Meet the feedback generation
“Solving global problems requires that people from differentcultures work together: the Western world has a much more assertivestyle than the Eastern world. STeLA aims at creating future leadersthat can really work together. For the Eastern participants thatmeans speaking up, while the Western participants should learn howto shut up”, Valerie Goemans (STeLA Europe president) kicksoff.
So what is STeLA? The acronym stands for ‘Science and TechnologyLeadership Association’. The objective is to develop leadership andcreate a network of the next generation in science and technology:scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and policymakers. STeLA waslaunched by graduate students of science and engineering at USuniversities who wanted to answer the question in what way thesestudents could change the global community for the better.
Engineers are simply the best
The founders realized the importance of multicultural andinterdisciplinary perspective in addressing big issues concerningfor instance the environment and energy. Hence the focus on’leadership’. And why only science and technology students? Chrisknows 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 JoHoogslag are part of the STeLA Europe board and they are workingenergetically at creating a European university network. “Alreadywe have involved the IDEA league, the alliance of Europe’s leadinguniversities in technology: Imperial College London, DelftUniversity of Technology, ETH Zürich, RWTH Aachen University andParisTech”, Jo Hoogslag explains.
It started in Japan
Chris Rozemuller: “Valerie and I did an internship in Japan, andthrough a Japanese professor we came in contact with the JapanSTeLA board. Later that year we took part in the annual STeLAforum, in Stanford. “
The forum forms the core of STeLA. It’s a forum for students bystudents, so the participants have to cover a $450 fee and theirtravel expenses. “Sponsoring is something that these students haveto figure out for themselves, they are tomorrow’s leaders so theyshould be able to arrange that”, Chris adds with a smile.
One important thing the STeLA-students learned was how to handlefeedback. “You can learn an awful lot from feedback”, Hoesseinthinks. “But it is rarely done here . The prerequisite is that youcreate a safe environment. My take is that people don’t really wantto change. I once gave feedback to an older teacher and this wasnot at all appreciated. It’s a shame, because I meant to help.”
Another eye-opener was taking up a different role in the groupthan you’re used to. “Say you usually take the lead in a group, itis very interesting to avoid that”, Hoessein says. “This rolechanging is addictive. After this experience I started reading alot about leadership.”
Chris: “Within your comfort zone it is always easy to do whatyou are good at, the real challenge is to step out of that zone,and reach out to people with a completely differentbackground.”
Valerie: “The STeLA experience teaches you that you are notalone in this world. There is no other way that to cooperate.Ideologists have one thing in common: they never listen to eachother.” And Hoessein adds: “The next time you go to a congress, tryto just listen. This takes a lot of concentration, not thinkingabout the past, not thinking about the future, just be in thenow.”