By Eric Cetnarski (C13)
“Come to the campfire.”
For many Presidians this phrase evokes the memory of Leadership for Sustainable Management with Professor Cynthia Scott. Cynthia uses the symbol of the campfire as a place for students to gather in reflection, storytelling, and collaboration. The campfire also serves as a reminder that leadership is not a solo journey—it is strengthened by community and the human connection.
Cynthia has been tending campfires for decades. The inspiration for these fires was started in the mountains and deserts of Arizona and has fueled her journey to establish sustainable ways of living and working. Early in her career, she used her knowledge of anthropology and public health policy to create new community models to serve women’s health needs and youth empowerment. Her work at the University of California, Davis and UC Berkeley focused on adding behavioral science to geriatrics and family practice education. Her dissertation was focused on reducing burnout and increasing resilience of health professionals. She authored Healthyself, From Burnout to Balance, Stress Map and Self-Renewal from her experience with guiding people through transition.
Moving from the individual, she then began to focus on the role of how the physical work environment and management practices created stress. Her to focus on designing productive organizations and leaders who could inspire a new level of commitment provoked her to write Take this Job and Love it, Rekindling Commitment, Getting Your Organization to Change and Organizational Vision, Values and Mission. To support this work, she founded Changeworks Consulting, which focused on change leadership, empowerment, and large-scale organizational transformation. As Head of Product Development for Lee Hecht Harrision, her team built leadership coaching methodology and new models for global talent management.
Her work led her to address organizational sustainability with a focus on human behavior change and engagement. She joined the team at Saatchi & Saatchi S to design and deploy the Personal Sustainability Practice (PSP) approach to Wal-Mart, Frito Lay, and AT&T. During this time she began to teach leadership at Bainbridge Graduate Institute and Presidio Graduate School. Now, at PGS, she encourages Presidians to thrive in their roles as trailblazers, organizational leaders, and tenders of new campfires. She believes that sustainable leaders differentiate themselves with a solid foundation of self-awareness, emotional literacy, and collaborative change capability. Cynthia is renewed by the vision and spirit of the PGS community and constantly amazed by the students who come to join us.
“Global society is the biggest patient we’ve ever attended to,” said Cynthia. “We know what makes people thrive; it’s now our job to do that for the planet.”
One my fondest memories of PGS is the last day of her class. At the closing, each student takes a stick from the model campfire as a reminder of what they have learned and what they intend to accomplish. To me it signifies the starting of a dozen or more campfires throughout the Bay Area, nation, and planet. The world can take refuge in these places of community and collaboration. As the campfires continue to grow, so does our hope for a sustainable world.
Eric Cetnarksi was Cynthia’s Graduate Assistant for three semesters. He graduated from PGS in 2012 and is currently the owner and general manager of the Samana+ Healing Arts Center in Oakland, California. For Eric, healing the self is an important first step in healing the planet.
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