Norton Center Leadership Labs: Another Student Support System?

Mercuri Lam '24, Staff Writer

Whether you are a tour guide, a club leader, or a prefect, chances are you’ve probably attended some type of support meeting for your positions this fall. Amongst the many new workshops and opportunities for student leaders since the start of school, a new series of meetings have been introduced to Loomis Chaffee: the Norton Center Student Leadership Lab.

The leadership lab, which launched its first meeting on October 4, is meant to support and engage student leaders from different areas on campus. It provides a space where they can share wisdom and ideas with each other to overcome obstacles together and further their leadership skills.

The lab was proposed by the founder of the Chaffee Leadership Institute and Associate Director of the Norton Center Lilian Corman. According to Ms. Corman, the leadership labs were developed from her graduate school research at the University of Pennsylvania.

“As my thesis, I decided to look into the student experience at Loomis Chaffee, specifically of student leaders… to look at how Loomis Chaffee not only develops student leaders, but also how Loomis Chaffee supports student leaders once they are deemed a student leader,” Ms. Corman said.

According to Ms. Corman, the meetings are going to be a mix of both seminars on leadership and open discussions amongst student leaders.

“We’ll see what current student leaders want and need, and what aspiring student leaders want and need,” Ms. Corman added.

Although the future of what meetings are going to look like isn’t yet certain, there is a lot of hope for what the Norton Center Leadership Labs can bring to the community: “We’re going to try and hit the ground running,” Ms. Corman said.

The proposed workshops have already received positive feedback from teachers around the Island. Students and teachers alike have demonstrated interest in the potential for discussion in these labs and what it can do for the student body.

“Juniors and seniors are just expected to show up and fill these [leadership] roles perfectly,” Senior Evan Caulfield ’22 said. “There’s a huge learning curve.”

Some of the feedback, however, wasn’t as positive. Students have weighed in on the inclusivity of these meetings, such as what the term ‘student leader’ truly means, and what qualifies a student into the said category.

“If anyone thinks they have some sort of voice or impact in this school, then they are a student leader,” Ms. Corman said—on the other hand, Cameron Rogers ’24 raised a point on whether people can truly qualify themselves as student leaders.

“[I think] there’s some kind of confusion as to what qualifies as a student leader and what doesn’t, and I think that it may be better if the meetings were formatted differently,” Cameron said.