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Fall 2014 Joins the SEGL Family

SEGL’s eleventh semester is off to a strong start!  The 24 new members of the SEGL family (including our first students from Japan and South Africa) are already distinguishing themselves intellectually and interpersonally.

Our four months together started after Saturday’s Parent Meeting, when the students embarked on a trip to the National Zoo to see Bao Bao (the nation’s new panda cub).  They returned to a dinner of empanadas, some speed dating-style ice-breaker activities, our opening community caucus, and then a Metro ride to Capitol Hill for the first night in a new home: the closest residence in the world to the U.S. Capitol.

The next morning many students rose a bit early to attend religious services, run on the National Mall, or help make a tasty homemade brunch of frittata and french toast.  After brunch, they traveled to our Dupont Circle Academic Building for an afternoon of leadership training. We began with an overview of our academic program, and the four SEGL academic program principles (ask a student for a more thorough explanation!):

  1. BEING SMART DOES NOT MAKE YOU SMART.  PRACTICE MAKES YOU SMART.
  2. THE BEST LEARNING HAPPENS IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF SHARED VULNERABILITY.  IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF SOUNDING DUMB, YOU WON’T LEARN.
  3. NARROW YOUR GAP!
  4. “IT’S NO USE TRYING TO BE CLEVER.  WE ARE ALL CLEVER HERE.  JUST TRY TO BE KIND…A LITTLE KIND.”

After two journal prompts on great leadership and great following (and watching this clip  about the importance of being the “first follower”), the students broke down into groups of eight and rotated through four low ropes course-style challenges: trust falls, “reach-for-your-dream,” the blindfolded minefield, and the infamous spiderweb.  These challenges not only fostered group bonding and personal reflection; they also put students’ earlier observations about leading and following to the test.

Then it was time for the first advisor meetings of the semester (each student meets with an advisor for one period each week to check in about academic and non-academic progress), followed by a trip to the drug store for forgotten toiletries, a dinner of fajitas, and our first academic session of the semester.

That academic session is a different sort of challenge, as it asks the students to watch live CNN coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks.  Starting from ten minutes before the first tower was hit (CNN was covering a fashion show for pregnant women) until then-President Bush’s first remarks to the nation, the video is a gripping tragedy and a telling primary source document.  The conversation that followed was full of collaborative reflection, thoughtful questions, and myriad connections to today’s world.

What a promising way for a group of young people to introduce themselves!

Next up: our first Ethics and Leadership case study of the semester on ethical decision making, featuring Aristotle, Kant, Mill, two guests, and several pounds of Skittles.

Sep 1, 2014

One Comment

  1. What an uplifting curriculum and inspiring set of young people! May we generations who have journeyed before, be emboldened by your examples. (And may we find that spider web thingie and make use of it.)

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