THE ALUMNI PROGRAMS OFFICE completed its first
distance-learning program last fall. It was a lecture series
called Breakfast With Heifetz & Linsky with
Ron Heifetz MPA 1983 and Marty Linsky IOP 1973, authors of
a new book called Leadership On The Line. The program
started from Cambridge with Heifetz and 50 grads. Linsky and
30 alumni joined in from New York via videoconference, along
with alumni at sites in Washington and London. The Bulletin
talked in January to Betsy Myers MPA 2000, director of Alumni
Programs, and Heifetz about the project.
What was the idea behind
BM Its hard for many of our alumni to come back
to Cambridge. This is one way to bring the Kennedy School
to them. We thought that by piloting this program, we could
gauge alumni interest in this format for learning and networking.
Aside from the fact that Ron and Marty are revered by grads,
we knew that if anyone could navigate our audience through
the bumpy ride that accompanies working with this technology
for the first time, Ron and Marty could.
Ron, why did the idea
of doing a global lecture series with alumni interest you?
RH First, its just wonderful to reconnect with
people years after working with them at the Kennedy School.
Second, its terrifically interesting to hear new questions
theyre now asking as they reflect on their experience.
Third, alumni help me improve my work by telling me whats
useful and whats misleading in what I teach.
Whats the biggest
challenge for alumni trying to implement the lessons from
your leadership course?
RH All of us are inclined to fall back on our default
habits of behavior, particularly in tough professional moments,
and the ongoing implementation of the lessons our students
work hard to learn requires not only professional discipline,
but also supportive opportunities to keep learning, to keep
questioning, and to keep working on the development and application
of new ways to respond. Some of our alumni have been meeting
regularly for breakfast in cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul
for years. It seems like a great idea that support groups
form in cities around the world that would bring together
alums for regular, informal, collegial discussion around leadership
issues in their daily lives.
How do you think this
BM To be honest, we didnt know how interested
alumni would be in a lecture with a videoconference format.
So we were thrilled to see it sell out in just days! Since
then, weve been especially happy with the feedback.
People liked the opportunity to come together each week to
listen and learn from Ron and Marty and from one another.
We are really on to something that we can build on in the
future. Id like to see us add more regions to the mix.
RH Marty and I enjoyed doing this immensely. The technology
worked very smoothly, particularly by the second and third
sessions, and far more smoothly than we had anticipated. The
sense of connectedness with folks in London, Washington, New
York, and Boston seemed quite real to us. We also learned
from the kinds of questions people asked. The questions were
serious and pointed to the need for ongoing opportunities
for networking support from colleagues.
Do you see a role for
distance learning initiatives in the future?
RH There are enormous opportunities to provide direct
support as well as encourage self-generating networks of collegial
support through distance-learning initiatives. Id like
to see us build on this project in ways that reach out more
consistently and widely to our amazing alumni, so many of
whom are putting themselves on the line to serve the greater
good in institutions and communities around the world.