Transformative Leadership and Spiritual Development

Cultivating Our Capacities as Practitioners of Sustainable Peace in the Twenty-First Century

View the course listing: HDS 2766

The urgent challenge of bringing about a more humane and harmonious world conducive to sustainable peace for the human family and all life in the twenty-first century will entail integrating this as a goal into leadership priorities across sectors. It will also entail significant changes in our present ways of being and relating to one another as individuals and communities.

Sages and spiritual luminaries have held that if we wish to transform conflict in ourselves and others and transform our societies locally and globally in ways that are positive, healing, and benefit all, we must lead by, as Gandhi taught, “being the change” we wish to see in the world. This will require a more holistic approach to leadership preparation that integrates spiritual and ethical formation with intellectual and vocational formation and leverages the millennia of wisdom on spiritual formation, peace practice, and transformative leadership in our spiritual and cultural traditions.

In our efforts to transform conflict and cultivate sustainable peace within ourselves, our communities, our institutions, and our world by “being the change” we wish to see:

  • How can we engage our full human capacities, spiritually, ethically, and culturally?
  • How can we harmonize our endeavors with our highest aspirations, ultimate values, and deepest sources of meaning and inspiration?
  • What capacities, qualities, and wisdom do we need, and how can we cultivate these? 
  • What resources and supports can empower and sustain us?
  • How can mutual sharing and learning on these questions with people of diverse disciplines, cultures, and religions enhance our effectiveness as leaders?

This experiential-learning, student-facilitated, peer-to-peer engagement program for students from across Harvard's graduate schools offers a unique opportunity for those interested in enhancing their capacities to advance sustainable peace in the 21st century to join with diverse peers to explore the spiritual dimensions of peace practice and transformative leadership. Students will share wisdom from their spiritual and cultural traditions and life experiences and reflect upon how they can apply this in their own lives and contexts, while developing their leadership skills. A light dinner is served at each session, and an optional reception for continued conversation and informal interaction follows.

A multidisciplinary array of distinguished faculty, alumni, and religious leaders from across Harvard University and beyond with expertise in peace practice and transformative leadership will serve as visiting mentors, offering presentations and skill-building workshops.  Just some of the mentors who will visit in 2016-17

  • Melissa W. Bartholomew, MSW/PhD Student, Boston College School of Social Work; MDiv '15 Harvard Divinity School; JD, Howard University School of Law
  • Haji Syed Salman Chishty, 26th generation Khadim of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishty, Gaddi Nashin of the Ajmer Sharif Dargah shrine and center, director and founding member of the Chishty Foundation, Ajmer, India
  • Marshall Ganz, AB '92 College, MPA '93 KSG, PhD '00 GSAS, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
  • David N. Hempton, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity, Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies, John Lord O'Brian Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School
  • Donna Hicks, Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University and author of Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict (Yale University Press, 2011)
  • Jaskiran Kaur, PhD in Child Psychology, Punjab University, India; former Senior Lecturer and Head of the Home Science Department at Post Graduate Government College for Girls, Sector 11, Chandigarh, India; member, New England Sikh Study Circle, Milford
  • Charles T. Lelon, AB College, MTS HDS, MBA HBS, Founder and CEO, Kamylon
  • Imam Taalib Mahdee, Masjid Al-Qur'aan, Boston
  • Hugh O'Doherty, EdD HGSE, Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
  • Jeffrey R. Seul, JD, MTS '97 HDS, LLM '01 HLS, Lecturer on the Practice of Peace, Harvard Divinity School, and Chairman, Peace Appeal Foundation
  • Daniel L. Shapiro, Associate Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital; Director, Harvard International Negotiation Program; Associate Director, Harvard Negotiation Project; affiliated faculty member, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School
  • and additional mentors TBA!

The program will foster connections among the students that can serve as continuing sources of support in their future peace and leadership endeavors across sectors and around the globe through the RPP Alumni Leadership Network.

Participation in this program requires a commitment to

  • Build spiritual friendships across religious and cultural differences
  • Welcome engagement with the whole person and each person's unique understanding of reality
  • Create an appreciative, respectful, curious, courageous, and forgiving space conducive to deep inquiry, listening, sharing, reflection, and learning
  • Attend all sessions and complete all assignments

Next offering: Spring 2018, Mondays, 6:00-9:00 pm (open to Harvard graduate students). To apply: Submit a statement of interest (up to 500 words) and a bio on your relevant background (up to 500 words, including your Harvard School, degree program, and expected semester of graduation) by Wednesday, January 24 via email to rpp@hds.harvard.edu. Early submission is encouraged. Introductory Session for all applying students on Monday, January 22. First Session for students admitted to the program on Monday, January 29. Required Opening Retreat on Sunday, February 4 at 2:00-8:00 pm.