Each day includes a mix of mindfulness practice, collaborative communication, empathic listening, narrative storytelling, small and large group collaboration, leadership training, and time in nature.
Mindfulness means paying attention to our unfolding experience with purpose and compassionate curiosity. When we develop the ability to bear witness to our experiences, even while we're having them, we can more clearly see the impact our thoughts and actions have on ourselves and others. Faced with a challenge or difficult decision, our ability to remain focused and aware gives us the space to choose skillful and values-driven responses, especially under pressure. Students learn and practice these skills under the guidance of nationally recognized mindfulness teachers, and there is an opportunity for a day of silent practice in the middle of the program.
Collaborative Communication, also known as Nonviolent Communication (NVC), was developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg and teaches us: 1) how to identify and express our own feelings and needs in a way that creates connection rather than conflict, and 2) how to hear and understand the needs of others, even when those needs are expressed in a hostile way. When we engage in this practice, we have the capacity to build long-lasting connections founded upon trust, mutual respect, and understanding without suppressing differences. Students work in pairs and small groups to practice the skills of effective listening, speaking, and requesting.
Empathic listening and narrative storytelling are central to effective leadership. Council—a communication method that cultivates empathic listening and authentic dialogue—teaches us how to listen to others' stories while practicing the art of telling our own. In Council, and in the reflective writing portion of our program, students are given the space to become curious about their lives and the lives of others and to experience having their stories received by others with an open heart.
"I learned over the course of this program that it's important to experience this kind of deep introspection as a leader, because it's impossible to lead others humanely and effectively without knowing how we really lead ourselves." - Bruce, Brown University
Facilitated Discussion gives students the space to unpack the experience of creating a healthy, high-trust, values-driven culture together. They are given the opportunity to share what has arisen in their experiences in the dorm, outdoors, in mindfulness practice, Council, and in the reflective writing portion of the program. It is in this space that students explore how the various aspects of the program contribute to the learning, growth, and performance of future leaders. By the end of the program, students have a more clear understanding of how their inner lives shape their actions in the world.
"I learned how effective my silence and presence could be around others. I know for sure this skill will help me create better relationships with my students and allow me to really be present for them when they need me to listen."
- Erika, Yale University