The George Washington University is a community of driven individuals who bring rich and diverse lived experiences to our campus community. Students’ involvement in leadership development, through positional and non-positional roles, is an important part of the college experience. These roles help develop a wealth of transferable skills that are not only useful while at GW, but also in the world beyond GW. 

Student Life Definition of Leadership

Leadership is a purposeful and inclusive process of individuals working together to accomplish shared goals and positive change. We believe in the holistic development of students, that growing as a leader is a lifelong process, and that everyone has the ability to be a leader.

Leadership Philosophy

In our work, we blend a variety of leadership theories, with our core framework being based on the Social Change Model of Leadership and GW Values. Through this framework and our leadership programs, we strive to:

  • Build student’s leadership capacity, efficacy, and motivation
  • Provide opportunities for students to gain hands-on leadership experience 
  • Increase students’ self-awareness through the exploration of values, strengths, and identity 
  • Promote collaborative and inclusive practices in all leadership endeavors 
  • Cultivate change-makers committed to empowering and impacting their communities

Leadership Programs

Students participating in a workshop session.

Excellence in Leadership Sessions (ELS)

A workshop series with a wide variety of topics to choose from. Students can choose the topic and times that work best for them. ELS is a great opportunity for any individual to further their leadership abilities and knowledge. ELS also serves as the primary tool for student organization officer training.

Students in a workshop working together to plan.

Co-Curricular Certificate in Leadership Exploration

Launched in fall 2020, this new program provides a guided experience through exploring one’s personal leadership development. Participants will explore their leadership strengths, attend Excellence in Leadership Sessions, engage in discussion with their peers, and intentionally reflect on their leadership skills and experiences


Around 80 LEAD participant and guides in front of Gelman Library in Kogan Plaza.


Leadership Exploration and Development - a co-curricular program for incoming, first-year undergraduate students. Upper-class students have the opportunity to lead through the peer leader role.

Photo of Trails Guides backpacking in Shenandoah National park.

Trails Guides

A group of volunteer student leaders who lead outdoor day trips almost every weekend during the academic year, serve as guides for the Adventure Bound pre-orientation program, and lead Adventure Break trips during fall, spring, and winter breaks.

Workshops and Training by Request 

Topics can be adapted to meet the needs of a group. Examples of possible topics include, but are not limited to, group dynamics, leadership foundations, leadership styles, ethical decision making, communication skills, group development, conflict resolution, and self-awareness. Email Andrea Davis, Program Coordinator for more information.

Leadership Opportunities

Leadership development doesn’t happen in one place. GW students have access to abundant resources across campus, both in academic spaces and co-curricular programs. We've put together a menu of resources across campus where you can learn more about leadership development opportunities at GW.


Browse Leadership Development Opportunities