Levitt Leadership Institute takes D.C.

By Jack Cartwright '15

While many students may have been relaxing at home or catching some rays on the beach, 19 Hamilton College students completed the second half of the Levitt Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C.

The Levitt Leadership Institute is a two-week program led by former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and Guatemala Prudence Bushnell and Christine Powers, a veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of State.  Maynard-Knox Professor of Government and Law Frank Anechiarico also joined the group in Washington.  Bushnell started the program in 2012 because she believes that there are not enough leaders in the world today.

The week was filled with events including many speakers, leadership activities and sightseeing.

During the first week of the Institute, participants were separated into groups tasked with arranging speakers during the week in Washington.  Many students reached out to Hamilton alumni based in Washington, either to meet with them or to ask them for contacts in the Washington area.

The first set of speakers the Levitt Leaders met with work in the lobbying industry. Cory Crowley, the founder of Cory Crowley & Company, works in governmental affairs services.  Crowley has a wide variety of clients and deals personally with each one.  He spoke about his experiences in Iowa politics, working with Senator Chuck Grassley and founding his own company.

Additionally, Frank Vlossak ’89, a principle at Williams & Jensen LLP spoke to the group at the Williams & Jensen offices about his experiences during his years at Hamilton as well as his professional life afterwards.  Some students had Mr. Vlossak in class last semester when he taught a course on lobbying on campus.

The group then met with Steve Culbertson ’79, CEO of Youth Service America, at its Washington Headquarters.  Culbertson impressed the group with his vision for his organization and with his strong speaking abilities. He specifically spoke about the power youth have to change the world.  He also mentioned about how the relationships he made at Hamilton have helped him excel throughout his career.

The group of students then arranged a trip to the State Department where Jason Donavon, a Foreign Service officer who served with Bushnell in Guatemala, not only gave an impressive tour of the State Department, but also spoke to the group about the rewards and the drawbacks of a Foreign Service Career.

The final speaker of the week was Erik Wemple ’86, a media opinion writer at the Washington Post.  Wemple discussed his experiences after Hamilton and spoke about his career path leading up to his job at the Washington Post.      Wemple gave the Levitt Leaders an extensive tour of the Post’s offices, and allowed the group to meet with Julie Tate, a researcher specializing in national security, intelligence and defense issues.  Wemple and Tate then spoke together about issues that they write and research about on a daily basis at the Washington Post.

Other speakers included Ralph Oman ’62, the former United States Register of Copy Rights, Ray Leki from the Department of State and Ken Brown, former U.S. Ambassador to Ghana.  The group also had a meet and greet with recent Hamilton alumni living in the Washington D.C.

The Levitt Leaders also had the opportunity to meet with Rep. Matt Cartwright ’83 and his Chief of Staff Hunter Ridgeway before taking a guided tour of the U.S. Capitol Building. 

In their leisure time, the group enjoyed viewing the famous monuments in the Washington D.C. area, eating at various restaurants, bonding with each other  and meeting with friends who attend college in Washington.

Samantha Sherman ’15 thought that the week in Washington was well worth sacrificing a week of her precious spring break.

“The week in Washington was an eye-opening experience for me. I always thought that I would work in the private sector, and I gained the resources to possibly pursue a career in the public sector.”

Furthermore, Sherman believes that she gained a lot from the Levitt Leadership Institute overall.  “As a result of the LLI, I gained confidence in my leadership abilities. I learned the importance of having a clear vision, setting goals, and emotional intelligence when leading a team,” Sherman said.

Graduates of the Levitt Leadership Institute are now tasked with carrying out a commitment project that will benefit the college of the greater Utica community.


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