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It’s all about Leadership

Education Professor set her sights on youth

December 19, 2012 - Where will we find tomorrow's leaders?

Shirley Steinberg says these young women and men are all around us—we just have to facilitate them to discover their own abilities.

Steinberg, the Director and Chair of The Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education and Professor of Youth Studies in the Werklund School of Education, focuses on the cultural, social, and educational development of youth. And while some children and young adults are nurtured and educated to become leaders, it's another group that catches Steinberg's eye.

"lt's easy for a kid to be a leader if he or she has always been a leader," she says. "But we are trying to look at ways to facilitate self-confidence and commitment in youth who are quieter, forgotten, and who wouldn't be the ones to be identified as leaders."

Developing youth leaders means looking beyond the usual suspects -- the star athlete or school valedictorian --to kids who are indigenous, poor or homeless, below average in school, queer or questioning, or otherwise marginalized, and then creating opportunities for them to realize their own leadership abilities. Steinberg is concerned with how society views young people, and her work creates an environment in which youth are viewed in a positive light, as full participating members of society. "Our work is not rooted in a deficit model.  We work to find ways in which society can learn to accommodate and respect the individuality, culture, and interests of every young person.

The philosophy at the Werklund Centre-- the first research centre of its kind in the world--is that leadership is not about holding power; rather it's a co-operative practice that allows people to first discover, and then demonstrate their strengths.

"We will plan to facilitate a team of students and youth who will examine the ways in which youth can be leaders and leaders of youth can be effective," says Steinberg. "I see an international venue, globally unique, in which good work and research is constantly generated.   There's no doubt that there's a real need for the Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education."

Introduction by Adrienne Kertzer, Professor (Department of English) & Advisor to the President on Women's Issues

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Shirley Steinberg spoke about her research interests and her work with youth. Click to listen to the talk.

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