A Radical Style of Collaboration

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

KELAN STOY

(BA ’11)

Kelan Stoy

In California’s Bay Area, PLP alumnus Kelan Stoy is busy tackling some of the problems facing his community and state. He is the head of solutions engineering at a company called UrbanFootprint, which uses data and tools to help cities and businesses address everything from climate change and housing affordability to, most recently, COVID-19.

The pandemic has created a need for Stoy and his company to step into an important leadership role to navigate the accompanying issues.

“We are helping different jurisdictions or state officials understand where need is concentrated,” Stoy says about his current work. “We are identifying things like where food insecurity is particularly high, where unemployment may be concentrated as a result of this current crisis and targeting resources to help address the needs of these disadvantaged communities.”

Stoy found his passion for sustainability and addressing these problems not long after graduating from DU. Right after collecting his degree in international studies and geography, Stoy went to Uganda for a research project with the Global Livingston Institute, founded by Jamie Van Leeuwen, who taught and mentored PLP students when Stoy was in the program. Before he put roots down in Berkeley, Stoy took posts in Antigua, Guatemala and Cape Town, South Africa. 

“One major takeaway that I got from [PLP] was the importance of ethics as foundation for all the components of leadership,” Stoy says. “That was something threaded through a lot of the classes at DU—differentiating between what ethical leadership is in contrast to just being a figurehead and [holding] power, for example. That’s something I’ve taken from the program and tried to apply moving forward.”

Of the many things he values from PLP, Stoy credits its structure with helping build community. It wasn’t unusual for classroom conversations to continue long past the proverbial bell.  

 “Joining the PLP program was a great decision and provided a lot of opportunity for growth outside of the classroom,” Stoy says. “It’s a great way to add depth to your experience.”

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