"Solving global problems requires that people from different
cultures work together: the Western world has a much more assertive
style than the Eastern world. STeLA aims at creating future leaders
that can really work together. For the Eastern participants that
means speaking up, while the Western participants should learn how
to shut up", Valerie Goemans (STeLA Europe president) kicks
So what is STeLA? The acronym stands for 'Science and Technology
Leadership Association'. The objective is to develop leadership and
create a network of the next generation in science and technology:
scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and policymakers. STeLA was
launched by graduate students of science and engineering at US
universities who wanted to answer the question in what way these
students could change the global community for the better.
Engineers are simply the best
The founders realized the importance of multicultural and
interdisciplinary perspective in addressing big issues concerning
for instance the environment and energy. Hence the focus on
'leadership'. And why only science and technology students? Chris
knows the answer: "The best leaders in the world are engineers,
because they have a very systematic way of solving problems."
Valerie Goemans, Hoessein Alkisaei, Chris Rozemuller and Jo
Hoogslag are part of the STeLA Europe board and they are working
energetically at creating a European university network. "Already
we have involved the IDEA league, the alliance of Europe's leading
universities in technology: Imperial College London, Delft
University of Technology, ETH Zürich, RWTH Aachen University and
ParisTech", Jo Hoogslag explains.
It started in Japan
Chris Rozemuller: "Valerie and I did an internship in Japan, and
through a Japanese professor we came in contact with the Japan
STeLA board. Later that year we took part in the annual STeLA
forum, in Stanford. "
The forum forms the core of STeLA. It's a forum for students by
students, so the participants have to cover a $450 fee and their
travel expenses. "Sponsoring is something that these students have
to figure out for themselves, they are tomorrow's leaders so they
should be able to arrange that", Chris adds with a smile.
One important thing the STeLA-students learned was how to handle
feedback. "You can learn an awful lot from feedback", Hoessein
thinks. "But it is rarely done here . The prerequisite is that you
create a safe environment. My take is that people don't really want
to change. I once gave feedback to an older teacher and this was
not at all appreciated. It's a shame, because I meant to help."
Another eye-opener was taking up a different role in the group
than you're used to. "Say you usually take the lead in a group, it
is very interesting to avoid that", Hoessein says. "This role
changing is addictive. After this experience I started reading a
lot about leadership."
Chris: "Within your comfort zone it is always easy to do what
you are good at, the real challenge is to step out of that zone,
and reach out to people with a completely different
Valerie: "The STeLA experience teaches you that you are not
alone in this world. There is no other way that to cooperate.
Ideologists have one thing in common: they never listen to each
other." And Hoessein adds: "The next time you go to a congress, try
to just listen. This takes a lot of concentration, not thinking
about the past, not thinking about the future, just be in the