Student Life: LEADS at Spelman


LEADS, the Spelman Anchor for Leadership

Several years ago, President Beverly Daniel Tatum decided leadership would have a stronger presence at Spelman College.

It was in her inauguration speech that she first shared her vision for what would soon become the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.  The center’s acronym, LEADS, means leadership, economic empowerment, advocacy in the arts, dialogue across differences and service learning.

“At the heart of [Spelman’s] mission is the notion of leadership – a holistic understanding of leadership development that includes mind, body and spirit – an understanding of leadership that includes the cultivation of wisdom and an understanding of social justice,” Dr. Tatum said in 2003.

“She wanted to have an anchor spot that would be a place where resources could come together and be identified and distributed to the College to do the work in leadership,” said Jane Smith, Ed.D., executive director of LEADS.

Setting the Example

From the beginning, Kim Davis, C’81, exemplified the leadership model the program would foster. Davis, a JPMorgan Chase executive took a leave of absence to work with Pamela Carlton, an independent consultant in leadership development. Davis and Carlton were the center’s first co-directors.  They began what is now the anchor program of LEADS, the annual Women of Color Conference, which showcases Spelman’s interest in having a leadership voice for all women.

“They hit the ground running through their networks in bringing leadership development opportunities to Spelman,” said Dr. Smith, who took the helm in 2004.

LEADS help students develop the skills needed to become authentic, ethical leaders both nationally and globally through its leadership-specific programs. The co-curricular programs, meaning there are no academic credits for students’ participation, have involved more than 700 students since LEADS’ inception.

A Focus on Service

Through the Bonner Office of Community Service and Student Development programs, the center focuses on service.  In addition, LEADS hosts a variety of public programs designed to bring together dynamic leaders from around the world to share experiences and discuss issues critical to leadership roles.  There is also a research component to the center that includes Spelman’s Independent Scholars.    

In addition, LEADS fully embraces Spelman’s global mission. “We try to integrate a global perspective into all that we do,” said Dr. Smith. “Whether it’s bringing in leaders of global brands or taking students abroad for global experiences, we are intentional about exposing our students to 21st century leadership models.”