Sunday, July 26, 2009

The first night and the first full day at Yale

My Ivy Scholars experience began with an orientation that, in true Ivy League fashion, went beyond just explaining the rules and expectations. Besides hearing Professor Luong and Dean Coburn-Palo give essay-long introductions for each other and extend warm welcomes to us students, they informed us of the reality of the rigor of the program. We would be given documents to read before each lecture, we would have Marshall Brief presentations, we would exercise our public speaking skills, and most intimidatingly, the all-star faculty (nearly all of them are national debate champions and experts of the program and grand strategy) would rank us students from 1-70 on the last day. This list would place students that performed exceptionally at the top and students that would be "black-listed" (meaning they exhibited awful behavior and their names would be passed on to other Ivy League schools as students that should not be accepted) would be on the very bottom. That announcement certainly elicited simultaneous gasps and looks of horror throughout the room. Definitely we would all be on our best behavior for the next two weeks. Yes, the Yale Ivy Scholars program will take hard work and discipline but will be the experience of a lifetime.

The rigor I experienced on Saturday night intensified today, our first full day at Yale. In the morning we were given a lecture by Professor Luong on two topics, Defining Grand Strategy and Developing Intellectual and Analytical Methodologies. In Defining Grand Strategy, he explained that there is no official definition for the term "grand strategy" because there are so many things it encompasses (one of the Yale professors that found the grand strategy program wrote a DEFINITION many pages long) and the founders of the concept cannot agree upon one. However, there is a concise working definition which is used as the unofficial definition of grand strategy, "The calculated relationship between means and large ends.” Next, Professor Luong explained specific terms in the definition in depth. The overall concept, he explained, is for leaders to possess the capability of seeing the big picture.

The next lecture, Developing Intellectual and Analytical Methodologies was equally as interesting. Professor Luong taught us to be "master learners" in Ivy Scholars by doing things such as understanding the goals of each lecture/seminar, forming correlations, and questiong assumptions. He also explained how grand strategy applies to nearly every subject, more concisely, it is interdisciplinary. For example, math gives us necessary quantitative skills and art gives us the imagination to innovate [ideas, strategies, etc.]. He went on to cover many other topics, but what I found especially useful (and hilarious) was his explanation of how to ask questions and how not to ask questions. We learned that we must make our questions necessary, concise, fair, and audible in order to avoid earning the less-than-sought-after titles of "sycophant" (flatterer), "shot gunner" (asks many unrelated questions), "peacock" (tries to prove that one is better than the speaker), or "wanderer" (rambler).

After lunch, we were give two more lectures from Professor Luong (this man has an incredible surplus of energy and intellect) and one from Professor Hennigan. Professor Luong's lecture, Principles of Leadership, taught us that we to be effective--so called "Level 5"--leaders, we must be full of integrity, courage, loyalty, compassion, and self control; know our goal, profession, self, and subordinates; and do things such as seek respect and work to the task not the clock. His next lecture, Sun Tzu and The Art of War: Lessons for Leadership, elaborated and reviewed concepts presented in The Art of War. I thoroughedly enjoyed this lecture as much as I enjoyed reading that ancient Chinese book of wisdom and victory. The following lecture of Professor Hennigan was titled Political Ideologies: The Wide World of "-isms". Although we only were able to cover liberalism, Marxism, the end of history thesis, and nationalism, I liked this lecture because it was mainly driven around student participation. Here, I witnessed the vast collective knowledge of my Ivy Scholar peers.

After dinner, we had a lecture by Dean Coburn-Palo called An Overview to Studying Philosophy at Ivy Scholars. I loved his light-hearted but deeply informative approach to philosophy. He taught us many things such as deontology (belief that actions are good or bad based on outcome) v. teleology (belief that actions are good or bad based on intent and process), social contract, positive rights v. negative rights, and comprehensive and accesible resources for philosophy. The dean also elaborated on Morality and Utilitarianism.

We concluded the night with establishing our Marshall Brief groups, which are groups composed of five members that would create a 8-12 page paper and prepare a presentation to combat a problem on specific topic (it reminds me of policy debate without a debate). We are expected to define a problem and devise a solution to it. We would be judged by true leaders in public policy. My group focuses on diplomacy and international conflict and we decided upon the topic, "How can we prevent Afghanistan from becoming a failed state?". We have assignments periodically due during the week. Tomorrow night we must have 4-5 resources each on our topic, so now I'm going to commence learning about Afghanistan demographics and NGOs (non-governmental organizations)!

I'm posting all the notes I take from the lectures here:

1 comment:

  1. Yohanna,

    I love the way the staff put the fear of God into you on your first meeting with them. All too often—especially at what one of your fellow Ivy scholars referred to as Yale camp—there are few consequences for your actions. Study or don’t study—what does it matter. It’s not as though it was your own money that paid for the class. It’s not as though you were earning college credits or that the class was even going on your official record.

    But now you’ve learned that maybe there’s more of a reason to study.

    Don’t get me wrong, Yohanna. The four of you were personally selected by Dr. Dr. Luong because you were hungry so what I described doesn’t apply but it certainly does to some of your classmates.

    Already I’m guessing that you can see why these lecturers are at Yale and not teaching in the WCCUSD.

    Thanks for posting your notes. I’ll be sure to include them in the archived version of this blog.