The Harvard Experience
By Gayle Mabery
Town Manager, Clarkdale

Each year, through the generosity of our scholarship sponsors the Arizona Public Service Company and a partnership between Greenberg Traurig; Pinnacle One Corporation; RBC Capital Markets and the University of Arizona South; two ACMA members are offered the opportunity to attend Harvard University's State and Local Government Executive Program. As one of this year's scholarship recipients, I had the opportunity to join seventy-seven other program participants in the July 9-28, 2006 class. My classmates came from all over the United States and the world (including Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Ireland and Canada), and, with the exception of a few executive-level participants from the non-profit sector, all held executive positions in local and state governments.
In preparation for my time at Harvard, I had spoken to a number of the past recipients of ACMA scholarships. They all told me what a fantastic experience it would be, and that the program was very intensive. Though I was armed with the information from my colleagues, I was unprepared for the level of intensity and the significance that the program would have for me, both professionally and personally. Even now, two months after my return from the program, I have a hard time capturing how powerful the program was, and definitely can't do it justice in a few short paragraphs. I've been to many other programs where I've come back to the office geared up and inspired. This program, however, has had a much more profound impact, and one that I have no doubt will be long lasting.
In order to gain the full benefits from the program, participants are asked to dedicate themselves completely to the 3 weeks. This is something I can't emphasize enough. Your organization must be prepared to handle all the day-to-day things that come up while you are gone, and you must be prepared to let that happen. For those of you who think you couldn't possibly be away from the office for three weeks, I would say that you would reap so many benefits by attending this program that you can't afford not to take the opportunity if you have it!
Each day you will prepare and discuss cases that have been selected to provoke insight into a wide variety of strategic management and leadership issues. Most meals are taken together, and, in addition to the full classroom discourse, you'll also have the opportunity to work in small groups on a daily basis. The variety of interactions enhances the professional value of the program, and leads to personal friendships that will no doubt last a lifetime. Case topics during my session included Leadership, Political Management, Public Value, Strategic Management, Religion in Public Life, Crisis Management, Federalism, Performance Management, Policy Analysis, Financial Stewardship and Negotiation.
I would highly encourage ACMA members to seriously consider applying to participate in the program in the future. Scholarship information through ACMA is usually available in December or January each year, with program selection in the spring. You can learn more about the specifics by visiting
Battie White, Deputy City Engineer, Dublin, Ireland: "The quality of teaching/learning on the Programme was first class. This combined with the calibre and enthusiasm of 78 highly motivated individuals, helped to create a very stimulating learning environment, which was at all times interesting and challenging."
Jamie McLeod, Council Member, City of Santa Clara, CA: "I expected it to provide a break from my job, city council work and community responsibilities, while providing an opportunity to learn current theories and make new contacts. What I did not anticipate was how profound the impact of the experience would be on me."
Luis Colón, Mayor's Cabinet and Manager, Department of General Services, City and County of Denver, CO: "When I first got the brochure for the program, I read the quote from a legislator from New York State that attended the program in 2004. He said that the program was "truly a life-changing experience." I thought to myself then that no matter how good the program is, to call it a "life-changing experience" was a bit of an exaggeration. After three weeks with such a great group of people, I understood and agreed wholeheartedly with that gentleman's quote - this was a life-changing experience for me."
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