LEAP Initiative

Leadership, Ethics, and Practice Initiative


Leadership is a critical component of professional success at each stage of a career in international affairs. The Elliott School’s Leadership, Ethics, and Practice initiative aims to prepare students for those leadership challenges. The School will design new courses on leadership and the revise existing ones to emphasize leadership themes and topics. Through coursework, guest speakers, internships, and other learning opportunities, the School’s goal is to prepare students to become successful leaders from the moment they enter the workforce.


Every student entering the world of international affairs will confront ethical challenges. Difficult and complex legal and moral questions will come up early and often. The Leadership, Ethics, and Practice initiative will integrate the exploration and analysis of ethics topics throughout undergraduate and graduate education. In the classroom, the goal is to identify ethical issues appropriate to every subject and course and explore them through case studies or other instructional means. The school will also design and offer courses specifically intended to address ethical issues, host speakers on ethics topics and establish a retreat on ethics issues for both incoming undergraduate and graduate students.


The Elliott School is already the leader among Schools in International Affairs, offering a unique and comprehensive set of skills courses designed to prepare graduate students for the workplace. Nearly 40 skills courses encompassing Leadership, Teamwork, and Ethics; Policymaking and Policy Management (for example, Congress & Foreign Policy, and the Role of An Embassy Country Team); Analysis (including Red Team analysis, Gaming & Simulations, Project Management & Evaluation) and Communication (including Writing for Policymakers, Formal Briefing, Grant Proposal Writing, Speechwriting, & Editing) are already on offer. Under the guidance of a new Advisory Group on Professional and Practitioner Skills, the Leadership, Ethics and Practice initiative will carry out a course review. Its aim will be to build upon the School’s record of success to devise the most effective skills program for the future work environment and to extend skills offerings to undergraduate students.

Key Program Goals

LEAP sponsored 21 speakers on ethics and leadership across a wide spectrum of ages, careers, genders, and experiences. Highlights included James Clapper
(former Director of National Intelligence), Daniel Ellsberg (Activist and Author), Barbara Kellerman (Leadership expert and Professor), and Amb. Kristie Kenney (Career Ambassador). They imparted candid leadership advice, relayed ethical struggles they faced in their careers and spoke to the practical skills Elliott students require for professional success.

LEAP partnered with Student Services to create a First Year Experience
Retreat for all incoming undergraduate Elliott students. The Fall 2018 retreat will center on a common book, “Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin,” by returned Peace Corps Volunteer Susana Herrera, who enthusiastically agreed to participate in the retreat.

LEAP conducted an in-depth analysis of skills courses offered at the graduate level between 2014 and 2017 and presented its findings at the first meeting of the LEAP Advisory Group. The analysis detailed strengths and opportunities for growth in
current offerings of Elliott skills courses.

Working closely with the Alumni Office, LEAP created an Advisory Group consisting of alumni and friends of the Elliott School. The Group’s first meeting on March 20th provided insight into skills course analysis and direction to the LEAP initiative.

LEAP participated in the selection of the Elliott School’s first Visiting Associate Professor of Ethics and International Affairs, who will begin teaching in Fall 2018. This appointment will significantly increase both undergraduate and graduate ethics-related
course offerings.

Elliott School Creates Mandatory First-Year Course on Leadership Development

Second floor classrooms hallway at the Elliott School of International AffairsAll incoming international affairs students will be required to take a one-credit course on leadership and career skills in their first year at GW starting this fall.

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Speaker Series

First female ambassador to Thailand and the Philippines Kristie Kenney speaks in front of the Elliott SchoolFive Lessons in Leadership from a Career Ambassador

Kristie Kenney served as United States ambassador to Ecuador, the Phillippines, and Thailand, and was the first female ambassador to the latter two. In Thailand, where she served from 2011 to 2014, she handled U.S.-Thai relations during crises including the historic floods of 2011 and the 2014 military coup. And she attained the rank of career ambassador, which is the Foreign Service’s highest.

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James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, talks to an audience at the Elliott SchoolFormer Intelligence Leader Talks North Korea, Russian Interference at Elliott School Event 

James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, reflected on the lessons learned during his more than 50 years of service in the U.S. intelligence community and offered his thoughts on North Korea and the Russia investigation in an address to students at the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday.



Former US Ambassador to Malta speaks at the Elliott SchoolFormer Ambassador Talks Ethical Leadership, Challenges Abroad at Elliott School Event

A former U.S. ambassador spoke about the ethical challenges of serving in the U.S. Foreign Service at the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who is also a GW alumna, served as the U.S. Ambassador to Malta from 2012 to 2016. The event was hosted by the Elliott School’s new Leadership, Ethics and Practice Initiative, which delves into issues of ethics on an international level.

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LEAP Highlights

photo: First year students at the orientation pizza partyThe Elliott School Hosts Retreat for Incoming Students 

The Elliott School of International Affairs held its inaugural retreat for incoming undergraduate students, where they discussed issues of ethical importance as part of a new requirement to take a one-credit “First Year Experience” course focused on leadership, ethics and practice (LEAP), as well as professional development.