The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Lives of Leadership

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The liberal arts education at Dartmouth is the cornerstone, but not the extent, of leadership development. Problem-solving, persuasive communication, and the ability to work in teams are not optional. Faculty and staff at the Rockefeller Center believe these skills can and should be taught, and as President Hanlon has been known to say, deserve to be thought of more as “power skills” than soft skills.

Each of the leadership programs offered at the Rockefeller Center incorporates self-discovery, exposure to relevant theoretical concepts, opportunities to put theory into practice, and time for reflection. Students can expect to walk out of an experience at Rocky having worked in teams to gain the ability to understand their strengths and weaknesses and the kind of impact they can make at an organizational level. Nikki Sachdeva ’15 shares, “Rocky enabled me to practice essential workplace and life skills, such as developing a personal narrative, networking, giving and receiving feedback, and project management. Rocky programs allowed me to reflect on my experiences, ensuring my lessons are neither lost nor forgotten.”

The leadership learning mission influences the broad curriculum of public policy courses, internships, and foreign study opportunities offered by the Center. “We do not see how it is possible to improve public policy without developing leadership capacity,” says Center director Andrew Samwick.

The Rockefeller Center pays careful attention to the learning environment, intentionally creating a community that welcomes students from all majors and at all levels and where the practice of peer mentoring is encouraged. At its most basic level, the Rockefeller Center is a home with mentors and peers. “Rocky’s mentoring program connected me with a group of people on campus who also wanted to pursue public policy, but who had a diverse set of other interests as well. The mentors and mentees were great resources in terms of helping me see the many ways that I could become involved in public policy at Dartmouth and beyond Dartmouth,” says Erica Ng ’19.

 In many of the Center’s programs, alumni involvement is front and center. More than 50 alumni have served as mentors in the First-Year Fellows program, multiple alumni classes provide funding for named internships, other alumni serve as facilitators in program sessions related to their areas of expertise, and many more alumni mentor juniors and seniors each year through the Rockefeller Alumni Mentoring Programs. 

 “The Rockefeller Center fuses public policy, leadership development and experiential learning in uniquely powerful ways. It is inspiring to witness first-hand, as I have, the profoundly positive impact that the Center exerts upon the lives and careers of its students,” says Tim Harrison ’78, chair of the Center’s Board of Visitors. Some of the Center’s programs, like the First-Year Fellows and the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows programs, have existed for more than a decade. More recent additions, such as the Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors program, the Management and Leadership Development Program, and the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program were able to expand from earlier iterations thanks to generous gifts from the Corrigan family in 2009 and the Class of 1964 in 2014. As a result, in recent years, over 25 percent of each graduating class has participated in at least one term-long Center-sponsored program while an undergraduate at Dartmouth. 

Sadhana Hall, deputy director of the Rockefeller Center, has played a key role in conceptualizing and developing the leadership programs, saying, “As emerging leaders, we want our students to develop integrity, honesty, transparency, and technical competence. Students need to be self-aware, to understand how to work in teams, to learn how organizations work, and to see how all these elements can come together to enable them to address a cause that’s larger than themselves.”

And this method has been proven extremely effective, as many students credit these lessons from the Center’s leadership programs in their later success. Hannah Pruitt ’19 says, “Seeing the complexity of collaboration that happens in Washington made me appreciate the training I have had through the Rockefeller Center about how to effectively work with and lead people who may work, learn, and think differently than myself.”

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