges. Our first challenge was to present in front of a select group of U.S ambassadors. Our second challenge was to present in front U.S business. Our last challenge and personally my favorite was to set up a three day summer camp for refugee kids. The entire time we were on the summer trip we were also discussing what our capstone project would be. Anirudh, Niruk and I decided to work together and fix the communication problem that occurs at our school. When we came back to school in august, we start working on our project. We realized half way through the project would not work and changed it. Know at the end of junior year we have finished our project.
ANIRUDH: To join the TLA it was a selection project, we had to answer questions, make a presentation and present it to the 3 TLA mentors Mr. Tait, Mr. Auerbach and Ms. Reinikainen. Once being selected, those who joined participated in our first activity, which was an introduction weekend into the program in Switzerland. We met with 6 other students that represented TASIS Switzerland, and bonded with them. Over the course we held various meetings, met various entrepreneurs and carried out various projects. After this we met again during summer in England, then Switzerland, where we worked on developing our idea on a Capstone project. These projects would later be presented to the TASIS board of education.
NIRUK: The TLA experience has developed my leadership skills overall and has allowed me to grow and become a better leader in general. I have been able to apply the skills that I have learned over the program to problems that I encounter on a daily basis. One thing that we learned over the summer program is that whenever we do a task, what matters is how we get the task done effectively and not who gets the task done. When people think of leadership they often think of presidents, monarchs, and CEO’s however what we learned was that leadership doesn’t come with a name or label. Instead, everyone has the opportunity to become a leader. I learned that a good leader would use the materials and resources they have efficiently and effectively to solve a problem, but should always be flexible. What I believe made the TLA program so successful in making me a better leader was how the program emphasized both single and team activities. I remember meeting the other six TLA students from TASIS Switzerland for the first time on the TLA Introduction weekend. We each had our own shoebox, and what we had in the shoebox and on the shoebox was meant to describe us and what we find most important. After all 12 of us explained our shoeboxes, four team captains were chosen at random by Mr. Tait, and these captains then had to pick teams for the weekend. I remember I was picked as a captain and was given the first choice in picking a team member. At the time I was extremely out of my comfort zone because I had to pick out of six people I had just met to work with for the rest of the weekend. I am also a very shy person when it comes to introductions, and this put me out of my comfort zone even further. However, the team that I picked on that day added to the experience of the introduction weekend, and I ended up bonding more with my teammates. This is just one of the many examples which put me out of my comfort zone, however, by putting me out of my comfort zone I was able to grow and develop more skills than I had before.
JADE: Our capstone project has made me a better leader because I have grown in my ability to talk with others and organize with others. I have been able to take the skills that TLA has taught me, and been able to use in with the rest of life. By being able to talk to others with more confidence when talking in class, and being organized with my school's work and group work as TLA has taught me how to cooperate with others. During the project there was a lot of pivot points, where we had to change our project and the way we were think about the project. But in the end through the communication and organization that we did we were able to get the project to work. TLA has helped me get a better understanding of leadership, and the way different leaders work in order to get the job done. I would recommend TLA to everyone because it helps people grow with their leadership skills, and their communication with others. Both of these skill are highly important for the rest of your life and TLA has allowed me to improve them in huge bounds that I don’t think any other program would have allowed me to.
ANIRUDH: From our capstone project I can personally say I became more of a leader, through confidence and speaking ability. I have shown this not only at TLA itself, but also when speaking to others in and outside the classroom, in the club that we formed. We created a club, Orbit, and we were able to spread our idea to the rest of the TASIS community. I personally felt I became a greater part of the TASIS community through working with fellow peers, working with Mr Tait, and even with TASIS Switzerland. From being a timid, shy new student last year, to a more confident contributor to the TASIS community. I have been forced to work outside my comfort zone through coordinating with teachers and club members and meeting with them to discuss our project. We have had to overcome difficulties as a team, through various pivot points, changing our project, but in the end reaching our goal of improving communication between the community in the TASIS learning environment. I learned that a leader has to make decisions, had to take charge, luckily I did not have to go through this arduous process on my own, my friends Jade and Niruk to help me along the way and enable me to keep a straight head. I would recommend TLA to those who are good at organizing their schedule, for it is a lot of work, but the reward, and the feeling for completing your Capstone project is great.