Nabina Liebow is looking for leaders.
The new director of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Leadership and Ethical Development Program (CAS LEAD) can be found at every Eagle Summit, talking to students, asking lots of questions, and encouraging them to apply to the program. “Our students have so much leadership potential,” she says. “I am looking for a diverse pool of applicants who come from different communities, have varied interests and identities, and want to create change to help make the world a better place.
Liebow, a professorial lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, was chosen as CAS LEAD director after the university conducted a national search. She is uniquely qualified to raise the program to the next level of recognition and excellence, according to the former CAS LEAD director, Margaret Weekes, who founded the program in 2014.
Nabina is a top scholar and philosopher, who is also a deeply practical person with a strong background in leadership and ethics,” said Weekes. “She is an outstanding professor, who excels in teaching students from all majors. Among many other things, she has great experience working with undergraduates on ethical leadership theory and practice.
Building the Next Generation of Leaders
CAS LEAD is a highly selective, 21-credit hour certificate program. It is based on the premise that everyone can be trained to be effective and ethical leaders—and that strong leaders are critically important across diverse fields and career paths. Students in the program spend their four years at AU with a cohort of like-minded peers, engaged in rigorous study and practice designed to develop their ability to solve problems and lead projects ethically.
CAS LEAD students take 12 credits in leadership, 3 credits of practical ethics, and 6 extra credits within their chosen majors. They complete an internship in their third year and finish a capstone during their fourth year. They graduate with a leadership certificate in addition to degrees in their chosen majors.
Liebow stresses that the program is challenging, but it’s also carefully designed to help students succeed across the board, both at AU and beyond. “If you’re in CAS LEAD, it will likely help you do well in your other classes,” she says. “The program gives students critical academic skills, an intensive mentoring experience, and a strong network of supportive peers. Our students learn how to read and think critically, forge positive relationships with faculty and peers, collaborate, build alliances, plan strategically, and dream beyond the boundaries that exist.”
Leadership Across Disciplines
Most leadership programs focus on government, business, and the military. But Liebow stresses that leadership is critical to all disciplines. “I am looking to build a diverse cohort, from all different CAS fields — the sciences, social science, arts, and humanities. I’m not just looking for fields that are traditionally affiliated with leadership positions. We need strong, ethical leaders in research, activism, and the arts as well.
The program’s first cohort reflects this diversity of fields and disciplines. Two graduates are currently in doctoral programs, one in genomics and bioinformatics, and one in cognition, instruction, and learning technologies. Four students are pursuing master’s degrees in environmental science, health promotion management, environmental sustainability, and urban and regional planning. Other graduates are working for the Smithsonian Institution and Deloitte. And others are teaching, working in accounting, and developing film scripts. They have been awarded a wide range of fellowships including a Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant from the National Science Foundation, a Killam Fellowship through Fulbright Canada, and Kennedy-Krieger Fellowships.
Emphasis on Ethics
The CAS LEAD program has a strong emphasis on ethics and in building ethical leaders. Liebow stresses that ethics extend across all disciplines, from personal relationships, to the workplace, to larger structural injustices. In particular, the CAS LEAD curriculum is designed with an eye towards understanding the role of large-scale injustices in the world.
When we teach ethical knowledge and awareness, we learn that we can promote fair and just policies. But we also learn how larger structural injustices like sexism and racism affect our individual thinking,” she says. “Recognizing the interplay between us and the larger system helps us to lead in a way that pushes back against larger injustices.”
Liebow’s work focuses primarily on applied ethics, philosophy of race, social philosophy, feminist theory, and moral psychology. She received her PhD from Georgetown University and wrote her dissertation on “Microaggressions and Moral Responsibility.” She is passionate about making philosophy accessible and exciting to students from all backgrounds. “Nabina’s research is highly interdisciplinary, and she is well versed not only in philosophy, but in fields outside the discipline,” says Weekes. “She has designed programs focused on supporting underrepresented groups in philosophy and has facilitated difficult dialogues in the face of deep and cutting disagreements.”
When she was an undergraduate student, Nabina says, she participated in a similar program to CAS LEAD. She was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, a highly competitive cohort-based fellowship that focused on developing scholars across diverse fields. Liebow says the program was the highlight of her college experience. It also convinced her to apply to graduate school. “I know firsthand the value of a cohort- and mentor-based program like CAS LEAD,” she says. “In fact, my mentor still checks in on me now, years later.”