Great leadership is always in demand, especially on Staten Island, which continues to face challenges as its residents work to improve the quality of life in the borough. Once they have honed their skills, leaders also need to connect with one another so that they may find solutions to the problems that we all face.

In an effort to train tomorrow’s leaders, and ensure that they form a network, CSI launched The Staten Island Leadership Institute in 2003 and the Institute just celebrated its fifth graduation. According to Hugo Kijne, Executive Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development at CSI, the Institute’s purpose is “to provide a forum where emerging community and business leaders come together in an environment that fosters growth and dialogue on community issues.” Every year, up to 30 people from the public sector, the business community, and not-for-profit organizations are selected to participate in the Institute’s ten-month program. Candidates for selection should, according to Kijne, “be on a career track that will put them in a leadership position.” The tuition is $1,000 per person, but the Institute receives crucial funding from many of the borough’s most prominent businesses and organizations.

Participants meet once a month from October through June to learn about all community-related aspects of Staten Island; its relationship to New York City (NYC), state, and federal offices; and institutions of international governance. The curriculum covers government and politics; the borough’s economy; traffic, transportation, and development; education; law enforcement, safety, and security; the environment; healthcare and social services; communities and demographics; and the arts.

As they progress through the Institute’s curriculum, students have the opportunity to meet with community, city, and state leaders and they visit locations that are crucial to the future of life in the borough. Past speakers include the Borough President, NYC Councilpersons, representatives from the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation, and Project Hospitality. Institute participants have taken field trips to places such as Borough Hall, the Fresh Kills landfill, Staten Island University Hospital, and cultural institutions on the Island.

After students have completed the curriculum, they have an in-depth understanding of how decisions are made on Staten Island. Another important aspect of the Institute is the sense of connection that participants gain from getting to know each other over the course of the program. Once they graduate and go their separate ways, they become part of a network of leaders who can work together to move the borough forward.

As the sixth class of the Institute convenes this fall, Kijne reports that “the students are generally very happy” with the program. In addition, the alumni “are very visible [in the community] and they recognize each other’s visibility.” So far, Kijne says the leadership network created by the Institute “works incredibly well.” As more and more people pass through the Institute, that group of problem solvers will grow and become more efficient as it works to make Staten Island a better place to live.

Anyone who is interested in participation in the 2008-2009 Leadership Institute should call Hugo Kijne at 718.982.2191 or email him at