21 Days at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government

By Buzek, Vincent J. | Nation's Cities Weekly, August 8, 2005 | Go to article overview

21 Days at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government


Buzek, Vincent J., Nation's Cities Weekly


This is the ninth in a series of articles revolving around the issues and topics that will be discussed at the 13th Annual Leadership Summit scheduled for August 25-27, 2005, in Cambridge, Mass. Designed as a leadership retreat, the summit provides personal leadership development that is focused on community perspectives.

Perhaps you have seen the Harvard University booth at one of NLC's recent conferences. If you did, you may have learned about the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program by the John F. Kennedy School of Government. You may have also learned about the fellowship from Fannie Mae Foundation that covers the $10,300.00 tuition and also exposes you to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Well I stopped by, had the conversations, submitted my application and before I knew it, was on my way to Harvard. What an incredible opportunity! Certain that my questions would all be answered and my problems solved, I eagerly prepared for the start of the June 2005 session.

In advance of arrival, we are required to submit a case study for discussion. Each case study is a unique problem that we are experiencing in our position, career, or profession. Most of the studies involved a situation where a "bad actor" was causing problems and creating challenges in the performance of our duties. Mine was no exception--a difficult situation, bad actors that lied, cheated and spread rumors. I hoped to get some answers as to how I can change these people to get what I want.

The first three days of class entirely dashed my assumptions. Led by Harvard faculty, we were pushed, challenged and questioned. We were made to explore our answers to their questions and, hence, our own philosophical underpinnings.

The first session with Marty Linsky was an event most of us will never forget. Imagine a class of 63 highly motivated professionals, each with years of experience, and ask them how they would handle one of the case studies or point out the mistakes made. Of course, our class knew the answers. Hands went up and the first student made his case.

Linsky pushed, prodded, probed and challenged the basic premise of the responses. Initially indignant at the professor's methods, others chimed in with their input. They too were pushed to new levels and made to reconsider their most fundamental principles. Over time, fewer hands went up as we became more introspective.

The lessons learned in the classroom were also helpful in exploring issues particular to housing. The fellowship that I received not only helped financially, but also opened up doors many of us never get to see behind. Fannie Mae Foundation Fellows have the unique opportunity to learn from the experts on housing issues. …

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