Fels students attend Eastern Leadership Academy Conference

October 19, 2011

On Tuesday, September 21st, Fels hosted the Council of State Governments’ Robert J. Thompson Eastern Leadership Academy for the 4th straight year. The five-day academy, developed for state legislators and provincial officers from the 19 eastern region member jurisdictions, features prominent public leaders and experts who provide professional analysis on public sector issues.  This year, CSG offered to let a few Fels students attend the Academy on Tuesday. Christina Tierno, Rachel Meadows, Danielle Wolfe and Lauren Hansen-Flaschen grabbed the spots and attended the day’s presentations.

The morning lecture focused on Policy Development and was taught by Eric Schnurer, the founder and President of Public Works LLC, one of the leading firms specializing in improving government management, policy, and efficiency, including strategic planning with public agencies and the executive branch at the highest levels. In an effort to condense the ins-and-outs of decision making into a three-hour lecture, Mr. Schnurer kept the session enjoyable by bringing in media clips to illustrate his points. His lecture could essentially be viewed as a whirlwind tour of all the topics covered in a Masters of Public Administration.  In three hours, he covered economic analysis, decision trees, statistical regression analysis, politics, and the finer points of the classic movie, Crimson Tide.

Mr. Schnurer reiterated the fact that all decisions are made at the margin, and things tend to have a declining marginal benefit as well as a declining marginal cost.  He also pointed out that the real world differs from economic theory in that most actors are not rational, and lots of inefficiencies spring up in the market.  These inefficiencies are often not due to the government regulation, but instead due to externalities.  Schnurer summarized the importance of statistics in five key statements – 1) Statistical significance is very important, 2) A mean is more meaningful if there is small variance, 3) One must be able to explain the data, 4) The data should reveal something not already known, and 5) The conclusions should support larger implications. 

Mr. Schnurer also made two book recommendations that Fels students should add to their reading list - Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis and The Last Hurrah.  This whirlwind tour of public policy application reminded us of the complexities of policy making and the importance of continuing education opportunities for those who serve as administrators, especially in troubled economic times.

The lunch keynote topic was Reflections on Presidential Leadership, delivered by David Eisenhower, director of the Annenberg School for Communication’s Institute for Public Service. Not only was the food delicious, but we sat at the table with David Eisenhower and the CSG academy directors.  Lunch conversation floated from discussing the financial situation of the Philadelphia School district to the US economic crisis to baseball and the embarrassment that is the Red Sox. At around 1pm, Mr. Eisenhower delivered his talk. Mr. Eisenhower spoke of the leadership qualities and action items of past US Presidents,  FDR, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and of course Dwight Eisenhower.

CGS wants to provide more opportunities for students to attend these events, and as a Fels partner, MPA students are ideally situated to take advantage of this great resource.