Leadership for Change

January 15-17, 2016

Leadership for Change is a three-day group relations conference held each January and July at USD.

Please email usdli@sandiego.edu with questions.

"This workshop presents more than a set of interesting ideas; it provides an opportunity to ‘practice the change you desire'.”
--US Navy Captain and former participant

Aims of the Conference

To engage in a process of inquiry designed to provide opportunities for learning how to:

  • Work in the vividness of the moment
  • Probe experiences, interactions and behaviors as they emerge in order to uncover possible meanings, patterns and connections that might otherwise remain hidden or be mislabeled and discounted
  • Shift embedded “habits of mind” that de-sensitize us to realities not named or recognized within our existing framework(s) that foster powerlessness or alienation
  • Recognize, interpret and use the wisdom and insights that emerge in collective settings – even when facts are unclear and circumstances are changing
  • Take risks of power and love by learning to "let go" of attachments to particular outcomes

In order to cultivate the conditions for change -- personal, community, organizational and planetary changes -- that promote healing and affirm life.

Learning on the Edge

Every facet of this conference is experiential and is purposely designed to promote dynamic interchange and shared learning among a group of diverse peers. The program doesn't teach answers to specific problems. Rather, it provides a social ‘laboratory’ for exploring the dynamics of power, leadership, authority, change and transformation as they actually arise and unfold during the conference. Participants are exposed to a method of ‘reflection-in-action’ that utilizes both the intellect and emotions and can reveal profound truths, such as:

  • Many of our (re)actions are driven by beliefs and patterns of thinking that lie beyond our immediate level of awareness
  • We have become so accustomed to ‘doing something/anything’ to fix problems that we lack the flexibility to simply let something ‘be’ until we can understand it better
  • Authentic problem solving begins with being prepared to examine our own lived experience
  • Control is the problem, not the solution

This way of learning may require giving up what we think we know – allowing ourselves to experience uncertainty – in order to make space for new thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Benefiting from it requires a willingness to surface and examine elements of personal identity and history that influence the ways we think about leadership, relate to authority, manage boundaries, respond to criticism, and handle conflict.
"Many people go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after. " -Henry David Thoreau

Structure and Design

The conference is designed to serve as a temporary institution that reproduces many of the characteristic features of organizational life. It is organized as a sequence of group and inter-group interactions. Working within this temporary institution that serves as both a case study and a laboratory for learning about how institutions operate, participants are able to study and analyze significant phenomena that arise in groups and teams in ways that are often not discussable in the other organizations to which they belong.

The experience is more intelligible if one sets aside expectations of a traditional conference or classroom and thinks more in terms of an art studio or a laboratory that provide space conducive to learning by experimentation and practice. Faculty and staff strive to create an atmosphere in which participants can surface unexamined assumptions, develop more adequate ways of seeing, and discover the lessons each is prepared to learn next.
This active learning model encourages participants to examine and evaluate their own assumptions and behaviors related to the exercise of leadership and authority in order to help them function more effectively in their outside roles.


Faculty and staff function in a variety of roles designed to encourage awareness, curiosity, analysis and deep learning. Working within the parameters of certain defined roles (e.g. director, consultant, administrator, observer), they attempt to encourage members to use various aspects of the conference as a means for learning about how groups function and how they as individuals affect – and are affected by – organizational dynamics.


The Conference-as-a-whole is designed to be a single integrated educational experience. Individuals who know in advance that they are unable to attend all sessions are discouraged from applying.


The University of San Diego awards 1 or 3 credits for graduate students enrolled in this conference. Students taking the conference for 3 units of credit are required to attend separate orientation and debriefing sessions and complete written assignments; and all students are required to complete readings. In addition to completing the online registration form, students seeking USD graduate credit must follow formal registration procedures specified by the University to enroll in either LEAD 504: Human Relations for Leaders (1 unit), LEAD 551: Human Relations for Leaders (3 units), or LEAD 585: Leadership for Change (3 units). If you are not a current USD graduate student but wish to take the course for academic credit must apply for Open Campus. While waiting for your application to be processed, please email Elizabeth Castillo at usdli@sandiego.edu to alert her that you plant to enroll. Once your Open Campus application is approved, you will need to pay for and register for the course through the Division of Professional and Continuing Education.


An orientation designed to provide more conceptual background for the Conference will be held on Tuesday prior to the conference (January 12, 2016) at 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. in MRH 102. All members of the Conference are welcome to attend if they wish; students taking the conference for 3 units of graduate credit must attend this session. To receive 3 units of graduate credit, students must also attend a debriefing session on Tuesday following the conference (January 19, 2016) at 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. in MRH 102.
For required and recommended readings, consult the course syllabus for LEAD 504, LEAD 551 or LEAD 585.


The last day to register is the Tuesday prior to the conference (January 12, 2016), at 5 p.m. or when we've reached capacity. Early registration is strongly encouraged due to limited space for this popular workshop. Participants taking the conference for graduate credit do not need to complete the Conference Registration Form.


Conference events include a few research activities that facilitate participants’ reflection on their perceptions of leadership and on the conference itself. These activities are done anonymously and reports of the research refer only to groups, not to individuals. The research activities are planned to enrich the conference experience for everyone. However, your participation is completely voluntary, and your decision whether or not to take part in the research will not affect your treatment as a conference member or student in any way.

Readings and Resources

There are several articles we recommend you read which will hopefully throw some more light on what may still seem to be somewhat of an elusive content and format of the conference. We also welcome you to view the course syllabi for the various graduate level courses we offer at USD in conjunction with this conference.  The recommended readings and the syllabi are below:

  • Course Syllabi:  LEAD 504, LEAD 551 , LEAD 585

 If you have any difficulty accessing these materials, please email usdli@sandiego.edu for assistance.

Special Note

The conference is an educational endeavor and does not provide psychotherapy or sensitivity training. Although the experiential learning available in this conference can be stimulating and enriching, it can be emotionally demanding as well. Thus, potential applicants who are ill or experiencing significant personal difficulties should forego participating in this conference and, perhaps, plan on attending one at a future date.

Accommodations and Transportation

Campus Housing

Campus housing may be available upon request for approximately $90 per night.   Please email Elizabeth Castillo at usdli@sandiego.edu for more information.

Discounted Hotel Accommodations

The University of San Diego offers special discounted rates of up to 15% off at nearby hotels and resorts for your stay during the conference through our partner, Bartell Hotels. In addition to obtaining access to some of San Diego's finest hotels and resorts at significantly reduced rates, your participation in this program also helps to fund scholarships for USD students.

These hotels can be booked through our partner Bartell Hotels.

Other Hotel Options

The university also has a negotiated rate for USD travelers at the Best Western Hacienda Old Town. To make a reservation, call 800-888-1991 and ask for USD's rate.

The Hacienda is approximately 1 mile from USD. You may travel on the San Diego Trolley to the Moreno/Linda Vista station, then walk the remainder to the university, or use a cab to travel between the university and Old Town. On Friday only, there is a complimentary USD shuttle from the Old Town Transit station in the morning. Visit USD's Tram Service website for more information.

On the San Diego Trolley use the Green Line traveling east from Old Town. USD's closest stop is the Morena/Linda Vista (one stop from Old Town). Exit station to Napa Street. Walk left onto Napa, right onto Linda Vista Road. At first light, walk left into the University and up the hill to Mother Rosalie Hill Hall (on the left at the top of the mesa). Please note, this is a steep hill, please allow at least 20 minutes to walk from the station.


Parking permits are required on campus at all times.  There is a nominal cost of approximately $5 per day to park on campus.  You will be able to purchase your permit online prior to the conference.

  • PERMIT. While parking on campus, a valid USD permit must be displayed at all times. 
  • RESERVED SPACES. While parking on campus please be mindful of reserved spaces. These spaces have RESERVED painted on the ground. These spaces are reserved from 6 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays, including summer, intersession, student breaks, holidays, finals, dead days and move in/move out days.
  • AVAILABLE SPACES. Please park in white lined spaces in the West Parking Structure near the West Entrance to campus. Please ensure that you are parked in a valid space. You may not park in yellow lined spaces, a fire lane (red curb), TOW AWAY space, on the sidewalk or taking up more than one space.
  • POSTED SIGNS. Please read posted signs that may be at the entrance to a lot, or at an individual parking space. Doing so can alleviate confusion and help avoid a citation.