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Student-Led Initiatives FAQs

Student-Led Projects FAQs

What is TLS?

The Trustee Leader Scholar program (TLS) is the social action training initiative for undergraduates at Bard College. 

Who is in TLS?

Every student at the college is eligible to apply to TLS, and students come from every academic discipline on campus. There are about 45 students in the program at any given time (and these 45 attract hundreds of other student volunteers to their projects). Most TLS students remain active in the program throughout their college careers. 

What do TLS students do?

TLS students design and implement social action projects based on their own compelling interests. For example they run educational intensives in the West Bank, organize tutoring programs in local prisons, lead literacy projects in New Orleans, teach art in Nicaragua, coach basketball to underserved youth in the Hudson Valley, and host Model UN conferences on campus. TLS students write extensive proposals, budgets, reports, and self-reflections. They write grants and conduct fundraising campaigns. They meet one-on-one with TLS administrators, and attend workshops and retreats to explore theories and practices of effective civic action. 

TLS motto:

“Say yes unless there is a compelling reason to say no”.  We encourage taking on the hard places in the world and doing the tough work, as long as it can be done safely. 

What are the attributes of a TLS leader?

While there are many ways to lead, all leadership styles are not equally worthwhile. We are especially interested in undoing the notion that leadership is synonymous with power. We spend time exploring interpersonal communication, and ask students to experiment with leadership that creates balanced engagement with community partners. TLS leadership requires paying close attention to people, personalities, body language, and histories. We remember that in any given situation there are multiple options for action.  We are looking for the choice that has the possibility of serving everyone effectively and kindly.   

What is the ultimate goal of TLS?

TLS puts capable and responsive adults into the world with the ability to design, plan, fund, and implement large-scale projects. 

How does TLS differ from similar programs?

TLS students do not receive academic credit for their work. This makes it possible for students to plan and carry out ambitious projects that span multiple years.  TLS students have a tremendous amount of responsibility and ownership of their projects. For their participation they receive transcript recognition and stipends. Note that in the twenty years of the program, no one led a TLS project for the stipend. And many students have said, “TLS was the most important thing I did in college.”

How do you become a TLS student?

Walk in the office door!  Applications are considered on a rolling basis. The best way to start the process is to talk with the TLS staff on the second floor of the Campus Center.  They are always open to hearing the words, “I have a TLS project.”

How can you help?

TLS projects flourish because of enthusiastic students, faculty, administrators, and community members who generously give their time, creative energy, and financial support. Contact us to see how you can get involved