Highlights from the 2019 WIL Weekend
The International House Women’s International Leadership Program (WIL) fellows gathered in October 2019 for their first of three leadership development weekends. The two-day intensive weekend training focused on personal leadership identity and had the fellows dancing, collaging, and sharing about their respective journeys and work they’ve been doing. Workshops, fireside chats and ice-breakers led to the weekend’s culminating activity of writing a personal leadership manifesto.
The WIL program is in its 29th year at I-House and the 2019-2020 cohort is comprised of incredible women from 20 countries. Artists, historians, teachers and human rights activists are just some of the specialties represented in the group. After gathering for an initial meeting in September, the first weekend program was a chance for the cohort to meet and learn from each other as well as the various guest-speakers and facilitators.
A highlight of the weekend was the Body Movement Workshop, led by Renee Robinson, a former principal dancer of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Sheyi Ojofeitim from Synthesis Physical Therapy. This workshop had the Fellows on the floor learning about healthy sleep habits and the very real effects stress can have on the body. The connection to leadership was explicit: how can we change the world if we can’t take care of ourselves?
The Fellows also learned about identity through a mapping exercise led by Keonna Hendrick, a cultural strategist and educator. Hendrick brought piles of magazines and glue sticks and let the cohort flex their creative muscles by creating collages that reflected the work that they do in the world. Some were sparse and some bloomed beyond the edges of the blank cardboard rectangle provided as a starting point. All were expressive.
Liz Abzug, the founder and CEO of The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, came in to help the Fellows learn how to use their voices effectively while standing in front of an audience. She brought in packages of speech-snippets from powerful women like Hillary Clinton and then invited volunteers to step behind a podium and deliver a 30-second rendition. The exercise was intense and nerve-wracking, but provided real-time feedback as well as second opportunities to deliver hard-hitting and emotional lines with crafted impact.
Throughout the weekend, Fellows learned about different kinds of leadership qualities and how they can come together to make projects and change come to life. From action-based leaders to those infused with empathy, an emphasis was made on how most leaders have qualities from many different leadership styles fused into a singular hybrid. Through a photography-based exercise, Fellows pondered the questions presented: What is the state of women in leadership today? What will it look like in the future?
Ultimately, the weekend was an excellent kick-off to the nine-month program. The Fellows will continue to come together and further develop their respective professional goals and skills as they work to produce a capstone event.
A 2019 WIL Fellow as well as a member of the Resident Press Corps, Stephanie Philp is currently pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) at Columbia University School of the Arts. Previously she was an intern with the National Magazine Awards Foundation, where she wrote for the Magazine Awards and Digital Publishing Awards blogs. Read more by Stephanie on her blog and follow her on Twitter @MsPhilp.