When Aaron Morehouse assumed the role of executive director at The Experiment in International Living in late 2013, he saw a great opportunity to revitalize the programs while reaffirming the core values of the 80-year-old organization. Based on the recommendations of a yearlong task force comprised of internal and external stake-holders, Morehouse advocated for a greater emphasis on youth leadership.
“We live in a rapidly changing world with major global issues that must be attended to,” he said. “We need a cadre of young adults with a strong sense of civic responsibility, awareness of global issues, strong interpersonal leadership skills, and an ability to foster relationships among people from a diversity of backgrounds.”
To fill this need, Morehouse led the development and launch of the Experiment Leadership Institute. This program provides a new track of issues-oriented programs consistent with World Learning’s mission to develop the next generation of global leaders.
In summer 2015, the first class of 30 exceptionally qualified young leaders will train together at World Learning’s Washington, DC, office. This workshop will use the city as a classroom, allowing students to study vital issues through discussions with political and nongovernmental organization leaders, field trips, and group exercises.
After training in DC, Experiment Leadership Institute participants will split into two cohorts and travel abroad to study a critical global issue. Students in India will examine challenges related to public health and community development, while South Africa participants will engage in discussions and activities surrounding youth leadership in peace, politics, and human rights. In both locations, participants will interact with youth, local government, NGOs and community organizations, and take part in leadership workshops, language classes, homestays, and cultural events.
At the conclusion of their time abroad, students will return to School for International Training’s Brattleboro, Vermont, campus for a re-entry workshop, where they will reflect on and synthesize their overseas experience. Under the guidance of Experiment faculty, participants will prepare an action project to complete in their home communities that draws on their global competency and leadership skills.
“Bringing these lessons back home is a key component of the Experiment Leadership Institute,” says Morehouse. “Our students aren’t going abroad to teach others; they’re going abroad to learn from others and discover what it takes to bring about meaningful and substantive change in their home communities.”
A transformational gift made by task force member and former World Learning trustee Ann Friedman helped make the Experiment Leadership Institute possible and also provided funds to ensure that every student selected for this highly competitive program receives a scholarship to cover the full cost of the program. This unprecedented level of support means that the Experiment Leadership Institute is accessible to qualified students regardless of their financial means.
As he approaches his first anniversary as executive director, Morehouse is enthusiastic about what the Experiment Leadership Institute will mean for The Experiment and for World Learning. “This is an excellent opportunity for us to reconnect with our roots and provide a pathway into the future. The Experiment Leadership Institute will prove to be a flagship program that digs deep into global issues, enabling and empowering young leaders both at home and abroad.”