June 30, 2009

Leadership and democracy were themes of the inaugural Jepson-Athens Leadership Academy, which brought high school students from Greece to the States for study trips and classroom discussions June 27-July 12.

The new summer student program will forge close ties between the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, the first school of leadership studies in the world, and the American Community School in Athens, the cradle of democracy.

Classroom elements of the program include study of the nature of leadership, the philosophical underpinnings of leadership studies, including the Greek philosophers, and consideration of leadership as central to the human condition throughout history.

Outside the classroom, students shared experiences including a visit to Monticello, a presentation on modern journalism at the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper office, an evening hosted by the parshioners and youth of the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Malvern Avenue, and an expert tour of the Virginia Capitol.

Led by political reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jeff Schapiro, the tour was accompanied by Sandra Peart, dean of the Jepson School; J. Thomas Wren, historian and Jepson professor; Steven Medeiros, ACS director of academics; and Brian Kelly, ACS academy principal. Schapiro’s undeniable enthusiasm seized the students’ attention as he incorporated pop culture references including mentioning movies filmed on the site into his presentation about the historic building and the legislative body that meets there. (Schapiro and Wren are featured in the photo.)

Students were given a detailed run-through of the premises, including a peak into House of Delegates and Senate chambers, Houdon’s statue of George Washington, and the Hall of Presidents in the rotunda. Students were able to apply knowledge from their preceding trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, as it was Jefferson who designed the Virginia Capitol building in the late 18th century.

Professor Wren, who taught the classroom sessions based on readings from his book The Leaders Companion, was pleased with the way the program was unfolding. When asked the most exciting part of the program from the perspective of the Jepson School, he said, “[The students] are seeing not only what college life is like but they are learning something about leadership in a way that they have never thought about it before.”

"This program builds upon the longstanding historical political and cultural ties between the United States and Greece," said Peart. An estimated three million Americans claim Greek descent and there are some 90,000 to 100,000 U.S. citizens living in Greece. "This program "represents a new international venue for Jepson that opens up exciting possibilities for our students and faculty members. Our hope is that we will expand our academic relationships over time."