Alumni Spotlight: Shideh Javan – Easton Community Foundation’s 2023 COLA P.O.W.E.R. Up! Alumni Award Winner

Alumni Spotlight: Shideh Javan – Easton Community Foundation’s 2023 COLA P.O.W.E.R. Up! Alumni Award Winner
By Laddan Shoar (she/her)
COLA Program Manager, Leadership Columbus

This is the second year Leadership Columbus has offered the COLA P.O.W.E.R. Up! Alumni Award, which recognizes an alum who continues to demonstrate the characteristics of COLA Leadership in their communities beyond their program experience, as nominated by their peers or themselves.  As the Leadership Columbus Program Manager for Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA), I have had the pleasure of having multiple conversations with Shideh Javan (COLA ‘12) on what has blossomed in her leadership journey since her COLA experience over a decade ago. Her inspired passion for empowered authenticity in leadership is clear and I am thrilled to share her insights as this year’s COLA P.O.W.E.R. Up! Awardee.

Shideh has effusively shared that attending the COLA leadership intensive ahead of her senior year in high school encouraged her to “drop her mask” and let her heritage as a Persian-American shine. She credits this monumental personal milestone to the cultural pride modeled by some of her peers, COLA Culture, program lessons, and the community the cohort created during the 6-day intensive.  Prior to COLA, Shideh would minimize her cultural differences, “desperate to fit in with my white peers.”

Shideh: “I rarely let anyone know about my heritage and if asked, I would often say I was American, never letting anyone know my family was Middle-Eastern. After the events of 9/11, I was often bullied or humiliated at school because students knew my parents were Middle Eastern. As a coping mechanism, I attended most of elementary school, middle school and high school masking my heritage to what I now have come to realize was an identity crisis.”

She notes that at COLA, her peers were “…proud, enthusiastic, and excited to share about their cultures throughout the week.” Shideh elaborates by saying, “I was completely transformed. COLA allowed me to show up as I am and not be afraid to let my authenticity shine. I joined COLA as a shy high school senior and over the course of the week, grew into a proud Persian- American woman/student.”

Shideh continued to demonstrate COLA Leadership throughout college at Capital University where she was a student leader in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. She supported students through a program called “Smooth Transition” which worked to acclimate students of color to the campus way of life, through resource support and group involvement. She inspired greater participation with Smooth Transition among peers through the message of bringing one’s full self to college and beyond, which she learned at COLA. The “R” in the COLA P.O.W.E.R. acronym stands for being “Real and Ready,” and this principle informed her leadership.

After college, Javan joined Cardinal Health as a Marketing Manager supporting Women’s Health and has continued to live her COLA-inspired values through the creation and leadership of a business resource group called New Perspectives. “New Perspectives is a multi-functional, cross collaborative group that was started after the murder of George Floyd.”

Shideh continues: “New Perspectives was developed as a result of my COLA learnings because I understood that if I couldn’t bring my full self into school, how could I bring my full self to work?” She realized that surely others must face the same struggle. “The purpose of New Perspectives is to dedicate time to traditionally taboo workplace topics in a space that is private, confidential, and allows for voices to be amplified regardless of your position in the organization. The impact we’ve made on our colleagues has led to various roadshows across our organization; most recently, in Colorado for an HR conference on how employees are bringing their full authenticity to the workplace.”

When asked how she would ultimately describe her COLA experience, Shideh says: “It was a way for me to discover my authenticity and cultivate a pathway to becoming more myself. In this lesson of becoming the most genuine version of myself, I also inadvertently learned the impact I would make on others as a result of my own fears, confusion, and vulnerability around my heritage. COLA allowed me a space to become whole and gave me the tools and confidence to support others in feeling whole too.”

Community-building, collaboration, and overall leadership function better when people feel they can express themselves authentically, develop greater confidence regarding personal strengths, and are empowered to make an impact on issues that matter to them, while cultivating awareness to meet one another where they are. As this is Leadership Columbus’ second year delivering COLA, I am heartened by the fact that the integrity of COLA Culture has been preserved and continues with each iteration of the program. Stories like Shideh Javan’s are sparked and nurtured in the COLA environment.

The updates we receive from alumni regarding what they go on to create for themselves and their communities long after COLA Week ends are exciting and impressive. The information also serves as profound evidence of their own unique, effective and inspirational leadership, which they are encouraged to continue exploring.

COLA and other Leadership Columbus alumni are welcome to connect with Shideh via social media on Instagram @shidehjavan, and LinkedIn.

Central Ohio Leadership Academy is a 6-day leadership intensive for rising high school juniors and seniors in Central Ohio. This year’s cohort represented 24 public, private, and charter schools across the region. Enrollment for the 2024 cohort begins in early January. If you would like to learn more about the COLA Program, or would like to schedule a presentation for young leaders, please reach out to me at