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Redefining Leadership through ‘Read to Lead’

By: Hana Ahmed ’23

The Laspa Center for Leadership’s “Read to Lead” book club provides a literary opportunity for current and aspiring leaders at Scripps. According to the Laspa Center’s recently hired executive director, Vicki Klopsch, Laspa uses community recommendations and best-seller lists to seek out current authors from underrepresented communities and material about ongoing gender inequality in leadership, with the intention that students will reflect on their own experiences as they read and hear different perspectives in the small group setting of a book club meeting.

Read to Lead, which is open to all Scripps College students, faculty, and staff, was launched at Scripps in Spring 2019. The club’s debut book was Brené Brown’s best-seller “Dare to Lead”.

Read to Lead is in part overseen by the Scholars in Action, who are student employees at the Laspa Center. They host several book club meetings throughout the semester and collaborate with Scripps’s Leadership Living Learning Community in Eleanor Joy Toll Hall to hold at least one student-only session. Dates and locations of the meetings are published in the weekly Laspa Center newsletters. The Scholars also work closely with Laspa staff to compile discussion questions that stimulate conversation about the author’s writing and ideas.

Current Scholar in Action Julia Brock ’22 has moderated two discussion groups so far.

“I wanted the chance to combine my love of reading with my desire to hear from other Scripps students about their ideas of leadership and what it means to be a courageous leader,” Brock said. “Both book clubs I’ve led were very successful; everyone contributed to the conversations by sharing a combination of personal stories and new thoughts generated by the book.”

The Fall 2019 selection is “Brave, Not Perfect” by Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of the non-profit organization Girls Who Code. In continuing the subject of a TED Talk given in 2016, Saujani emphasizes the need to “Teach girls bravery, not perfection,” Saujani sheds light on a universal practice of conditioning girls to play everything safe so as to avoid making mistakes or receiving negative attention. Through inspiring stories and sincere advice, she implores that women take risks, embrace failures and discomfort and claim agency over their own lives.

“‘Brave, Not Perfect’ discusses how to be brave in everything from motherhood to a career,” Brock said. “I appreciated the author’s emphasis on how asking for help can be brave and is a way for people to establish healthy boundaries. I also enjoyed the personal anecdotes throughout the book because they made the topics of bravery and perfection seem more humanistic and made reading more fun.”

Copies of both Saujani’s “Brave, Not Perfect” and Brown’s “Dare to Lead” are available at the Laspa Center for borrowing. Now that the last fall book club sessions have come to pass, the Spring 2020 title is soon to be announced. Director Kopsch welcomes and encourages book recommendations for future semesters.

As we forge our academic and professional paths, it is important to reflect on the mission of Scripps College itself: “to educate women to develop their intellects and talents through active participation in a community of scholars, so that as graduates they may contribute to society through public and private lives of leadership, service, integrity, and creativity.”

The Laspa Center for Leadership is vital to this mission, and its Read to Lead book club plays a key role in empowering Scripps students to participate in today’s social and political discourse. The Laspa Center is dedicated to helping us navigate and close gender disparities in leadership positions, and empowers us to not only pave the way to our own success, but to also open doors for future women leaders.

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