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.