By Scholarship Winners Shane Dille and Mary Jacobs
I began, what Harvard professors would describe as being the journey, with an expectation
that the program would somehow enhance and sharpen my professional acumen. And, while I know
that it will be sometime down the road before I come to appreciate the full benefit of having
taken this journey, I realized, as I approached my final days in the program, that it was my
inner self that has been most directly impacted.
The Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Executive program is designed to force participants
to see themselves from the inside out and in doing so discover that it is our own personal biases
and preconceived notions that can cripple our abilities to both manage and lead. I know now that
the Program's real strength comes from successfully challenging the values and perceived truths
we hold onto so desperately. The purpose being to ground us to those core values that should not
be swayed under any circumstance, but to also tear down other walls we have built over time and
in so doing open up other opportunities that may not have existed before.
The program was challenging and intellectually stimulating, every step of the way. I would highly
recommend it to any elected or appointed person in the public sector. It will be a journey, full
of both personal and professional take-away, which will serve you, your agencies and the public
you serve for years to come. Now the real work begins.
Mid-career...that's a term that was used a lot during the Harvard Kennedy School's Senior Executive
Program for State and Local Government. I hadn't really thought of it in those words, but that's
exactly why I had applied for the program this year. I knew it was time for a boost, for some
self-reflection, and for an opportunity to rediscover the joys of working in the public sector.
I received all of those in my three weeks at Harvard, and more.
The caliber of instructors during the program was, of course, exceptional. They covered not only
the historical framework of politics and government today, but incorporated skill-building, new
research on decision making, and plenty of focus on leadership. The case studies incorporated into
the program provided a unique opportunity to look at both successful and unsuccessful leaders, but
more importantly, allow us to apply tools taught in the program to these situations and evaluate
whether the use of them would have improved these leaders' experiences. I came away with a reminder
that leadership is often times about taking a risk...stepping out front, but akin to leading a "V"
formation of migratory birds, not going it alone.
Being back in "school" full-time for three weeks was refreshing; in spite of the fact they worked
us very hard. Because everyone in the program had progressed successfully in their local government
careers, no one necessarily cared about the particular position I or anyone else in the class held.
For the first time in a long time, I really had time to ME. Not Assistant City Manager, not Boss,
not Mom, not Daughter or Neighbor or any of the other roles we play every day. Just Mary Jacobs.
What a luxury. I did get to become Friend again, many times over. The contacts made in the class
were very close. The shared experiences bonded our group together, and we've already been in touch
via Facebook, Yahoo Groups, e-mail and text messages regularly. I made what I know will be
lifelong friends at the Kennedy School.
I remain grateful to ACMA and the generous sponsors who made the scholarship to Harvard possible.
It is an experience of a lifetime, one that I will never forget, and I plan to work hard to
incorporate what I learned into both my work and personal life in the coming months and years.