After one of the most newsworthy summers in memory and with the Presidential election on the horizon, our Fall 2016 cohort has arrived in DC. And we couldn’t be more excited!
Our semester began on Saturday afternoon with an efficient and enthusiastic move-in, followed by a trek to our Academic building in Dupont Circle. There our students met their first leadership challenge of the semester: to decide as a group between three separate DC expeditions without any guidance from our faculty. The choice was the Lincoln Memorial, and our students enjoyed both the outstanding weather and making connections between the Memorial and many of the issues swirling around our nation this fall.
We then returned for our first semester dinner (empanadas and salad) and our opening session–a chance to break the ice and review guidelines that will help each student maximize her semester’s potential. Then it was home (yes, home!) to Capital Hill for dorm meeting and a good night’s sleep.
Sunday morning brought sunshine, pancakes and eggs, optional church services, a run on the National Mall, a trip to the drug store for missing essentials, and a return Metro trip to our Dupont Circle Academic Building.
Once in Dupont Circle, students embarked on an afternoon titled “Leadership, Part I” highlighted by some of SEGL’s classic low ropes course-style activities: trust falls (fully supervised, of course!), the Minefield, the Dream Reach, and the treacherous Spiderweb. In addition to accelerating our positive group dynamic, these activities are designed to help each student reflect on her/his leadership and collaboration skills: to provide a base line from which to grow. Our group demonstrated an ability to discuss reflectively and openly, with many students naming their own areas for improvement.
Prior to the session, we discussed the four keys to success in SEGL’s academic program (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 dinner from District Taco (a local DC favorite), 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, who have only the faintest of memories of the day–and then we reflected on the aftermath and meaning of those events.
Our conversation afterwards was insightful and intense. It was also filled with many connections–personal and intellectual–to the attacks. Indeed, it is hard to recall an SEGL group with more personal connections to that tragic day. The conversation was an auspicious beginning for a wonderful group of young people who are clearly ready to grow.
Today we chase after Skittles (more on that later this week) and classes begin!
(A reminder to click on each photo below for a larger image.)