The 2014 Summer Institute launched on Sunday and our 16 enthusiastic students are already distinguishing themselves. The five-week Institute allows students to focus intensively on our core Ethics and Leadership program, while also enjoying the best summer offerings of our nation’s capital.
After some ice-breaking activities, an empanada-and-salad dinner, our opening caucus, and our first dorm meeting, the students settled in for their first night just a block from the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol. The next morning, the students wolfed down frittata and pancakes (made by Summer Institute Director Christian Starling) and then trekked to our Dupont Circle Academic building.
Once there, we took them through some of SEGL’s classic low ropes course-style activities: trust falls (fully supervised, of course), the Minefield, the Dream Reach, and the famous Spiderweb. In addition to facilitating group unity, these activities are designed to help each student reflect on her leadership and collaboration skills: to provide a base line from which to grow.
Prior to the session, we discussed the four keys to success at the summer institute. (Each of these deserves more explanation but we will let you speak with a current student to hear more!)
- Being smart doesn’t make you smart. Practice makes you smart.
- The best learning happens in an atmosphere of shared vulnerability. If you are afraid of sounding dumb, you won’t learn.
- Narrow your gap.
- It is no use trying to be clever. We are all clever here. Just try to be kind a little kind.
After a trip to the drug store for missing essentials and dinner from a local pizza place, we started our first academic session. Like many things in our first few days together, our first academic session is an SEGL tradition. Together we watched live CNN coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks–a difficult thing even for these students, many of whom were in kindergarten at the time–and then we reflected on the aftermath and meaning of those attacks.
The conversation that followed was intense, insightful, and inspiring: this is a promising group of young people who are poised to carry the SEGL banner forward to new heights.
Today we chase after Skittles, hear from former Nixon White House official Egil “Bud” Krogh, and watch the U.S. defeat Belgium (fingers crossed!) in the World Cup. More on that later this week.