Emersion Session

Carving in Stone: Developing Leadership for a Sustainable World With Wisdom From the Ground Up

When: Thursday, 13 October | 09:00 – 16:00
Where: National Arboretum
Facilitators: Katherine Tyler Scott, KI ThoughtBridge; Janis Balda, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Richard Little, University of Cumbria; Kate Sheridan, Chatham University; Joanna Stanberry, Claremont McKenna College
Maximum Number of Registrants: 30

TICKET PRICES: $90 ILA Member | $122 Non-Member

Dress warmly and in comfortable shoes for walking, bring sun protection. Bring a water bottle. An indoor space will be available in case of inclement weather.

This full-day Emersion Session uses the experience of nature to form the basis for new ways of doing and new ways of thinking in leadership development. John Ruskin wrote, “For, be assured, that all the best things and treasures of this world are not to be produced by each generation for itself; but we are all intended, not to carve our work in snow that will melt, but each and all of us to be continually rolling a great white gathering snowball, higher and higher—larger and larger—along the Alps of human power.” The morning looks at wisdom from the past and the afternoon wisdom for the future, as we work together to co-create new ways of developing leadership for a more sustainable world.

Full Description

The first half of the day together we will explore leadership development through nature journaling, taking brush to paper towards the wisdom of mindfulness and lifelong learnings of John Ruskin and Charlotte Mason. We will focus on learning techniques for connecting with nature by learning mindfulness and nature journaling for the artist and non-artist alike. Attendees will be introduced to the ideas of John Ruskin and the Victorian social entrepreneur Charlotte Mason. Mason took Ruskin’s philosophy and created methods for developing leadership skills in a transformative pedagogy. Her teacher’s College situated in the English Lake District educated women to become teachers and helped launch a movement including tens of thousands of families around the world. Through practical, hands-on experience with capturing all manner of plant and animal life (paints and paper included!) participants will experience the power of wisdom from nature as Mason and Ruskin understood it to transform the attendees’ teaching and practice of leadership for a sustainable world.

The “power to act” is much lamented among sustainability researchers seeking “solutions” for transformation and resilience (adaption) in complex socio-ecological systems. But underneath these methods is the guiding principle that wisdom only comes from the ability to act intelligently, and that this comes from the right ideas first. How does this then impact worldview? After an introduction to the ideas of Ruskin and Mason, participants will be instructed in Mason’s method of nature study which was developed for those without any previous experience with nature study. There will be ample time for practicing and applying the method in nature journaling, with the option to independently explore the arboretum further.

The afternoon finds us in a collaborative conversation with environmental educators on racial justice through leadership development in the garden. We will garden, cook, and connect to explore the intersection of racial justice, sustainable agriculture and leadership development with the Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum. Through a collaborative exploring of next generation challenges and opportunities the group will learn about WYG and similar organizations first-hand with representatives from environmental educators working to develop leadership in diverse urban settings. Participants will have an opportunity to understand how these unique organizations work by getting their hands dirty digging (and tasting!) the benefits of working and learning in the garden. Participants will also co-create the future of this work together through an opportunity to explore possible strategic avenues with WYG staff and student leaders. There will be break-out opportunities to work in smaller groups towards learning and exploring themes of developing empowering, collective leadership. Together participants will prep and cook hors de oeuvres in the outdoor kitchen. The walk in will also take participants past the original Capitol Columns. This session will build on work at the ILA Annual conference in 2021: Prioritizing Justice To Save Ourselves: A Social and Racial Lens for Sustainability and Leadership Education.

Who is the specific target audience for this session?
This experience is designed for leadership educators and students, activists and philosophers, artists and finger-painters, experts and novices, skeptics and believers, to explore two distinct leadership development avenues through engagement with nature – mindfulness through nature journaling and the intersection of racial justice, sustainable agriculture, and leadership development.

What unique leadership learnings will attendees gain from attending this session?
The objective is to help us envision ourselves and each other differently in connection with nature, recognizing the inherent value coming from nature and fostering an appreciation as well as a concern about our consumption and destruction of earth’s resources. We will participate in activities that raise awareness of the way the Arboretum space is used to facilitate an appreciation of nature’s beauty and fecundity, but go beyond that to understanding the role of this physical, artistic, and scientific space in leadership development. By experiencing it through our mind’s eye we are enabled to participate more holistically in sustaining life on earth. In addition, through observation and participation with key educators and engaged citizens we will consider how their efforts are actively transforming another generation and local communities by mitigating educational and life disparities, exposing D.C. students of all backgrounds to the connection between engaging in personal discovery through nature and then leading others to see possibilities for societal change. 


Katherine Tyler Scott

Before beginning her tenure at KI ThoughtBridge, Katherine Tyler Scott founded and served as President of Trustee Leadership Development, Inc., a resource center for governance leaders and not-for-profit organizations. Katherine is a past chair of the ILA board and convener of the ILA Applied Leadership Global Learning Community. She previously directed the Lilly Endowment Leadership Education Program, a statewide leadership education initiative for professionals in youth service, and she also developed leadership programs and resources for the Community Leadership Association.

Janis Balda, (JD. PhD.) works across law, global business, NGOs, and sustainability, served as the first in-house counsel for World Vision International and continued in private practice contributing to numerous global organizations. In her twenty-year career as an educator she developed business programs and taught in Brazil, the Caribbean, South Texas, and rural Maine. She is a member of the ILA Board of Directors and serves as its Vice-Chair. 

Richard Little

Richard Little is the 10th Anniversary Visiting Professor of Sustainability Leadership at the University of Cumbria. Richard has a special interest in the application of critical social theory to questions of organisation and leadership for sustainability. As a Senior Consultant with Impact International Richard has over 35 years experience of organisation development consulting in every kind of organisation, including global corporations, government, non-governmental and public service organisations, charities and activist groups. 

Kate Sheridan

Kate Sheridan is the Director of Career Development at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (US).  She has 15 years of experience in higher education in teaching, academic administration and student affairs, and has spent most of her career facilitating leadership and professional development opportunities for students.  Kate has led and co-authored several publications exploring the confluence of leadership, sustainability, peace, and social justice, and serves as a member of the International Leadership Association Sustainability Leadership Member Community Steering Committee. She received her BA in English from Penn State and her MA in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego. 

Joanna Stanberry

Joanna Stanberry is a doctoral student at the Institute of Science and Environment and the Initiative for Sustainability Leadership at the University of Cumbria in the UK. Previously she has taught at the MacArthur School of Leadership at Palm Beach Atlantic University. For 15 years worked in New York City in nonprofit marketing, tech, and philanthropy. Her research explores pathways to developing sustainability leadership through the intersection of cross-sector partnerships and Charlotte Mason’s pedagogy of self-education.