Chaffee Leadership Institute: From The Island to Vietnam

Maeve Dowd '23, Contributor

The Chaffee Leadership Institute at Longman (CLI) is an inclusive space for sophomore girls that helps them explore leadership through a different lens. Even during this pandemic, CLI will continue to build a community with both the boarders in the Longman dorm and the day student members of the program.

“The goal of the program is not about teaching leadership. We’re exploring leadership together,” said Dean of Sophomores Mr. Mike Donegan, one of the CLI faculty members.

“It’s a space where girls get to be themselves, and it’s important to build community,” said Annie Sher, Head of Longman Hall and Mathematics Faculty.

In previous years, CLI members have done an end of the year capstone project. Last year’s CLI members were not able to complete their capstone project, which was going to be part of the Conversation Credit series, due to the term being off-campus.

However, Hazel Le ’22 decided to host virtual seminars for younger girls in Vietnam.

“The two topics I did virtually, were reproductive health and healthy relationships…. In Vietnam, girls have no access or education to such topics. They would have no idea what body positivity or reproductive health is because it’s a non-existent conversation…Vietnam is still a very conservative country,” said Hazel.

According to the original plans, the CLI seminar would have been directed towards freshman girls in the Loomis community. Hazel’s project is technically not part of the capstone project, but rather expanded on the ideas which came up in their initial planning phases.

“I did not plan this at all before. Corona happened, and I just had a lot of time to think. I used inspiration from CLI, and kind of built off of it,” said Hazel.

Another significant aspect of CLI is having speakers come and talk to the girls about their personal experiences. For example, one year CLI hosted a panel of women who work in male-dominated fields. These women included Mrs. LaForest, Dr. Barker, and Dr. Gerace.

Mr. Donegan claims that he tried to have Michelle Obama come at one point because she happened to be in Hartford, CT. Unfortunately, she never responded to his email.

These two aspects of the CLI programming are designed to help members learn about and explore the concept of leadership.

“Leadership is applicable to everything you do. You are never not in a leadership position, whether you know it or not. Leadership starts with yourself,” said Mr. Donegan.