The mission of HGSLI is to facilitate peer-led leadership development through experience-based education, unique shared experiences, and the forging of authentic bonds with graduate students across the different Harvard graduate schools. This mission is largely based on the practices and fundamentals of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), a global network of young chief executives that has approximately 21,000 members across 125 countries. YPO was founded on the basis that young, successful individuals face a unique set of challenges and experiences. Similarly, graduate students face particular obstacles that necessitate a type of leadership development specific to those unique experiences.
HGSLI was founded by graduate students at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School who felt that the current opportunities for authentic leadership development were missing a critical piece. A pilot with students from the Kennedy, Business, and Medical Schools occurred in Spring 2012, and the second cohort was recruited Harvard-wide in Fall 2012. Since that time, HGSLI has accrued approximately 360 alumni and is now housed in the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and supported by the Harvard Business School Leadership Initiative. In Spring 2016, HGSLI alumni who were dual-degree students at both Harvard and MIT launched the MIT Graduate School Leadership Institute.
HGSLI is comprised of two main components:
1) a two day retreat at the beginning of the semester, and
2) six to seven weekly sessions held during the semester; participating students will experience HGSLI as part of a cohort, and they will also be part of a smaller Forum group within the cohort for more individualized work, learning, sharing, and relationship building (note: the program is repeated both fall and spring semesters each year)
Current fellows are required to attend the retreat and all weekly sessions in their entirety. The purpose of the retreat is to set the tone for the rest of the program and begin to forge bonds among the fellows. The weekly sessions build upon the leadership development, discovery, and connections that are initiated on the retreat.
As more fellows graduate from HGSLI and the alumni network grows, opportunities and events that are open to all HGSLI alumni–rather than just the current fellows–are being added. These may include chances to interact with board members, leadership workshops led by Harvard professors, and alumni networking events.