The Academy's Impact and Future Recommendations

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There is a saying that goes something like, "In hindsight everything is 20/20." As graduation approaches and I reflect on my time in the Academy, I feel quite saddened that the experience is drawing to an end. Our Alpha class hopes to establish an Alumni Board and I look forward to possessing a strong presence in the Academy for many years to come, but I wish I had been more present while I was actually in the student role.  While in San Francisco with the group just last month, we were standing aboard the ferry crossing the waters on our way to Alcatraz, and it hit me. I began thinking about how so incredibly blessed I am to have been granted the opportunity to sit in just one of thirty available seats in this program. To this day my mind is boggled as to how I made the cut with the numerous applicants, many of whom I'm certain were just as articulate, accomplished, and authentic.  There were times upon entering classes or attending events when my anxiety was heightened even more than usual because I felt I needed to fit a mold and achieve a standard of dress, intelligence, and composure that was similar to those I stood beside, whom in comparison to myself, I considered to be elite. I declined various invitations to special programs because I allowed that fear to take control; however, as time has gone by, I have realized that there is no mold into which I must fit. Every single student in the PLA offers something unique and it is this diversity of perspective, background, ability, etc. that allowed our conversations and experiences to flourish and ignite growth and development.  The Academy has helped me validate and legitimize my abilities and I have come to feel proud of what I bring to the table. While at times, conversations felt way over my head or went astray, they always seemed to come back around and resulted in some sort of insight.

Through the Academy, I have developed some wonderful relationships with people I would not  necessarily have ever met otherwise, on such a large campus. I feel confident that I will keep in contact with many of my colleagues through the developing Alumni group, but also outside of related program activities. I have established a noteworthy relationship with Program Director, Melissa, who has been a huge support and mentor in these past couple of years. I greatly appreciate the invested interest she has taken in my health and well-being and know that we can turn to one another to chat about food, fitness, Jews, and huskies at anytime. The evening at President Spanier's home this fall was one of the most memorable experiences of my college career and I will cherish the connection we have fostered and the wisdom he has implored upon me for years to come. Additionally, the generosity of Ed and Helen Hintz has surpassed anything I could have imagined upon hearing about the program and I will be forever grateful for experiences they made possible like touring the CIA headquarters and watching the waves of the Pacific ocean crash upon the shore while dining on smoked salmon. Dean Brady and Lisa have contributed to much of the success of this program as well and I know that they will only create and impart even better and bigger things for future classes, though hard to imagine how it could surpass the present quo! I know that I can look to Dean Brady, Dr. Spanier, the Hintz's, Melissa, or Lisa at any point in the future for advice or assistance because this program has fostered a real sense of community and family in my life.

This brings me to my thoughts about changes to the program. There are really not many areas for improvement, as the communication between faculty and students has certainly become more efficient with the monthly newsletter and various e-mails. The programs are fabulous and I would encourage that trips be kept similar to that of California, where there are breaks between speakers and topics are made relevant to students of all majors and interests. Commenting on the blog posts could use some work as trackbacks do not seem to function properly and to this day, I still find the process a bit confusing. Additionally, a random idea for implementation would be a monthly book club open to any member who is interested in participating.  I often get so caught up in my studies that I forget that reading for pleasure actually exists as a pastime. I think it would be great to gather over coffee and discuss a fun novel with other passionate and insightful PLA students. All in all, this is a phenomenal and exceptional program that I hope to aid and see thrive for generations to come.

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