Trustee Leader Scholar Program

The Trustee Leader Scholar (TLS) Program supports leadership development in the context of hands-on, student-initiated community engagement projects. Students in the TLS program propose, design, and implement civic engagement projects based on their own passionate interests. TLS projects are local, national, and international, and may be initiated at any point during a student’s college career. The hallmark of a TLS project is the student’s ownership of the work.

Several TLS projects have grown into permanent institutional initiatives, including the Bard Prison Initiative, La Voz, Bard Early College in New Orleans, and, most recently, Brothers at Bard.


What is TLS?

The Trustee Leader Scholar Program is the formal civic leadership development program for undergraduate students at Bard College. TLS supports the liberal arts mission of enlightened citizenship: personal development in the context of community building.

Who is in TLS?

Every Bard student is eligible to apply to TLS and TLS students come from every academic discipline on campus. Approximately 50 undergraduates are TLS leaders at any given time and most TLS students remain actively involved in the program throughout their college careers.

What makes TLS special?

Many colleges provide volunteer and community engagement opportunities. Bard is one of the few that puts substantial resources and trust behind student-led initiatives. Students must initiate the work. The fundamental criterion for accepting a project is that it must contribute positively to the world and challenge the student—organizationally, ethically, politically, and emotionally.

What do TLS students do?

TLS students design and implement social action projects based on their own compelling interests. TLS students write extensive proposals, budgets, and personal accounts of their activities. They meet one-on-one with program administrators and attend workshops to explore the ethics of social action, public speaking, group facilitation, and interpersonal communication. TLS students also raise their own funds and many become proficient at fundraising and campaign organizing.

What are some key values in TLS?

TLS addresses the issues of paternalism and privilege that are stirred up by the notion of “helping others.” Students are encouraged to read widely about oppression, identify their own motivations and needs, and experiment with ways of organizing that treat other people as partners, not passive recipients. We try hard to strike a balance between inward reflection, societal awareness, and compassionate action. TLS considers this life training.

What is the ultimate goal of TLS?

TLS strives to put into the world capable, sensitive adults who have the ability to generate, plan, fund, and implement large-scale projects that matter and that influence environments humanely. Many TLS students leave Bard capable of creating their own nonprofit organizations.

How does TLS differ from similar programs?

TLS is leadership development, not community service. TLS students do not earn academic credit for their efforts but do receive stipends to support their work. Separating TLS work from academics allows students to design and implement ambitious civic engagement projects spanning multiple years. TLS recognizes that organizing a major project while completing Bard’s rigorous academic requirements is a demanding load and is not for everyone. It is worth noting, however, that many TLS students have said, “My project was the most important thing I did in college.”

How do you apply to the TLS program?

TLS applications are considered on a rolling, year-round basis. The best way to start the process is to talk with TLS staff members, who are always open to hearing the words, “I have an idea for a TLS project.” Students are encouraged to consider TLS from the moment they arrive on campus.

Current TLS Projects

African Roots Project
Astor Services for Children and Families
Bard Math Circle
Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative
Bard Science Outreach
Brothers at Bard
Building Up Hudson
Community Engagement Arts Projects
Connecting Arts and Hearts
Cuerda para Cali
Gifted Girls at Columbia
Girls Group
Girls Who Code
Harvesting Justice
New Orleans Exchange
Nicaragua Education Initiative
Old Gym Project
Ramapo for Children
Red Hook English as a Second Language (ESL) Center
Red Hook Residential Tutoring Program
SAIL Forward
Short Story Contest
Surrealist Circus
Write On!

TLS Archive

Many TLS Projects have been ongoing since the inception of the program, but some have run their natural life span. This archive reflects the beautifully executed, the grand fiasco, and all points between. All of these projects have been vehicles for valuable learning about how the world works and how to make things happen.

Selected Project Archive

  • Academic Advancement Program
  • Activist Training Conference
  • Astor Alternative Music Education Project
  • Astor Home for Children Theater Group
  • AstOrigiNal Theatre at Astor
  • Avenida de los Artistas International Art Exhibit
  • AWARE: Hudson Valley / TLS-BPI Liaison
  • Ballistic Missile Defense System: Geopolitical Implications of Militarizing Space Lecture
  • Bard Art in New York City
  • Bard Branches Community Center
  • Bard Buddies
  • Bard Builds
  • Bard Cheerleading Squad
  • Bard College Community Garden
  • Bard College Health Initiative
  • Bard Food Initiative
  • Bard Health Initiative
  • Bard High School Early College Play/Mentoring Program
  • Bard Inner College
  • Bard Jo-Wo-Liech Project
  • Bard Model United Nations Initiative
  • Bard Nepal Leprosy Project
  • Bard Permaculture Initiative
  • Bard Prison Initiative Volunteers
  • Bard Space Program
  • Bard’s Senegalese Sewing and Sustainability Project
  • Bard-Aid
  • Bard-Hudson Mentoring Program
  • Bard-Sri Lanka Project
  • BbAaRrDd
  • Bhopal Memory Project
  • Campus Pub
  • CARE (Clone Axl Rose Emmediately)
  • Care Bears
  • Chiapas Solidarity Project
  • Child to Child Nepal
  • Children’s Gardening Program
  • Coalition for Peruvian Relief (CPR)
  • Colón Music Festival
  • Comic Book Workshops
  • Community Arts Outreach (CAO)
  • Community Service Survey
  • Contra Dance Club
  • Conversations on Class
  • Conversations on Education
  • Diamondz Hudson Young Women’s Group
  • Disabilities Awareness
  • Dorm Composting
  • Dream To Achieve
  • Eco-Discoverers
  • Englishman
  • Ephemer
  • First Year Poetry Publication
  • Flying Fiddlers
  • Free Press
  • Free Voices: a womyn’s journal
  • Germantown College Mentoring
  • Germantown Tutoring Program
  • Ghana Project
  • Global Cultural Outreach
  • God & Sexuality Conference
  • Grace Smith House
  • Great River Sweep at Bard
  • Green Campus Project
  • Green Pages
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Heal With Wheels
  • Hole Digging Club
  • Hope in Devereux
  • Horseshoe Pits
  • Hudson Basketball Clinic
  • Hudson Gay Straight Discussion Group
  • Hudson Tutoring
  • Human Rights Film Series
  • HuTArt
  • Intercollegiate Energy Audit
  • International Tuberculosis Relief Project
  • Internet and New Media Course
  • Iraq Watch
  • Jewish Youth Programming
  • Kingston YMCA Mural
  • KitKat Mentoring
  • Make Art Now
  • Middle Eastern Dance Collective
  • Migrant Labor Project
  • Moroccan Youth Culture Initiative
  • Off-Campus Students Initiative
  • One Year Later Research Project
  • Palestine Awareness Project
  • R.I.S.E.: Respect, Integrity, Service, Education
  • Red Hook Debate in Schools
  • Red Hook High School Math and Computer Science Club
  • Red Hook High School Model United Nations
  • Rhinebeck Connections (Homework Help)
  • Science Coffeehouse
  • Sister Cities Project
  • SMOG
  • SSTOP: Students Stopping Trafficking of Persons
  • Student Action Documentary Film
  • Student Labor Dialogue Project
  • Student-Run Dark Room
  • Students for People’s Relief (SPR)
  • Students for Students: Hudson [New York] Chapter
  • Sui Generis
  • The Media Analysis Project
  • The Upbeats: Bard Music Mentoring Program
  • The Women’s Health and Sexuality Project
  • Trans Action Initiative
  • Triform Community
  • Understanding Arabs and Muslims
  • Vermont Harmony Project
  • Verse Noire
  • Visible/Invisible Disabilities Awareness Project: VIDAP
  • Wayfinder Experience
  • Work Awareness Project
  • Young Artists of Rhinebeck Project
  • Young Naturalists Initiative

Contact Us

Have your own idea for a project?

Meet with us to discuss how to make your project come to life—
even if your idea is still in formation. We are always available.

Paul Marienthal
Dean for Social Action; Director, Trustee Leader Scholar Program

Micki Strawinski
Administrative Assistant

Room 213, Campus Center

Volunteers are the backbone of TLS projects: whether you are a Bard student or a community member, we need your help. Join the Astor Home project in Rhinebeck, build homes in Nicaragua, teach outdoor education to middle schoolers from Red Hook, offer arts workshops in New Orleans … the possibilities are endless.