All boarding, grades 9-12 in Alexandria, Virginia
Boarding Life

Leadership and Ethics Program

The EHS Leadership and Ethics Program is designed to support the final words of Episcopal's mission statement: "Episcopal strives to prepare young people to become discerning individuals with the intellectual and moral courage to lead principled lives of leadership and service to others." Through its curriculum, the Leadership and Ethics Program deepens the students' understanding of the many facets of leadership and helps them develop an ethical foundation for making important decisions. While many students serve the community through elected leadership positions, all students are introduced to the concept of servant leadership, which presents daily opportunities to positively affect the world around them.

Freshman and sophomore workshops focus on developing the students' understanding of what it means to live in a community as a responsible, empathetic, and productive citizen; the EHS Honor Code is a cornerstone theme in these discussions. Juniors and seniors devote their time and energy to developing the skills required to effectively lead teams of peers, learning how to make difficult ethical choices, and analyzing the many national and world leaders they are exposed to through the EHS Washington Program.

"All of our students, not just the elected leaders, work through the Leadership and Ethics Curriculum. We hope to debunk the stereotype that students must be loud and outgoing to be a leader," explains Mimi Schwanda, director of the program. "All students learn about themselves and tap into the ways that they can lead. At the same time, they develop their ethical compasses so that they can make tough decisions."

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    • Dependability and Citizenship
    • Your Impact on Others
    • Building Empathy
    • Honor Inside and Outside of the Classroom


    • Fostering Inclusiveness
    • Strengthening Communication Skills
    • Improving Self-Awareness: Intent vs. Impact
    • Building a Community of Trust


    • Servant Leadership
    • Opportunities for Leadership
    • Introduction to Ethics
    • Identifying and Ordering Values


    • Types of Leadership
    • Evaluating Leaders
    • Right vs. Right Decision Making
    • Defining Moments in Leadership 

Alexander Block '17

The Leadership and Ethics program is dynamic and thoughtful, honest and challenging. It urges students to grapple with morality, integrity, and honor, and helps them sculpt their own leadership style by providing situations in which they are ethically and morally stimulated. This program has allowed me to understand, define, and refine my character, ultimately helping me construct an independent ethical compass and a bedrock leadership style.

Program Highlights

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  • September 2016

    FALL 2016: On Wednesday, September 28, the Leadership and Ethics program kicked off for the 2016-2017 school year. All four grade levels participated in engaging programs which allowed them to think about themselves as leaders.
    The ninth graders returned from their five-day camping and backpacking Burch trip on Tuesday evening. Fresh off the trails, they gathered Wednesday afternoon as a class to debrief their experience and think about how it might shape their year at Episcopal. They gathered with their Burch groups (eight students and one adult per group) to do some personal reflection and discussion. Next, they had the opportunity to validate each member of the team for his or her contribution to the group. Finally, they transitioned into conversation about life back at Episcopal. Each group talked through real-life scenarios relating to life at a boarding school. How might the experience with challenge and adversity apply to decisions about social life and academics?

    The tenth graders worked with guests from Edgework Consulting, a Boston-based group that works to develop leaders all over the country and the world. They learned about High Impact Attributes, Edgework’s term for skills and qualities that make good leaders. After some small group conversation, they agreed on three attributes that they wanted to define themselves as a class: pro-social connections, positive identity, and social confidence. They left the workshop with a feeling of class identity, excited to be the best versions of themselves. Natalie Block ’19 summed it up nicely: “Through our Leadership and Ethics program, I was personally reopened to the idea of social confidence and what it means to be a leader not only in a small group, but also within my whole class.”

    The eleventh graders spent Tuesday night with their grade deans learning about four different types of leaders: analytical, directive, compassionate, and motivational. On Wednesday, in groups of eight students and one faculty member, they headed into Washington, D.C., for the afternoon. Their task was to find statues or memorials to leaders that fit into those four categories. They were all over the city: in Smithsonian museums, in Dupont Circle, on Capitol Hill. Some groups even talked to real leaders around D.C. After the program, the students thought about themselves as leaders within their small group. They categorized themselves and the other members of the groups using the styles of leadership they saw at play.

    “I thought it was a great program and a good opportunity to find real world leaders off campus. I learned that all four types of leaders are vital in the business world,” Thomas Kreger ’19 said.

    Spanish teacher Catherine Gomez-Goodnow's students enjoyed a pleasant surprise while in the Washington Post lobby considering locations to find examples of various leaders. "My students asked a person standing in the lobby for advice, and the woman turned out to be a an employee of the WP and is a digital editor for the national news. When the students explained the purpose of their outing, she offered to take us up to the 8th floor to see quotes by past leaders at the Washington Post​: Katharine Graham, Philip Meyer and Ben Bradlee. We also saw the wall lined with Pulitzer ​Prizes. It was very cool!"

    English teacher Molly Pugh's group also had the pleasant surprise of meeting NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg on the steps of the Supreme Court.

    The Class of 2017 welcomed guest speaker Reid Nickle ’10. Reid was a monitor, honor committee member, and cross country and track captain during his time at Episcopal. He shared with the seniors advice on creating a culture of respect. He encouraged people to treat all members of the community well, from freshmen to seniors. After his words, the seniors broke into small groups for conversation about how to apply Reid’s words.

    “Reid Nickle talked to the class of 2017 the importance of treating all members of the EHS community with kindness and respect,” explained Hannah Petitti ’17. “He also brought to light how impactful the senior class can be, which helped us think about the legacy we want to leave.”

    Next up, in early December the Leadership and Ethics program will partner with the Washington Program and the Equity and Inclusion office to engage in conversations with students following the Presidential Election.

Additional Opportunities


Each fall during opening weekend, about 70 student leaders gather for a leadership training retreat to receive formal training in skills such as team-building, communication, empathy, and mediation. The weekend concludes with each leadership group presenting its mission statements and goals for the year.


Elected and volunteer leadership opportunities offer students a chance to affect and shape our campus community. Students take the lead as Monitors and Tour Guides; as members of the Honor Committee, Community Council, Student Athletics Advisory Council, Service Council, and Vestry;  and in multiple other roles serving a variety of student-run organizations. 
Episcopal High School Since 1839
1200 North Quaker Lane Alexandria, Virginia 22302 | 703-933-3000