Summer School 2007

Summer School 2007, University of Virginia, USA.

“Conducted over two weeks, I had the privilege of listening to speakers from a broad range of disciplines, including a former NASA astronaut, a former member of the US Special Forces in Vietnam, and a past conference attendee who has made millions after founding his own company just a few years ago. We were also taken on tours of Washington DC, Monticello - the home of Thomas Jefferson, a baseball game, and 4th of July celebrations at a nearby ski resort. More than this, however, I had the opportunity to meet an incredibly diverse selection of students from around the world, many of whom I now consider good friends. It was only through the support of my faculty that I was able to attend this amazing conference, which was easily one of the highlights of my time as a student at the University of Melbourne.” Mark Chicu, BCom (Honours), The University of Melbourne Participant in the 2007 Summer School.

During the first two weeks in July, the University of Virginia welcomed 69 students and faculty from fifteen U21 institutions to the UVa campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. These participants were citizens of nineteen different countries and represented 26 different disciplines, each bringing their own goals for learning about Leadership in a Global Society, the theme of the 2007 conference.

The programme was designed to help participants understand and develop their own personal leadership skills by exploring the lives of leaders from different disciplines and different areas of the world.

“I leave here feeling truly inspired and ready to take on the challenges that I will face in the future. I can honestly say these have been two of the most inspiring and enjoyable weeks of my life…” said one student on the last day of the conference.

Student participants were challenged to identify, develop and exercise their personal leadership skills while working together in multidisciplinary and multicultural teams. The academic portion of the programme consisted of a series of “inspiring” lectures from UVa faculty (to quote a number of the participants), discussion sessions, and experiential learning activities, culminating in the production of group digital media projects by the students.

A variety of cultural and recreational events allowed participants to experience and explore Charlottesville and the surrounding region, including an Independence Day Naturalization ceremony at the home of Thomas Jefferson, a fireworks extravaganza and attending an American baseball game. All these experiences were a first for many of the participants.

The 2007 U21 Summer School also included a concurrent leadership programme for junior professors. Said one visiting faculty member of the benefits of the interaction with colleagues from around the globe, “I have inspiration to change my courses and delivery of teaching through interaction with other faculty and staff. …U21 workshops play to the strengths of having a mixed cultural faculty to discuss issues associated with pedagogy in different institutions across U21…”

The U21 summer programmes provide an opportunity for students and faculty to learn more about other cultures and about themselves and their own cultures. A student from the University of New South Wales wrote, “I don't think [we] will realise the true depth of the programme and how we've all grown individually and as a group until we're actually out of there and not together anymore.” This is perhaps the most important benefit of the U21 summer courses. They are special because they bring together talented students and faculty from many different universities and backgrounds for two weeks of holistic learning. Participants learn together, eat together, relax together, and slowly begin to understand and trust one another. It is these experiences – mutual understanding and trust -- that will define the true leaders in our global society.