A festive mood permeated the Jepson Alumni Center Nov. 5 when the Jepson School of Leadership Studies welcomed 94 new students to its ranks at Prelude, its annual induction ceremony. Comprising one of the most diverse groups of students in the School’s history, inductees offered reasons for choosing the leadership studies major or minor that are as diverse as they are. 

As Dean Sandra Peart stated in her opening remarks, 28 percent of the inductees are students of color and/or first-generation students, 11 are Science Leadership Scholars, and many others are involved in activities ranging from Honor Council, to Division I athletics, to the Model United Nations Society.

“We believe it is important for students from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds to see themselves as potential leaders,” Peart reflected in her Prelude blog post.  

Prelude keynote speaker Dr. Haley Harwell echoed the diversity theme. "Take note that you are now part of a community that cultivates critical thinking and considers and entertains ethical processes in a variety of topics," she said. "Learn to appreciate diversity in thought and understanding. Challenge yourself to really understand leadership as not only a position but a very complicated process."

New Jepson students signed the School's book of record before heading into the reception, where they nibbled on meatballs and petit fours and talked about why they are pursuing leadership studies.

Suraj Bala, ’21, said the community work he’s been doing as a part of his Justice and Civil Society class will benefit him in his future career as an emergency room physician. “As a doctor, I will meet and interact with people from all facets of society,” he said. “A Jepson education prepares you to do that.”

“I want to work with a nonprofit after I graduate,” said Ana Paula Alvarado, ’21. “So studying issues of poverty and justice got me really interested in the Jepson School.”

Lina Tori Jan, ’20, said she wants to pursue a diplomatic career. “Jepson does a good job of defining leadership in political and civic contexts,” she said.

Other inductees cited the interdisciplinary, thought-provoking nature of leadership studies as their reason for choosing Jepson.

“It’s important to relate all the different disciplines to tackling the problems of society,” said Rong Bao, ’21.

While Bao focused externally, Becca Levitt, ’21, looked internally. “Leadership studies had me questioning the way I was doing things in my everyday life,” Levitt said.

Still others spoke of Jepson as a family. “I’m inspired by the community of people who care and want to make a difference in the world,” said Nina Joss, ’21.

Michael Johnson, ’19, the senior speaker at Prelude, touched on this theme as well in his address to new students: “To lead is to empower, and to empower is to serve others both empathetically and courageously. The next time you are asked what you plan to do with a degree in leadership studies, you can respond confidently by saying, ‘I am going to change the world, one person at a time.’”