An enthusiastic group of young alumni met to seek solutions to economic issues facing the world during a weekend of lectures, discussions and relationship building at the 2019 TFAS Leadership Scholars Retreat in Atlanta, Georgia.
The alumni are part of the 2019 Class of TFAS Leadership Scholars, a group of outstanding students selected to receive a full scholarship to attend our D.C. Summer Programs and participate in additional TFAS programming for one full year.
Continuing lessons from the TFAS classroom, the scholars discussed important topics surrounding public policy, individual liberty and leadership development during the three-day program.
We all have our own passions and interests, but we have amazing conversations because we all want to make the world a better place to live. It’s inspiring to be around people who have the same drive, focus and passions.” – Lydia Kotowski ’19
George and Sally Mayer Fellow for Economic Education and TFAS Academic Director Dr. Anne Bradley opened the weekend with a lecture on “Inequality, Justice and Economic Freedom,” sharing the meaning behind economic inequality and how it is viewed around the world.
Throughout the weekend, each discussion built upon the next to apply economic theory as a framework for solving current issues. Emily Schroen ’19 said this format provided her with a context for how to address issues such as poverty on historical, global and local levels.
“We’ve discussed a mix of pure economic theory and practical implications of economic policies,” she said. “This is something that not only I’m passionate about, but I know the other scholars are as well. This has been an incredible chance to see these things we’ve learned in action.”
2019 TFAS Hong Kong professor and director of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics program at Mercer University, Dr. Charlotte (Charlie) Thomas, continued the conversation and led the scholars in an interactive discussion on how classical authors including Hayek, Locke and Hume might address modern events. Drawing from her experience teaching at TFAS Hong Kong this summer, she gave an overview of the international political climate in Hong Kong and provided an in-depth analysis for how Hayek would respond to the problems facing the people of Hong Kong and individual freedom today.
Lydia Kotowski ’19 – a Ball State University Honors College senior studying political science, health policy and economics – said the retreat provided her with a greater understanding of free-market economics and individual responsibility – topics she believes are vital for her peers to understand.
“It’s important for young people who are entering the workforce and starting families to know what freedom and free markets are,” she said. “Having that vocabulary, becoming educated and being aware of opportunities is important because when people are aware of the choices, they tend to make better decisions.”
Bringing economic theory down to the local level, Randy Hicks, president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Opportunity, shared an overview of the important work his organization is doing in education access, re-entry programs for formerly incarcerated individuals and removing barriers to employment opportunities for people in the state of Georgia. He discussed ways the scholars can address poverty and find opportunities in their own communities, and he challenged the young leaders to think locally about public policy solutions, rather than through a national or partisan lens.
Charisma Hunter ’18, ’19, said Hicks’ discussion challenged her perspective of how she views current policy issues.
“I think the work he conducts is extremely beneficial and I truly appreciate it,” Hunter said. “As someone who wants to become a civil rights or constitutional law attorney, I know it serves an overwhelming importance, not only for local communities but for the U.S. overall.”
In addition to continued learning and academic development, the retreat also strengthened the scholars’ personal and professional development. Six Atlanta TFAS alumni volunteered their time to attend the retreat to share career advice and networking tips during a “speed-networking” session and lunch.
The opportunity to connect with the alumni opened doors for Cayleigh Jackson ’19 and allowed her to embrace and learn more about how she can become involved in the TFAS Alumni Network as she grows in her career.
“Spending more time with my fellow TFAS Leaderships Scholars and meeting alumni has reminded me how impressive TFAS people really are, and how lucky I am to have access and be a part of them,” Jackson said.
2018 Leadership Scholar and graduate research assistant at Georgia State University Creed Dunn ’18 also joined the networking lunch event to continue building skills and connecting with the current scholars and alumni. Dunn said the career development skills he is gaining through TFAS is beneficial because it shows him how to prepare and present himself well to future employers.
“The TFAS program has been an excellent opportunity for me, more so than just the classes and internship experience,” Dunn said. “The most helpful part is the networking practice and career development. I learned how to network productively and effectively, without being disingenuous about it, and that aspect has served me well since completing the program.”
Following the academic and networking sessions, the learning continued with a behind-the-scenes, VIP tour of World of Coca-Cola. During the tour, the scholars explored the economic, social and cultural impact of the beverage company, in addition to tasting their way through a variety of Coca-Cola products from around the world.
The retreat concluded with reflections and a series of leadership development exercises designed to teach the scholars how to be effective leaders on their campuses and communities.
Next Spring, the Leadership Scholars will continue their TFAS Journey through a series of continuing education webinar lectures and professional development exercises. To conclude their year of academic and professional development, the scholars will also participate in special programming at the TFAS Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. next summer.
As an initiative of the Liberty + Leadership Campaign, TFAS Leadership Scholars represent the best and brightest students and receive full scholarship funding to attend the summer Academic Internship Program. Each summer, these top student leaders participate in enhanced programming as part of the comprehensive experience in Washington, D.C. and continue the TFAS experience through this exclusive year-long program.