Young Leaders Institute Broadens Scope, Fosters Collaborative Leadership in Fourth Year

HOUSTON, August 2, 2019 — In its fourth year, Asia Society’s annual Young Leaders Institute hosted 71 students from 27 Houston-area schools from late June through July. Through week-long sessions, the program seeks to prepare students to become leaders in today’s interconnected world by instilling global competency and expanding perspectives.

In a departure from previous years’ country- and region-specific sessions, the 2019 Young Leaders Institute broadened its scope to address the timely, relevant global topics of U.S.–China Relations, the Middle East, and Energy and Security. Also new this year was a partnership with the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University to help foster a deeper exploration of leadership skills.

Students learned from experts in the field, including the University of Texas at Austin’s China Public Policy Center (CPPC) founding executive director and Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs clinical professor David Firestein, University of Texas at San Antonio professor Jon Taylor, University of Houston associate professor and Middle Eastern Studies program director Emran El-Badawi, Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government associate professor and Baker Institute for Public Policy fellow Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, Schlumberger Director of Global Stewardship Paula Harris, and Chevron Vice President of Global Exploration Liz Schwarze. Students also heard from the Doerr Institute founding director Dr. Tom Kolditz and department coordinator Sarah Sullivan. Diversity and Inclusion Director at Quanta Services Vani Rao emphasized the importance of first impressions, giving the students tips for public speaking and presentation skills.

Each week also featured off-site visits where students enjoyed unique opportunities to see firsthand the day-to-day work by those in the field. The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China welcomed students and celebrated the 40th anniversary of U.S.-China relations with discussions on U.S.–China trade and a calligraphy lesson. At the Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, students met two former refugees and assembled nearly 100 welcome boxes for refugees resettling in the Houston area. During their visit to the Chevron downtown office, students learned about Chevron’s global footprint before enjoying a tour of the trading floor and the drilling and completion center and hearing from a panel of early-career employees on the diverse backgrounds that led to their eventual employment at Chevron.

Each week-long session concluded with student groups presenting policy solutions for a major issue within the week’s topic before a panel of judges and an audience of peers and family members:

  • The highest rated group for the U.S.–China Relations session proposed a solution to the current U.S. ban on Huawei technology, highlighting benefits and challenges to the major actors including the U.S. and Chinese governments and the U.S. tech sector.
  • In the Middle East session, the winning group designed a policy solution around Jordan’s water security and how to ensure access to water amid increasing scarcity, including improving the country’s economy, cutting back on water usage, and building desalination plants.
  • The top-rated group in the Energy and Security session focused on achieving U.S. energy independence through a multi-pronged solution that would involve further developing renewable energy, making current energy production more efficient, and increasing the use of public transportation.

In addition to the site visits, speakers, and group presentations, the Young Leaders Institute also designed leadership simulations where students teamed up to tackle regional crises.

A judge for the student presentations praised “the quality of information dissemination on very specific topics in such a short timeframe.” He also said he considered the Young Leaders Institute “a signature series [at Asia Society Texas Center] that should only gain traction in summers to come.”

Students reported enjoying the diversity of what the Young Leaders Institute offered. One student said the program “opens your eyes about the world[‘s issues and how to take steps to solve them],” while another student said, “This program sparked my interest in foreign studies careers.”


Previous Young Leaders Institute Programming

In YLI's Third Year, Students Design Policy Solutions in China, India, and the Middle East
High School Students Discover China and India through Summer Institute
Students Dive Deep Into U.S.-China Relations During Young Leaders Institute


About Asia Society Texas Center

With 14 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the rest of the world. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.


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