Our second year began in earnest yesterday and already the semester promises to be incredible. Eight states are represented this semester; in addition, four of our students were not born in the United States. Half of our students are of color, and half receive significant financial assistance. More important, each is articulate, thoughtful, collaborative, and great fun.
The first leadership challenge of the semester came just hours after our students arrived. After completing an ethical thinking diagnostic (the students will be measured again at the end of the term), the group decided between visiting the world-famous Corcoran Gallery of Art, a frozen yogurt tour of the neighborhood, and the competing Glenn Beck/Al Sharpton rallies on the National Mall. True to SEGL form, the cohort selected the National Mall, and treked to the Lincoln Memorial where they drank “Restoring Honor” bottled water and basked in the afternoon sun.
After a walk back to Dupont Circle (via the White House) and dinner, we held our opening ceremony, which included icebreakers, school rules and guidelines, and a challenge to make our semester together the best of our lives. Then the students took their first Metro trip as a group, participated in their first dorm meetings, and fell fast asleep after what for some was a long day of travel.
This afternoon we completed a series of leadership challenges: the students confronted trust falls, a blindfolded minefield, a dangerous spiderweb, and other obstacles with cooperation, good humor, and ingenuity. They then had their first advisor meetings of the semester, went to the drug store to get essentials, and settled down to a dinner of pizza and salad. (Tomorrow, we begin our home-cooked meals.)
The evening concluded with the first academic session of the term. We watched and discussed live CNN coverage of September 11, 2001. (Much of the clip we watched is available online; click here and watch through President Bush’s first remarks. Our videotape began ten minutes earlier, when CNN was in the middle of a fashion show for pregnant women; many of the students found the before-and-after juxtaposition meaningful.) As many of you know, September 11 inspired the founding of SEGL, and it was particularly poignant to hear how vividly many students recalled that day. As several said, the world fundamentally changed on that day, so did the challenges for leadership in the United States.
We are off to a promising start. Tomorrow morning the students will receive a memorable introduction to ethical thinking in our first Ethics and Leadership session of the semester. We will also introduce most of our regular classes, exercise period, and study hall.