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 Contemplative leadership in the Business School

Bill Mains. Photo courtesy of CLASP. “Everyone has the capacity to be a leader. Be authentic.” This is the best leadership advice that Bill Mains, a Leadership Lecturer with the Undergraduate Business Program in the Leavey School of Business, has ever received.

Now in his sixth year at Santa Clara, and his fourth as a lecturer in the business school, Bill facilitates a program called Contemplative Leadership and Sustainability Program (CLASP) for students in the business school interested in exploring sustainability.

CLASP started about four years ago when Bill, John Braverman, S.J., and Lindsey Cromwell met over lunch. After that lunch they decided to apply for a Bannan Grant, and then the program took off. Today, more than 50 students have participated in CLASP. Since its inception, Bill says the program has evolved a bit from its original design, but the focus remains on educating and engaging students in the program about sustainable development. Four years later, students involved in CLASP “still go on hiking expeditions and service trips, still engage in personal and group reflection, and still listen to guest lectures from speakers from the Silicon Valley,” according to Bill.

Bill is interested in broadening CLASP participation beyond the business school, as well as incorporating small student research projects and presentations, and this past summer, Bill and a group of students went on a two-week immersion trip to Alaska.

Overall, CLASP is a program designed to foster leadership in students who are interested in sustainability, and Bill recognizes the need for a program like this outside of the business school. “Sustainability does not belong to any one field or discipline,” Bill says, “It is a collaborative endeavor by its very nature and requires a systems-thinking approach to problem-solving. The goal of sustainability-focused professionals is for sustainable practices to simply become standard operating procedure. As with any movement, this will take strategic and collaborative leadership.”

At Santa Clara University, Bill believes that SCU plays a major role as an educational institution furthering the Jesuit mission to create a more just and humane world. “Sustainability is included in our mission to educate students,” Bill explains, “And sustainability is about justice in that it implies ‘right relationships’ in our decision making.” To recognize Bill's outstanding work in sustainability, the Office of Sustainability awarded him one of the inaugural Sustainability Champion awards last spring.

In addition to his professional life working to develop the leadership capacity of his students, Bill and his wife, Ngoc, are busy welcoming their second child, who was born in mid-October, into the world. Having experience finding his own work-life balance, Bill recommends that college students practice reflection, which he believes was incredibly helpful in his own leadership development.

Bill encourages his students to consider these three questions:
Who am I?
Who do I want to be?
How am I going to get there?

“College is a wonderful opportunity to try new things and explore various interests, but it also a time to learn about work-life balance,” Bill says. “Allow yourself to be exposed to many things, but try to limit your commitments to those that match who you are and will help you get to who you want to be.”

Beyond his work as a Leadership Lecturer at SCU, Bill enjoys spending time with his family gardening, cooking, canning their own salsa, and working on little projects to repair or improve their 86-year-old home. He also enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, backpacking, and car camping, as well as playing softball in a men's city league.

Learn more about the Contemplative Leadership and Sustainability Program (CLASP).

By Michelle Tang, '13 Sustainability Intern -- Student Initiatives

Tags: Curriculum, Profiles, Student Life



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