A Radical Style of Collaboration

The Pioneer Leadership Program celebrates 25 years of preparing students to tackle ‘wicked problems’

ERIN ROBINSON

(BA ’00, MA ’02, PHD ’12) 

Erin Robinson

More than 9,000 miles from DU, Erin Robinson works on the front lines as a leader in education. A middle school principal at United World College Southeast Asia in Singapore, she is guiding her community through the coronavirus pandemic, tackling everything from online learning to returning safely back to campus to start the school year. 

Robinson has long valued the leadership skills she learned during her time at DU, but she recognizes how those skills are even more essential when leading during a global health crisis. 

“You have to apply compassionate leadership and model what that looks like,” she says. In her setting, compassionate leadership means taking care of people and fostering a sense of community—“even when people are apart.” 

It was PLP that drew Robinson to study at DU. She was excited about the opportunity to live and study with a group of students who shared her interest in leadership, but who brought diverse perspectives to dinnertime conversations and classroom discussions. 

“You make such strong connections within the cohort because you are learning and living with incredibly talented students and professors,” she says. “You’re also meeting influential community leaders, and without even realizing it, you end up building a leadership network that really pays dividends later on.”

After majoring in biological sciences as an undergraduate, Robinson went on to earn her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and her PhD in educational leadership and policy studies from the Morgridge College of Education—all while also working in leadership positions for Denver Public Schools and the Boulder Valley School District. With her degrees in hand and with professional experience on her resume, she decided to pursue a long-cherished dream of going abroad to pursue a career at an international school, one not so different from the school where she earned her high school diploma. She worked at schools in Hong Kong and Tokyo before landing her current position in Singapore. 

United World College Southeast Asia reportedly is the largest nonprofit school in the world, and it emphasizes the importance of children developing the skills, tools and understanding to promote a peaceful and sustainable future. It’s a mission Robinson could have authored herself, as it aligns closely with her own philosophy. 

More than five years into her journey with the school and 20 years into her career, Robinson still finds herself referring back to the leadership foundation she built at DU. 

“What you get out of the program at DU is such an amazing learning experience,” Robinson says. “It’s a lifetime’s worth of experiences that will be relevant in many years to come.”

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