Archive for January 25th, 2010

Wellesley Rocks!

Monday, January 25th, 2010

RE: The Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs

From: Louisa Kasdon ‘72

I have never been as proud of being an alumna of Wellesley College than I am at this moment. It has been a great honor for me to be asked to cover the 2010 Inaugural year of the Albright Institute by the Wellesley College Alumnae magazine.

Over the past three weeks, I’ve been able to watch the program go from being a well-crafted schedule of speakers and forums, to a life changing experience that will groom and guarantee that the forty fellows (Wellesley College juniors and seniors) will be among the global leaders of their generation. I was awed by the speakers – Wellesley faculty, and the remarkable group of Wellesley alums that came as “professors of the practice”; and by Madeleine Albright who spent the third and final week of the Institute with the kids: three hours each morning listening to student presentations, and two hours each afternoon sitting on a panel. She had dinners, teas, and went to a basketball game too!

Each morning, two groups of students presented a policy plan on one of the eight Millennium Development Goals; MDG’s in UN speak. The MDG’s are the milestones set by the international community as an agenda for measurable progress by 2015 on topics such poverty, gender equality, child health, and maternal mortality . Not exactly a trivial assignment for a bunch of young women in their early twenties to tackle! [One of the students turned 21 on the final day of the program.]

Secretary Albright was fair, funny, warm, wise, and completely engaged. She sat in a red armchair in the front of Founders 121 as each group of five Fellows presented their recommendations for how to achieve the stated development goal. The content and the quality of the presentations were amazing. In addition to mastering all the current themes of international development, the kids were able to offer concise and critical recommendations to move forward. They reviewed case studies, interviewed worldwide experts, mastered telephone books of data, and were able to present with poise, surety, style and fantastic mastery of video, audio and Power Point. Secretary Albright could have been a pretty terrifying interlocutor and she was decidedly not. I loved hearing her say, “Just as I wrote down a question to ask, in the next minute, you gave the answer!” The kids were in love with her. Impressed, awed, but in love.

The 40 Albright Fellows are an incredible group of young women––exceptional in so many ways before their Albright experience. To watch them in action, asking insightful, tough, witty, and very well mannered questions (especially when they were highly critical of the speaker) was to re-acquaint myself with the exceptional power of the Wellesley experience. Over three weeks, the forty fellows lived together in one dorm (Freeman), cooked meals together (it’s intersession and the dining halls are closed), sat, studied and socialized. Few of the forty knew each other when the session began. They were from as many different majors, and backgrounds as Wellesley can muster. From New Jersey and Nigeria, Vancouver and Jordon, from India and California, majoring in econ and classics, math and biochemistry, religion and poli sci. Most of the fellows had previous exposure to international issues – as summer interns, as international students, or during a year abroad.

They worked for three weeks, assigned into groups of five – and had to figure out how to manage personalities as well as the content. Just like the real world where you don’t always get to pick your working team! I laughed when one of the students said, “When they selected the Albright Fellows, they didn’t pick two leaders and 38 followers!”

At the end of program last Friday, I was weepy with pride. The kids were so splendid, the content of the program so stellar, and so well-presented with nary a hitch, Albright so candid and deeply serious… I could not have been prouder to call myself a Wellesley woman.

For the forty fellows, having been an “Albright Fellow” will mean much in the world as they develop their careers on the global stage, and, in turn, become mentors to the hundreds of young women who will follow in their paths. For me, to be a Wellesley woman observing this inaugural year was to re-connect with the mission of the college in ways I thought were impossible.

I urge you all to go the college website and download one or more of the faculty or alumnae seminars, or one of the student MDG presentations. There isn’t a dud in the bunch.