With the Kennedy School (HKS) placing increased emphasis on experiential learning opportunities, CPL has jumped on the bandwagon in a big way. Three experiments have highlighted our cocurricular programming this academic year, each of them designed to give students an opportunity to use insights gleaned from specific contexts to shape policy and their own self-understanding as leaders.
The first was a fall study group entitled "Knowledge, New Media, the Arts, and Civic Engagement: Four Keys to Revitalizing America’s Small Cities." Led by Ed Walker, an entrepreneur, urban activist, and lawyer, based in Roanoke, Virginia, this experiment exposed ten HKS students to an interdisciplinary approach to revitalizing tertiary cities with populations under 100,000—where more than 50 million Americans call home. The study group focused on five spheres of influence: arts & design, new media and knowledge, food and drink, social entrepreneurship and investment, and key aspects of good government including politics, policy and citizenship. In addition to Cambridge-based sessions, the students also attended CityWorks (X)po, a two-day conference in Roanoke that brought together more than 400 social entrepreneurs from across the country and overseas to share ideas about the synergistic effect these elements can have when subsumed under a single, integrated plan. Walker plans to hold the conference annually, and to turn it into a network of linked initiatives.
By the end of the study group, students had self-organized into interdisciplinary teams to craft proposals for improving the life and civic engagement of tertiary cities of their own choosing and with which they had some on-the-ground experience.
"Working with these amazing student/leaders was a significant highlight of 2011 for me," said Walker. "Their talent, perspective, passion, humility and terrific humor were an inspiration. The realm of social entrepreneurship is already benefiting from their impact, and I can’t wait to watch how they change the world—I can promise you that some of them will."
Walker was recently named a Loeb Fellow for 2012–2013. This prestigious program brings leaders in the fields of architecture, urban planning, and landscape architecture to campus for a year of drinking deeply from all of Harvard's academic wells. Walker will also be a Gleitsman Visiting Practitioner at CPL during this time.
CPL's second experiential venture this year was a daylong seminar on group relations. "The Secret Lives of Groups: Leadership and Authority in Group Life" was cosponsored by the recently established Center for Public Health Leadership at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).
Leadership is often a series of best guesses by people reacting to changing circumstances rather than an exercise of skill based on an ability to read and act on what's going on in a group—both above and below the surface. This workshop enabled a total of 60 students from HKS and HSPH not only to learn about the key concepts of group relations, psychodynamics, and systems thinking, but also to experience, examine, and practice them in real time processes—overt and covert, conscious and unconscious—that one encounters in the exercise of authority, leadership, and power. Working in the here-and-now in various group configurations, and with the benefit of expert consultation, the workshop shed new light on complex group dynamics, and enhanced participants’ leadership competencies. The teaching team included Harry Spence, Harvard Graduate School of Education professor and former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services; and Gianpiero Petriglieri, Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard Business School.
Because of the success the program had in its first year, CPL in partnership with the Center for Public Health Leadership and the Ed.L.D. program in leadership development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, was recently awarded a $50K grant from the University's Hauser Initiative for Learning and Teaching to fund four group relations workshops next year.
The third and most comprehensive foray into experiential learning was incubated by CPL's Student Advisory Board. SAB members Cammie Lee, Caroline Adler, Jaime Rappaport Barry, and Peter Thompson germinated and shepherded this idea for student-designed and -led initiatives that combine on-campus study groups with field learning experiences and a service component or policy-related deliverable. The idea was endorsed by the Kennedy School's Office of the Academic Dean, the Dean of Students Office, and CPL, which are providing half of the funding for the two proposals that were chosen from among the eight submitted in January.
A group of nine students, led by MPP candidates Lara Rosner and Mark Truman, has been studying the intersection of healthcare and education in rural New Mexico this semester; they leave on May 12 for a week's worth of onsite visits and conversations with legislators, nonprofit leaders, and policymakers in Albuquerque, Taos, and Santa Fe. A second group of 11 students, led by MPP candidates Anya Malkov and Octavio González, has been studying issues of immigration, drug and human trafficking, and globalization along the U.S.–New Mexico border; they also depart on May 12 for a weeklong visit to El Paso and Ciudad, Mexico.
CPL's Alison Kuzmickas, a recent graduate of the renowned Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, will accompany both trips; her audio documentary will be featured in a forthcoming issue of Compass.