Letter of the Week: Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership
Letter of the Week: Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership

We are extremely excited by the launch of our Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership (BCIL). As you may have read in our recent BWS Magazine, the mission of our BCIL is to "prepare community members to engage with real world challenges and explore solutions within and beyond the classroom." The Belldegrun Center will help students go beyond the textbook, grapple with questions for which there are no prescribed answers, and develop lifelong leadership skills.

Nearly 75 students and faculty did an amazing job working together on a variety of K-12 committees to plan the programmatic foundation for our center. On the curricular side, we have one Curriculum Innovator and Collaborator per division who, in addition to teaching, collaborates with faculty to infuse projects and courses with real world challenges and BCIL leadership skills. To get a sense of these, Pam Horrocks, Lower School Technology Coordinator, is introducing Lower School students to creative problem solving through a project called Innovative Design, asking them to make products with materials that would otherwise go to waste. In the Middle School, Nora Francis, Middle School Dance Teacher, is using choreography and costuming to connect the upcoming dance performance with the 7th Grade science project on endangered species and raise awareness for animal rights through performance. In addition to individual projects in the Upper School, there are new courses being designed that will receive a BCIL designation such as Sustainable Earth Engineering, LatinX in Los Angeles, Fabrication and Design, The Science of Well-Being, Refugees and Resettlement, Documentary Filmmaking, and Global Health (a summer course co-taught by Dr. Benjamin LaBrot, USC Keck School of Medicine Professor and CNN Hero, that includes one-week delivering health services in Panama).

BCIL also provides exceptional professional development opportunities from across the country for our K-12 faculty. In February a number of colleagues will be heading to Stanford's Design Thinking Workshop, and others have travelled from Cleveland to Honolulu preparing for the launch of our BCIL. The newly formed K-12 Curriculum Resource Committee meaningfully engages teachers in their pedagogical practice and provides peer-to-peer professional development. Upper School Curriculum Innovator and Collaborator, Katie McKellar, said, "I have loved working with colleagues to think about new ways of drawing out student passion and creativity in the classroom while relying on the broad range of expertise in our community. There is no other forum at Brentwood where I get to collaborate across divisions and departments in this way, and it is so fun to see all the pieces coming together."

We also recently announced a wide variety of BCIL extracurricular offerings that include entrepreneurial competitions, special events (such as the LA Teen Hackathon), student-led peer mentoring programs, and a unique monthly speaker series. The inaugural guest speakers, Todd Maron '96, former General Counsel of Tesla, and Ryan Fujiu, Vice President of Product and Compliance at Bird, visit Brentwood on January 31 to discuss Innovative Leadership in Green Tech. Part of what makes these events memorable is that the experts will present real issues facing their organizations and provide "challenge of the month" contests. Students will work individually and collaboratively on proposals for the professionals to review.

From this point forward, Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership will have a consistent presence in our weekly newsletter so you can stay up to date on its development. Many thanks again to the large number of faculty, students, staff, parents and alumni, who generously volunteered to bring this vision to fruition, and of course to the Belldegrun family, without whom these wonderful opportunities for our community would not be possible.

—Dr. Josh Berger, Director of Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership


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