ILA Competition Winners L-R Cori Franco, Sha’Toya Williamson, and Alexandra Danino
ILA Competition Winners L-R Cori Franco, Sha’Toya Williamson, and Alexandra Danino.
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CIIS Students Capture Crown in International Student Case Competition

Graduate students in CIIS’ Transformative Leadership Master's Program Capture Prestigious ILA Student Case Competition 

December 4, 2023
ILA Competition Winners L-R Cori Franco, Sha’Toya Williamson, and Alexandra Danino.

Alexandra Danino, Sha’Toya Williamson, and Cori Franco, graduate students in CIIS’ Transformative Leadership Master's Program, all competed and won the International Leadership Association’s 2023 International Student Case Competition which took place in Vancouver, Canada this past fall. The focus of their entry was the current crisis in K-12 education, a contemporary problem related to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The CIIS team was one of two finalists in the competition which included two doctoral students from Saybrook University who also focused on building the quality of education.

This prestigious competition provides undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to compete and showcase their knowledge about leadership through the analysis of a contemporary socio-political-economic problem on the global or national level, according to the ILA. The competition consists of a presentation of an executive summary in round one; a virtual poster presentation in round two; and a presentation by the team in the final round. In addition to garnering international recognition for their presentation, the team from CIIS also won $1,000 and team members each received a complimentary one-year membership to the Association.

The CIIS team focused on the devastating effect of the Covid pandemic on education, in light of the UN’s finding that “an estimated 84 million children and young people will stay out of school by 2030 and approximately 300 million students will lack the basic numeracy and literacy skills necessary for success in life.”

“Our team dived into the great contribution to education by Paulo Freire,” said Danino. “He explored many alternative ways of knowing being, and relating with each other in the educational space from the traditional educational model which he refers to as a hierarchy and banking education,” explained Alexandra Danino. “Among them, dialogue can be considered as a central concept and now, through post Covid times, we learn that people coming together in dialogue is not enough in order to gain knowledge of social reality.”

She added that “people must act together upon their environment in order to reflect their reality and transform it through further action and critical reflection, thus releasing the hierarchy and creating equity and partnership amongst the creators.”

Danino said she and her fellow students were inspired by the Transformative Leadership Master's Program and its ability to understand complex issues like the challenges associated with understanding and providing solutions that will benefit education in the years to come.

“The Transformative Leadership program inspired my team and I to work in partnership to co-create what is possible. It was a great opportunity for us to share the transformative leadership lens in education and Freire’s work of the problem-posing method in dialogue with the belief that everyone has agency to co-create solutions,” Danino said.

“By far, this has been my experience in the Transformative Leadership program as it has prepared me to understand complexity and work through its intricate parts to create futures. I was very supported and encouraged to lead the whole process which was a pillar to our success. I hope that with this win, we are able to give gratitude and integral recognition the program deserves. The program itself is priceless. If I could go through the program 10 more times, what an honor to retire in transformative leadership bliss.”

Sha’Toya Williamson reflected on the opportunity the competition provided her and her fellow students to better understand the crisis of providing a quality education, which she hopes will prepare for a career post-graduation.

“My post graduate vision is in alignment with the preparation I am receiving in the program. Having the opportunity to co-create a winning team is every leader’s dream,” Williamson explained. “We were able to work through our own personal assumptions, biases, and privileges while examining a real-world crisis: Quality Education. It is my vision to remain a student who works within higher education, practices transformative leadership in my community, (and) collaborates and presents with scholars and practitioners of leadership.”

Cori Franco said the competition allowed her to think critically and creatively about the crisis of providing a quality education and the chance to network with other professionals.

“The Transformative Leadership program and ILA case competition prepared me for a career post-graduation by offering environments where I learned not only to think critically, but also to think creatively, Franco explained. “The experience of networking with other professionals reinforced my motivation to create an earnest dissertation consulting business. Transformative leadership is the reason I was able to explore beautiful Vancouver and win an international case competition. I am both deeply humbled and full of gratitude.”

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