Monday, June 30, 2014

SPS 2014: Conservation Biologist Dr. Thomas Lovejoy Visits SPS

Dr. Lovejoy with SPS faculty members
Today's featured speaker at the St. Albans School of Public Service was Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, one of the foremost conservation biologists in the world.  Dr. Lovejoy is known, among other things, for coining the term "biodiversity" and has worked in the Amazon for almost 50 years.  Dr. Lovejoy's career demonstrates how science and public service can go hand in hand, as he has served on science and environmental councils during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administration.  Dr. Lovejoy provided an easy-to-understand explanation of the science behind the problems we are facing with climate change and the resulting loss of biodiversity. Believing that we must remain ever optimistic about our ability to turn things around, though, Dr. Lovejoy also offered examples of how science and international planning can help reverse some of these critical problems.

Big questions about the environment were the order of the day.  Later in the day, after Dr. Lovejoy's visit, the students took part in a faculty-led discussion of an article about the concept of "geoengineering": whether a major and deliberate effort to alter the climate of the earth (such as by using technological means to lower the temperature of oceans) can combat global warming.  Click HERE for a link to the article on geoengineering that the SPS students discussed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

SPS 2014: Sunday Afternoon at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall

Enjoying the day on the Mall!
Another opportunity today to explore D.C. and all that it has to offer, as the St. Albans School of Public Service Class of 2014 made a foray to the National Mall to explore the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which celebrations the cultural heritage and folkways of different countries and different regions of the USA. This year the Folklife Festival is focusing on the culture and traditions of China and Kenya.  Click HERE for more information on this year's Folklife Festival.

A group shot on the Mall (that appears to be Daniel E. waving from the back).

Jahlyn and Daniel checking out the Kenya exhibit

What's that dome in the background?

There was enough time to check out a nearby residence of some note, as well!  (From left: Max, Oliver, Daniel, Amelia, Anna, and Patton)

SPS 2014: Alumni Garden Party

Yesterday evening SPS '14 got a chance to dress up (Garden Party Chic was the order of the day) and mingle with some of the St. Albans School of Public Service alumni at the annual Alumni Garden Party.  The event started with "mocktails"* (*lemonade with a floating berry in it) in the Amphitheater, progressed to dinner in the Refectory, and ended with an ice cream social on the roof.  A great opportunity for the current SPS students to meet those who came before and get an additional glimpse of some of the public service possibilities out there.
Nick (SPS '11) and Scott (SPS '10)

Rebecca, Aubrey, and Dominik talk with Mr. Joe McCarthy, member of the original SPS Advisory Board and Kennedy School of Government Dean.

Lesley, Lilly, and Amanda relax in the Amphitheater

Max and Daniel enjoying the beautiful afternoon

From left: Anna, JJ, Lizzie, and Meredith

Two SPS 2004 alums, Will and Leah, taking in the spectacular view from the roof of a building not built yet when they attended SPS!

JJ, Maliyah, and Mackenzie at the rooftop ice cream social

Our largest California contingent ever!

Team Memphis, as always, at SPS in force (from left: Jahlyn, Patton, Aniya, Anna, Meredith, and Elexis)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

SPS 2014 at the Newseum!

On the Newseum roof -- what a day and what a view!
This afternoon the St. Albans School of Public Service class of 2014 visited The Newseum, a museum that celebrates the history of newsgathering and the First Amendment. The Newseum's exhibits include eight sections from the Berlin Wall (see photos below); the "Checkpoint Charlie" sign that marked the entrance to the American Sector in Cold War-era; a great exhibit of 80 front pages from today's date from around the world; a terrific gallery of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs over the years with audio commentary from the photographers; and a very fun 4D movie highlighting the exploits of under cover reporting pioneer Nellie Bly. (Bly was the pen-name for Elizabeth Jane Cochran, who was most famous for successfully feigning insanity and subsequently exposing the brutality and neglect of New York's Women's Lunatic Asylum.) The Newseum also has a fun interactive exhibit in which visitors can try their hand at broadcasting the news or weather. This is one of our favorite SPS weekend activities every year and we highly recommend it for visitors to Washington D.C. An added highlight this year was getting to watch some breaking news on the giant TV screen in the atrium -- overtime and penalty kicks in the Brazil-Chile World Cup soccer game. 

Later today, SPS 2014 will have a chance to meet some of their predecessors at the Annual SPS Alumni Garden Party!
Miki and Jahlyn in front of a section of the Berlin Wall

Aubrey, Dominik, and Rebecca in front of a section of the Berlin Wall

Rebecca has the White House in the palm of her hand!

Elexis and Aniyah on top of the city!

Maliyah and Mackenzie ready to break a big story!

These guys look like professionals already!  60 Minutes, look out!

Watching penalty kicks in the Brazil-Chile World Cup game in the atrium of the Newseum (if you look closely on the upper left you can see the penalty kick in progress -- good action shot, Mr. Stephany!)

Another Milestone: First Birthday of SPS 2014 (Happy Birthday to Oliver!)

We've got a few student birthdays this session, and the first one fell today.  As is fitting in our fast-moving program, Oliver got his special birthday cupcake and song on the bus to an outing.
Oliver gets his birthday cupcake and serenade on the bus to the Newseum

Friday, June 27, 2014

From Courthouse to Riverbank: Friday, Week 1, at the School of Public Service

Two of our "Supreme Court Justices"
Yesterday the students at the St. Albans School of Public Service got a taste of the courtroom during the mock Supreme Court argument, with the "SPS Justices" ruling in favor of the U.S. Government in the Hobby Lobby case (one of only two cases from the current Term in which the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet rendered a decision).  Today, SPS got a chance to talk to an actual judge:  United States District Court Judge James Boasberg.  Any future lawyers in the SPS class got a taste of the socratic method, as Judge Boasberg helped guide them through the complexities of sentencing by putting them behind the bench in the role of a judge making sentencing decisions in hypothetical cases.

It was another busy day at SPS -- before visiting the Courthouse in the afternoon the students took classes in International Relations and Economics in the morning.  After a fast-paced Week 1 of SPS 2014, it's now time for a little rest and relaxation!  The weekend got off to a good start with a trip to The Yards Park in D.C. for "Rocking on the River" (a Friday night concert series).  Tonight's concert featured top performers from the ongoing DC Jazz Festival.  More time to relax and recharge this weekend before the action picks up again on Monday!
It was a beautiful evening at the Yards Park!

We're number 1?  End of SPS Week 1?  Either way, everyone's happy!

Taking a well-deserved seat after a week on the go!

California, California, Boston, and South Korea -- all roads lead to DC on a summer night.

Hangin' with the girls at SPS 2014!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Slideshow of Photos from Supreme Court Mock Argument

St. Albans School of Public Service Supreme Court is in Session!

Today the St. Albans School of Public Service 2014 students are arguing a Supreme Court case from the current term: the Hobby Lobby case, which involves the issue of whether a small corporation can be exempt on religious grounds from the Affordable Healthcare Act's mandate that birth control be available under health care plans.  The "real" case has not yet been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court case (it should come out any day), so we are all eager to see what the "St. Albans Supreme Court" will decide.  
Above: a panel of the Supreme Court waits to hear the attorneys.
Above: Justice Aniyah B. paying close attention to the oral argument.
Above: Attorney Alison H. makes her argument to an attentive courtroom.  Below:  Justices Dominik and Celeste ponder the attorneys' arguments.

Visit from New York Times Reporter Ian Urbina

This morning we hosted Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter Ian Urbina, a St. Albans School graduate.  Mr. Urbina spoke about the process of investigative journalism in general, and then gave SPS insight into his recent work on the role of OSHA in addressing (or failing to address) long-term health hazards in the American workplace.  (Click HERE for a link to that article.)   The visit was well-timed, as yesterday the SPSers discussed a case study focusing on the undercover "hidden camera" variety of investigative journalism.

Mr. Urbina during this morning's Q&A 

Reception with the St. Albans School of Public Service Board of Trustees

The St. Albans School of Public Service is fortunate to have a group of dedicated individuals on our Board who make it possible for our program to be broadly accessible.  Last night, the Board got a chance to meet the students they support at the Annual Board reception.  It was great for students and Board members to meet each other!
Board member Mr. Platts talks with Eddie
Team Memphis and Kentucky friend (from left: Meredith, Anna, Clare, and Patton)
From left: Daniel, Deniz, and Jonathan
Rebecca, Clare and Meredith
Four of our STA/SPS students (Alex, Seth, Ben, and Humphrey) with Mr. Ignatius of the Board
Mr. Platts and Patton O.
During the student introductions
Mrs. Ignatius and SPS students

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Slideshow of Photos from Today's Crisis Simulation

Enjoy a slideshow of photos from the SPS crisis simulation today, in which the students played the part of decision-makers in India, China, the USA, and Pakistan faced with a tense nuclear stand-off triggered by the actions of a rogue military.  We are pleased to announce that disaster was averted and the crisis was solved with multi-lateral cooperation!

Place your cursor on the first photo and click the green arrow if the slideshow is not running, and click on any photo to go to the online Google photo album. (Note: the slideshow is powered by flash, so it will not appear on any Apple mobile devices such as iPhone or iPod.)

Move over "Ted Talks" -- SPS 2014 Has "Ted Trips"!

The St. Albans School of Public Service takes full advantage of our location in Washington, D.C., not least by organizing small group trips to attend many of the interesting think tank panels, speeches, and events throughout the summer. Senior SPS Faculty member Edward ("Ted") Eagles is the moving behind the "Ted Trips," beginning with today's trip accompanying twelve SPS 2014 students to a panel at the Brookings Institution, one of D.C.'s most renowned think tanks, entitled "China and Its Neighbors." (LINK to description and audio from the panel.) Below, SPS students John C., Eddie K. and Peter H. in discussion with Mr. Eagles before the panel.  (The Brookings was kind enough to provide some pre-event cookies!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

First Trip of SPS 2014: To the White House Complex

Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall
The highlight of the day was a visit to the White House complex for a meeting and Q & A session with Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control (aka "the WMD Czar").  After speaking to the group about the nature of her duties and her experience in government, Dr. Sherwood-Randall was kind enough to field a broad range of questions from the St. Albans School of Public Service class of 2014. Dr. Sherwood-Randall wowed the group on substance even before she gave the group parting gifts of official White House M&Ms and photos of the President (and of the White House dog, Bo!).

Rocking the access badges in front of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
These guys look ready for the big time already!
Got souvenirs?

Back on campus, SPS '14 took part in a case study on the Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainwright, that established the right to counsel for indigent defendants.  The case study helps lay the groundwork for the mock Supreme Court argument coming up later this week, in which SPS '14 will take on a case being heard by the "real" Supreme Court case.

Action Shot: SPS '14 on the Move

Here's an action shot of the SPS entry into the White House complex for our first trip of the 2014 session!

Monday, June 23, 2014

First Full Day at the St. Albans School of Public Service

And . . . they're off!  The first full day of SPS included a case study -- a series of vignettes examining the issue of whether it can ever be ethical to lie in public life in pursuit of a greater good -- that was designed to get the students into the case learning mode.  The "case method" of teaching is familiar to graduate students in fields such as law, business, and public policy. A "teaching case" is written in narrative-style, and describes a specific situation or conflict (perhaps a complicated policy decision for a government official) with the goal of, as Harvard's Kennedy School of Government states, "put[ting] students in the shoes of real-life decision-makers in order to prepare them for their own lives of decision-making." Instructors act as facilitators of discussions with an eye toward helping the students identify the problem, analyze the causes, and formulate solutions.  After the first case study, SPS '14 was introduced to the group project.

Throughout the session, the students will be working outside of class on a group project focusing on political advocacy.  SPS '14 has been divided into six smaller groups, and each has been assigned a broad policy area addressing issues having to do with, respectively, energy; immigration; firearms ownership; social security; health care; and same-sex marriage. The groups have been asked to form a Political Action Committee (PAC); draft a piece of legislation within their policy area; secure "Congressional" sponsors (really the SPS faculty and staff) for their bills; draft a press release publicizing their views; hold a press conference fielding question from the skeptical press (their classmates); and, finally, take part in a full legislative debate on the bills which will take place on the last day of the session.

After a morning of hard work, it was back to the classroom for a briefing on the mock Supreme Court argument later this week (more to come on that this Thursday).  Then it was time to go out and enjoy the glorious weather (note: this was said non-sarcastically; it really was gorgeous out) by taking part in The Amazing Race, Cathedral Close Edition!  Teams of six scoured the campus for clues, with Race tasks including finding and recreating a statue of a child in a handstand (see photos below) and finding the St. Albans bulldog mascot who "guards" the entrance to the Lower School.

Coming up with a mock bill during the group project

Looks like Deniz has come up with a killer strategy for the mock bill!

The "Social Security" advocacy group coming up with an idea for a bill

Clue # 5 required finding a handstand statue tucked away on campus and recreating it!

Clue # 5 -- check!

Perfect form!

Clue # 8 involved finding the particular St. Albans School mascot who "guards" the entrance to the Lower School

They're happy to find the mascot!

Team #1 at the at bulldog statue