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Harvard Program Scholarship Offers Valuable Experience
By Kari Kent, Deputy City Manager, City of Mesa

Harvard Kennedy School State and Local Executive Training - a place where the faculty informs you within the first 10 minutes of instruction that for the next three weeks, "you are here to play in a space you will be uncomfortable in." After class introductions were made, and we were informed that the class was hand-picked to reflect a microcosm of society, I found myself surrounded by a diverse group of individuals from across the United States as well as from England, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia who formed their value system based on such things as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political party affiliation, region and education.

I had heard about the long days of instruction, intense readings, interactive discussions, role playing negotiations, and case study analysis and it was all true! Our assumptions about how to exercise leadership in the public sector was challenged, we explored our democratic form of government and the relationship between citizens and their government, and we expanded our tool kit so we can influence change and build strong coalitions to accomplish amazing feats for the public good.

At the core of the program, however, is how we can, as public officials, put aside our differences, understand our opposition, and seek commonality in the outcomes we wish to achieve for those we serve. I learned it will require great courage to exercise this form of leadership and it will mean taking risks that I previously might not have taken prior to the Harvard journey. In my role as deputy city manager of Mesa, Arizona I now ask myself, "Do I choose to disturb the world around me or do I choose to let it go as if I'd never arrived?" This experience reinforced to me that I have dedicated my professional life in an area that matters, and that part of our responsibility as managers in public service is to make sure we hand over to our successors something that is more valuable than what was given to us.

By Charlie Cassens, City Manager, City of Lake Havasu City

When I was informed that I had been selected to receive an ACMA scholarship to attend Harvard Kennedy School's Senior Executives in State and Local Government program, I was both honored and very excited to have such a rare and prestigious opportunity. At the same time; however, I must confess that I was a little apprehensive about a three-week commitment and attention separated from my responsibilities as city manager in Lake Havasu City. I was also a bit fearful that the subject matter might resemble so many sessions that I have attended during my career that all-too-often present recycled management trends, fads, philosophies and methodologies. If anyone reading this is hesitant to apply for the scholarship because of these concerns, I strongly encourage you to cast them aside and seriously consider applying in the 2014 cycle.

While at Harvard, you will not only acquire a great deal of new knowledge, you will also be challenged to rethink some things you already thought to be true, and to look beyond your "baked-in" biases while making decisions. You will actively analyze many case studies involving a variety of interesting personalities, some real and some imaginary, and how the outcomes of each situation would have -or could have- been altered by a different leadership approach. You will learn the often subtle differences between dialogue, conversation, debate and negotiation. You will also be fascinated learning about Ron David's theory of "rationality" and how we are all somehow mysteriously interconnected. And you will hear it from Ron David himself! You will learn that purpose should form the foundation for most everything we do as public servants. And you will absorb all of this in a learning environment that is second to none. You will walk the same halls that many presidents, Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize recipients and countless other scholars, world leaders and notable statesman have walked. And your classmates will consist of influential people from around the globe, many of whom will become your friends and professional colleagues.

I could go on for pages and not even scratch the surface of what this program has to offer, but as you can probably tell, applying for the Harvard scholarship through ACMA may be the most richly rewarding professional (and personal) decision I ever made. Special thanks to the ACMA, the scholarship selection committee, and especially the program's sponsors for investing in quality local government. Oh, and for you future applicants - your world at home won't collapse when you are away at Harvard. I promise!
Arizona City/County Management Association
1820 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85007   •   Phone: (602) 258-5786   •   Fax: (602) 253-3874   •