Published: Feb. 1, 2020 By

Phil DiStefano

You hold the Newton Endowed Chair in Leadership. Why is leadership important to you?

We prepare students to impact humanity when we help them work well with others, empathize, resolve conflict, think critically and always act with integrity. While these themes are universal, the context in which they are delivered varies. Leadership is not ‘one size fits all.’

How so?

Leadership comes in many forms: corporate, political, grass roots, educational, nonprofit, charitable and community leaders to name a few. 

In addition to our student government leaders, we have a wide breadth of programs, such as the cross-campus leadership studies minor and certificates in leadership in the business and engineering colleges. We have co-curricular programs such as the highly regarded Presidents Leadership Class and ROTC. We also offer leadership programs dedicated to social justice, service and volunteerism, as well as multicultural leadership. I am impressed with the diversity of student leaders we have and how they approach challenges from different points of view.

How do you shape tomorrow’s leaders?

One way is through a learn-observe-do model. We have world-class leadership experts teaching and leading our schools and colleges. 

We have students observe leaders. This includes reading about accomplished leaders – such as one of my favorite leadership books, Leadership in Turbulent Times by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She recounts leadership lessons of four presidents. I hosted Doris last month as part of our Leo Hill Leadership Speaker Series so students could talk directly to her about the lessons of accomplished leaders. 

What about leadership opportunities beyond campus?

Boulder is unique in that we are co-located with many respected companies in technology, aerospace and sustainability, among others, as well as an exciting group of entrepreneurs and start-ups. I’m pleased to partner with the Downtown Boulder Partnership and the Boulder Chamber of Commerce over our common belief in developing leaders and connecting students to diverse and accomplished leaders in multiple industries. 

I will also note that law student Junie Joseph (Law’21) was elected to the Boulder City Council and we’ve now had Rhodes Scholars in consecutive years, both active in campus leadership: Jake Reagan (PolSci, Span’20) and Serene Singh (Jour, PolSci’19). 

What’s your advice to future leaders?

I like the words of John F. Kennedy, who said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” 

Illustration by Melinda Josie