Home » News » Be the Exception: TFAS Students Learn Value of Civility, Relationship Building During 2021 Spring Capital Semester

Be the Exception: TFAS Students Learn Value of Civility, Relationship Building During 2021 Spring Capital Semester

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Through our engaging programs and top-notch faculty, The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) continues to champion the young leaders of today who will help shape the world’s future. During the spring 2021 closing ceremony, TFAS Capital Semester students reflected on their remarkable semester living, learning and interning in Washington, D.C., and the impact the four-month program had on their professional development and world perspectives.

CIVIL CONVERSATIONS

Since January, TFAS students from across the United States and central Europe took academic courses at George Mason University focused on Leadership + the American Presidency (LTAP) while interning at various organizations across the nation’s capital. Hosted in partnership with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, this program allows students to explore their own leadership journeys through the lens of historical lessons from the American presidency.

Students heard advice from TFAS staff and alumni during the ceremony.

TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 opened the ceremony by encouraging the new alumni to remain intellectually curious as they enter into today’s political environment.

“Always be asking questions, always be seeking answers and be listeners to what other people have to say,” Ream said. “Have friends with different views than you and be willing to engage in civil conversations with them.”

The class learned the value of civil discourse – a theme that remains constant in all TFAS programs – firsthand this semester through activities like the Braver Angels Debate. In this discussion, students had the opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversations on divisive issues in our nation, all while learning from each other’s perspectives.

BE THE EXCEPTION

TFAS Regent Mike Krempasky ’97 reiterated Ream’s sentiment during the closing ceremony keynote address. A TFAS alumnus and recently-elected regent, Krempasky has had a longstanding career in public affairs and crisis communications. He shared that the key to success does not lie in skills or knowledge, but rather a person’s ability to build relationships with others.

TFAS Regent and alumnus Mike Krempasky ’97 shared the importance of relationship-building in his keynote address to the spring class.

“The most important currency that you’ll have in your career is not your expertise or ideological commitments,” Krempasky said. “It will be your relationships.”

Krempasky also noted the United States’ current political climate and encouraged Capital Semester students to “be the exception” in today’s divisive world by treating people with respect.

“Take the time to be nice, thoughtful and care about the people around you,” Krempasky told the class. “Just because politics is rough, and our country is so divided, it doesn’t mean you have to take on those characteristics, too. Be the exception.”

Take the time to be nice, thoughtful and care about the people around you. Just because politics is rough, and our country is so divided, it doesn’t mean you have to take on those characteristics, too. Be the exception.” – TFAS Regent Mike Krempasky ’97

AN EXPANDED WORLDVIEW

Emilija Mendelsone ’21 received the “Academic Excellence” award this semester for her success in the classroom from Dr. Anne Bradley and Dr. Richard Benedetto. Emilija was the George Viksnins Scholar this year, a full scholarship named in honor of former TFAS Professor George Viksnins.

Over the course of the semester, program participants attended guest lectures, networking events and professional development seminars with TFAS alumni and esteemed leaders in policy, economics, government and business. In addition to the Braver Angels Debate, students participated in a guided tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, a virtual discussion with TFAS alumni on the job search, a Q&A session with alumni authors Justin and Alexis Black, a moonlight tour of the national monuments and exclusive site briefings with government agencies across D.C.

Closing ceremony class speaker Sam Bilotta ’21 shared that these invaluable experiences helped him and his classmates realize their full potential as future leaders.

During this semester, the most important thing we have learned about is freedom, whether looking at economic or political freedom, we have seen the impact freedom has on a society.” – Sam Bilotta’ 21

This semester, students had the opportunity to attend a guided tour of George Washington’s home.

“During this semester, the most important thing we have learned about is freedom, whether looking at economic or political freedom, we have seen the impact freedom has on a society,” Bilotta shared. “But while we have learned all these important skills and aspects of our government and society this semester, we have also grown as people. We have challenged our preconceived notions of political and economic issues and have gained a better understanding of issues more complicated than we had originally anticipated.”

A sophomore political science major at The Pennsylvania State University, Bilotta thanked TFAS’s generous supporters and staff for their contributions in making these transformative programs possible. Bilotta also shared his gratitude to his TFAS professors and classmates, who he says have given him a new perspective on the world.

Sam Bilotta ’21 was selected as the class speaker for the 2021 Capital Semester Spring closing ceremony.

“I would like to thank our wonderful professors for their time, their knowledge, and their dedication to us and providing us with the knowledge we need going forward to lead,” Bilotta said during the closing ceremony. “And I would like to thank my fellow students. Thank you for challenging me, for expanding my worldview, and most importantly, for your friendship.”

To learn more about the 2021 Capital Semester Spring program and this year’s cohort, visit TFAS.org/CapSem21.

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