I feel extremely fortunate to have received the ICMA scholarship to attend the July 2015 Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The scholarship is funded by The Ferguson Group.

While I had been to Cambridge, Massachusetts, many times when I visited my sister, being on the Harvard campus was special. The first day you arrive you check-in and learn what dorm room you will be in and find out who your roommate will be. Mine was a state legislator from New Hampshire. We got along very well and spent a lot of time reading in our living room.

During the introductory session, the faculty chair, David King, told us the class members were chosen to be an ecosystem.  Our class was comprised of 72 individuals who were elected state, county, and municipal officials; several high level law enforcement officials; union executives; city and county managers; and other key state and local government officials. We came from all parts of the United States as well as from Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Philippines. 

Our days started early. One of the class members was a fitness instructor and held a high-intensity aerobic class from 6:00 to 6:30 am. Breakfast was at 7:00 am, with study group sessions each morning from 7:45 to 8:45 am. Class sessions started at 9:00 am and went until 5:00 pm. The instructors used the case study method for their classes, so there was a lot of class participation and interaction. A number of nights we had dinners that lasted until about 7:00. We were then able to do the reading, sometimes 100 or more pages, for the next day’s session.

We experienced various group exercises that focused on building our trust in our classmates and in our own ability, and utilizing the information we were being taught.

Our instructors were excellent and made us rethink what we thought. Marty Linsky for instance, challenged us with his question, “What if what you think is wrong?”

Our class discussions included such topics as exercising leadership, working with the media in a crisis, what makes for an effective public manager, should public officials be efficient or responsive, negotiations skills, the measurement of government performance and the role of religion in American’s political landscape. The issue of race relations also generated lively deliberations.

One take away that I am working on now that I am back at work is to look to see how we can show and demonstrate to our residents that our city government provides value to their lives.

It is important to note that the out-of-class discussions and interactions with the other participants was a very valuable component of the learning experience.

It was a quick three weeks.  I am still processing the material that was covered and discussed in the class sessions.

I have every expectation that the relationships I made with the other participants will continue to be beneficial beyond my three weeks at Harvard.  I encourage anyone that has the opportunity to attend this program to do so. 

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