The 10th Anniversary TFAS Public Policy Fellows class kicked off their year of networking, academic discussions and leadership development with a weekend retreat in Baltimore on Oct. 13 – 15. The fellows, comprised of 17 alumni working in public policy, were selected through an application process to participate in the year-long program.
Held at the historic Lord Baltimore Hotel, the retreat featured discussion sessions and workshops on economics and leadership led by TFAS Professor Dr. Anne Bradley, vice president of economic initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, as well as longtime TFAS friend and volunteer Molly Whalen, executive director of District of Columbia Association for Special Education.
These meetings facilitate and maintain the TFAS network. Weekends like these are crucial in utilizing all of our knowledge and positions to help the TFAS network thrive and to help individuals in the network thrive as well.” – John Bush (CSS 16, PPF 17-18)
Both Bradley and Whalen’s lessons brought forth the importance of asking the right questions and implementing economic thinking when facing policy decisions and leadership challenges.
Having recently heard Dr. Bradley teach during his time as a TFAS student in the spring of 2016, John Bush (CSS 16, PPF 17-18) says he was able to revisit some of her powerful economic visions and ideas in a new light during the retreat.
“Every time I listen to Dr. Bradley speak, I learn something new,” he said. “Each time, she talks about different ideas that are intuitive to economic thinking, but they are things that I would not have picked up on my own.” Bush – a federal contractor for the FBI and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University – used the example of national defense, which Dr. Bradley explained in economic terms as a public good that benefits everyone. “That’s not something I would have ever thought of on my own, but when Dr. Bradley explains it, it suddenly clicks,” he said.
Danielle Hamel (IBGA 12, PFF 17-18), associate director of The Network Science Initiative for National Journal, has taken several economics courses during her academic career but said she found Dr. Bradley’s approach of asking the fellows to think outside of their ideological boxes and to examine issues from a purely economical standpoint especially insightful. “It’s nice to take a step back and have a larger conversation and understanding of how issues are going to impact the greater good of society as a whole,” she said. “When I go back to work after the retreat, I will be bringing this fresh, free-market, moral vision to the table and be able to reenergize myself on why I do what I do.”
As a key part of strengthening the fellows’ leadership development, Molly Whalen led the fellows in skills-based workshop activities including her “Super Hero Strength Leadership Challenge” where the fellows explored the importance of understanding their emotional intelligence and empathy in core principles and political decisions.
Amanda Munger (IPJ 10, PPF 17-18), a senior account executive at Melwood Global, called Whalen’s leadership lessons eye-opening. “She taught us to always be conscious of your weaknesses as well as your strengths when facing new trials as a leader,” she said.
In addition to the academics and skills development sessions, a key component of the retreat was building connections among the TFAS alumni network and within the fellowship cohort. While in Baltimore, the fellows toured historic sites such as Fort McHenry and spent time getting to know each other as their academic discussions spilled over into social activities and dinner.
Munger said her favorite part of the retreat was the ability to have an open dialogue with people from various fields and differing viewpoints. “It’s a place where we can all come together and talk about how important these principles are for our political system,” she said. “Those kinds of discussions are important because if you close yourself off to any viewpoints that differ from your own, it’s a danger to the betterment of our society.”
Throughout the 2017-18 academic year, the TFAS Public Policy Fellows will continue to participate in a monthly guest lecture series and networking events geared toward strengthening their professional development as well as continuing to build up the TFAS alumni network.