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Diverse Group Unites as Team in 4th Annual Levitt Leadership Institute


“There will never, ever, be another you. There never has been, and there never will be.”

The bold statement from Prudence Bushnell, former Ambassador to Kenya and Guatemala as well as the former Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professor of International Relations at Hamilton College, set the tone for the diverse group of Hamilton students participating in the 4th annual Levitt Leadership Institute, Jan. 12-16.

“This week is for you,” she said, encouraging each of the 24 selected students to look deeply within themselves, recognize what has shaped them as individuals, and realize how their unique perspective is integral to making a meaningful contribution in not only the Hamilton community but also the world.

Bushnell, with the help of Christine Powers, Kevin Alexander ’13, Isabelle Van Hook ’11, and Tsion Tesfaye ’16, implemented leadership training through various team-building activities, lectures and initiatives during the week.

The training team drew from both Bushnell and Powers’ experiences with leadership in the federal government. Bushnell’s ambassador appointments in 1996 and 1999 capped her 21-year career in the foreign service, and preceded her position as the dean of the Leadership and Management School at the Foreign Service Institute in 2002. Powers’ career as a leadership trainer and coach blossomed through positions with the Environmental Protection Agency and later the Foreign Service Institute, where she held an important role in training senior Foreign Service officers.

Bushnell alluded to the changing definition of leadership, which has now expanded from the one-dimensional, positional requirement of leadership during her youth. The change reflects the needs of many organizations today. “This country needs transformational leadership,” she stressed.

Each day of the Institute focused on different aspects of leadership, including communication, conflict-resolution, and the importance of debriefing. During classroom discussion, Bushnell often connected theoretical concepts to her own real-life challenges, such as her role in overcoming the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998,and the adversity she faced as a woman in the Foreign Service. Bushnell’s anecdotes resonated with many participants. “Just having the ability to speak to the former ambassador, as a woman in power, was such an inspiration,” said Emily Moscowitz ’16.

Many activities required the students to leave the comfort of the Hill or forced them to explore a different area of campus. Each student interviewed a local leader in the Utica community, completed a “Chef Challenge” in the McEwen kitchen with the help of Bon Appetit, and had the opportunity to host both Larry Gilroy ’81 and President Joan Hinde Stewart at program receptions. 

Upon conclusion of the first week, both Bushnell and Powers commented on the strength of the group as a whole. “Everyone came from different friend groups and backgrounds, and given this, I think we were able to bring a diverse set of perspectives to our discussions and activities,” agreed Sara Puritin ’17.

These strengths will prove valuable as the group prepares for the second week of the Institute in Washington D.C., where the students will be held responsible for planning and executing a variety of networking events in the nation’s capital between March 15 and 20.

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