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CAS LEAD Leadership and Ethical Development Program

What is CAS LEAD?

  • The College of Arts and Sciences Leadership and Ethical Development Program (CAS LEAD) is a 12-credit, cohort based four-year certificate program. After a competitive application process, CAS students enter the program during their first or second semester at AU. Upon completion of the program, you will have earned a certificate in Leadership and Ethical Development, which will be noted on your transcript along with any major(s) and minor(s) you have earned.

  • CAS LEAD is designed to teach and empower students to become effective and ethical leaders. Working with a close-knit cohort in seminars and on community based learning opportunities, you will learn how to lead in a productive and emotionally-intelligent way. You will work with others to develop solutions to promote justice and confront ethical challenges.

  • The CAS LEAD program can be added to all existing CAS majors and is structured to complement the AU Living/Learning Programs, AU Scholars, the Honors Program, study abroad, AUx, and internship opportunities.

A group of CAS LEAD students


“CAS Lead is the best decision I ever made for my college career. I made long-lasting connections with supportive and ambitious leaders – some of them even became my best friends. It is a wonderful feeling to have a cohort to fall back on – especially during the hard times. Being in CAS LEAD is like being in a family – unbreakable connections that last a lifetime.”
Angelica Vega, CAS LEAD Philosophy Major

“CAS LEAD teaches you valuable leadership skills you can use in any career and throughout your life. Part of the program's beauty is that you will have a chance to develop your ethics and leadership skills as an individual, and then learn how to apply what you have learned to your field of study. Furthermore, many of your CAS LEAD classmates will become friends for life, and you will be amazed at ways in which you will continue to help each other’s personal and career growth even beyond your time at AU.”
Abigail Danfora, CAS LEAD Neuroscience Major

“You would be hard-pressed to find a college class that creates a more connected community than a CAS LEAD seminar. Over the course of a semester, I’ve had the opportunity to bond with motivated and enthusiastic students, connect with awesome mentors and class speakers, and learn from the excellent and very wise Dr. Nabina Liebow. I’ve been exposed to new perspectives, engaged in meaningful dialogue, and participated in deep personal reflection regarding my morals and values, all in structured and impactful ways. While only being a year in, I’ve already greatly enhanced my professional and critical thinking skills in capacities I would not have ever before considered. As an ambitious student who wants to make big impacts on the world, I am confident CAS LEAD is accelerating my ability to evolve as a leader and contribute to a brighter future for all."
Jack Smith, CAS LEAD Environmental Studies Major

Leaders are people who act on the opportunities they see to make a difference in the world around them.

CAS LEAD is based on the premise that everyone can be trained to be an effective and ethical leader. In CAS LEAD, we recognize that effective leaders are critically important across the diverse fields and career paths charted by CAS students. CAS LEAD is designed to help you learn how to be an effective and ethical leader who can do all this and more.

In CAS LEAD, you will learn about leading yourself and others as you practice leadership and ethical decision-making. You will spend four years with a cohort of diverse students engaged in rigorous study and practice designed to develop your ability to solve problems and lead projects responsibly. You will engage in community based learning and other service opportunities. The program is designed to help enhance your ability to compete successfully for whatever comes next, be it career placements or graduate school admission.


The CAS LEAD Certificate Program will educate students to become leaders who

  • know themselves and understand their own agency and the effects they have on others

  • are emotionally intelligent

  • understand and practice effective leadership

  • are critical, ethical, and creative thinkers

  • recognize, evaluate, and work to solve problems wherever they find them

  • are prepared to be transformative and effective across disciplines and the globe

  • recognize opportunities for leading and are able to solve problems, whether serving as project leaders or team members

  • do not shrink from struggle and difficulty, but instead are actively engaged, meeting the needs of the communities in which they find themselves


Students can apply for CAS LEAD in the summer before their first year or during their first fall semester. It is highly recommend that students interested in the program apply during the summer before their first year, since students who apply in the summer but are not offered a spot can then reapply in the fall. Students who enter in the summer also have the benefit of starting their CAS LEAD experience earlier on, which can help with the transition to college.

No! We are looking for students interested in becoming ethical leaders and that doesn’t assume prior experience with leadership. What matters more than experience is passion and drive with regard to what you stand for and your moral convictions.

“CAS LEAD provides fantastic opportunities to develop your leadership skills, regardless of your current experience with leadership. Everyone should apply to CAS LEAD, because it is important to develop ethical leaders for the future.” Madisen Placzkowski, CAS LEAD Economics Major

Yes! You are encouraged to reapply for spring admission to CAS LEAD if you don’t get offered a spot for the fall!

Yes! CAS LEAD students have a variety of majors, minors, and are engaged in many campus programs, activities, and study abroad. To be a part of CAS LEAD you need to be able to attend the seminar classes, however, they are scheduled at convenient times that don’t tend to conflict with other classes. The program is designed such that you can go abroad in either your junior or senior year. If you have questions about fitting CAS LEAD in with your other commitments, talk with you academic advisor and the CAS LEAD Director to make sure it’s feasible with your plan of study.

The study of ethical leadership will support you in any career path you may choose. CAS LEAD students will have time devoted to perfecting their public speaking skills, interpersonal skills, and capacities for nuanced, complex thought. Everything we learn is directly applicable to your future career. Employers often look for leadership training and experiences, and so having completed the CAS LEAD program will make your application stand out and give you a lot of meaningful experiences to talk about during interviews and on applications.

Yes! The CAS LEAD curriculum provides students with opportunities to engage in community based learning in the DC area.

Yes! The CAS LEAD director will serve not only as your professor but also as a mentor throughout your four years. The director will also connect interested students with mentors in their field. In addition, all first year students will be paired with a CAS LEAD student mentor who is in their second or third year. This will help first-year CAS LEAD students adjust to the program, AU, and gain peer support.

“Throughout the CAS Leadership and Ethical Development Program, I have had the opportunity to expand my interests and personal relationships to lengths that would not have been possible without the support provided by this program. From my very first day in CAS LEAD, my bond with Program Director, Dr. Nabina Liebow, has been one I will cherish for endless years to come. I have been introduced to the many events the AU College of Arts and Science holds and have used this to enhance my networking and personal communications skills, which will undoubtedly aid my success in the future. I am confident that my time in CAS LEAD will place me on a fast track for success and I am excited about the opportunities ahead of me.” Olivia Johnston, CAS LEAD Environmental Science Major

CAS LEAD seminars are designed to be hands on, interactive, fulfilling learning experiences. Your assignments outside of class will be manageable (short readings, documentaries, writing reflections) and the curriculum is designed so that you stay engaged and personally fulfilled by the material. Here’s what CAS LEAD students have to say about CAS LEAD seminars:

“My favorite part about CAS LEAD is the material that we read for class and the activities we do with them because of the way that they push you to address issues of structural inequalities in such versatile and provoking ways. One of my favorite classes thus far has been my Philosophy class with Nabina (CAS LEAD Director) first semester (called Do the Right Thing!)--one of the most fun, eye-opening, and motivating classes ever. Second to that is probably the volunteering events that we have the opportunity to participate in that involve us in the greater DC area and community, while giving us a chance to further build the CAS LEAD community itself. CAS LEAD seminars are rarely the stress of my day, but more of a space that I know will be productive, effective, and fun!” Clarissa Cheung, CAS LEAD Sociology major

“If you are thinking of applying to CAS LEAD but unsure about how the CAS LEAD seminars and commitments will fit in with your major, professional schedule, or extracurricular activities, don't worry. CAS LEAD is a leadership program designed to have teach engaging and meaningful lessons, build a community within the College of Arts and Sciences, and provide exciting opportunities for its members. In CAS LEAD seminars you will never be tasked with busy work or assignments/mandatory experiences that aren't related to the core of what you are learning and lack real world applicability. CAS LEAD events are scheduled at a variety of times, and cohort activities such as study hours and game nights are run by students for students, so they are a great place to go and decompress from your day. The CAS LEAD program is incredibly understanding and actively works with its students to decrease stress, not add additional tasks to your plate. Overall, CAS LEAD can fit into your schedule and there are so many people who are available as resources to help you make it fit and succeed in the program.” Sophie Hathaway, CAS LEAD Public Health Major

If you have other questions, we warmly encourage you to e-mail CAS LEAD Director, Nabina Liebow ( She can answer your questions and/or connect you with students in CAS LEAD who can provide their perspective on the program.


Applications due July 12, 2024

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What Students Say About CAS LEAD

“CAS LEAD offers unique opportunities to its students, whether it be going to a dinner with a guest speaker visiting the university or being connected to a professor with similar interests to help you work on a paper or just make you aware of what opportunities are available within and outside of the university. Because of CAS LEAD, I have felt more comfortable building relationships with my professors and asking for help.”
Maria Gramajo, CAS LEAD American Studies & Women's, Gender/Sexuality Studies Major

“Anyone and everyone (who is in CAS) should apply for CAS LEAD because of the dedication and determination that the program carries itself with. The curriculum, the students, and the director are all clearly invested in unpacking ethical leadership in a way that no other program on campus does, such that CAS LEAD has had a profound impact on my college experience and my life even just in the first semester and a half of being in the program. Not only is the program another wonderful way to meet people, make friends, and build community, but also the experiences you will receive as a part of CAS LEAD will fundamentally challenge and inspire your views on the world, on society, on power, on inequality, and on your place among all of it.”
Clarissa Cheung, CAS LEAD Sociology Major

“CAS LEAD has helped me form connections in the university, with staff and students, and has helped me get off campus and get involved with this incredible city around us.”
Will Bonner, CAS LEAD Undeclared CAS Major