Levitt Leadership Institute participants on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Nineteen Levitt Leadership Institute (LLI) students traveled to Washington, D.C., during the first week of spring break to study leadership. A continuation of the week-long January program that was primarily focused on theory, the trip allowed students to apply what they learned as they interacted with influential leaders in public service, government, and nonprofit sectors.

Each day consisted of meetings with leaders, starting with a keynote address by former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and Guatemala and founding director of the Levitt Leadership Institute Prudence Bushnell. She offered insight into transformational and centered leadership, speaking about the importance of building trust and relationships, the difference between managing and leading, and the biggest challenge she faced as a leader. “You are inheriting the world with unfinished pieces of business,” she told the students and encouraged them to “ask the right questions and listen to answers” throughout the week.

On Capitol Hill students met with legislative correspondents for Senator Blumenthal and learned about the organization of the senator’s office support system, followed by a tour of the Capitol building.

Later, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina advised the future leaders not to question people’s good intentions even when they are in disagreement. He stressed that a team should share similar values, but not necessarily the same philosophical dispositions. Despite being a Republican, he has a team consisting of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, and this diversity in thought helps him to make better decisions as a leader. Rep. Claudia Tenney, who represents New York’s 22nd Congressional district of which Hamilton is a part, also talked about working with people who didn’t share the same views.

The group connected with leaders from four organizations in the nonprofit sector. At the Partnership for Public Service (PPS), Manager of Education and Outreach Malik Walker led a panel discussion with PPS employees about experiences in public service. Participants had a chance to think about youth democracy at Campus Vote Project, where they talked about promoting voter engagement on campuses and student activism.

At Youth Service America (YSA), the LLI group learned more about youth engagement. Steve Culbertson ’79, president of YSA, talked about how young people have always been the center for change. He noted the 4C’s in making change possible: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication.

Michael Klosson ’71, vice president of policy and humanitarian response for Save the Children, agreed that the voices and passion of young people bring about change. His organization focuses on enhancing children’s rights to survival, education, protection, and participation.

At an alumni reception, Max Schnidman ’14, Amy Soenksen ’13, and Frank Vlossak ’89 spoke about the importance of taking initiative, asking for help, and helping others. Several students spoke with former LLI participant Michael Nelson ’16, federal strategy and operations analyst at Deloitte.

LLI leaders also explored the city, visiting the National Museum of the American Indian, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Freer Gallery of Art, and Newseum.

Overall, the week was inspiring, educational, and enjoyable. Acacia Bowden ’20 said “I learned how important interpersonal skills are when it comes to leadership. Leadership is dependent on knowing and understanding others.”

Susan Mason expressed her hope that “through [the week’s] active experiential learning, each of the students came to recognize that leadership is complex and that it matters.” Participants will now have the option to carry out a Commitment Project by using their time and leadership skills for a campus or local community project.

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