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

Reflections of Past MLDP Participant and Candidate for Minnesota State Senate: Taylor Stevenson ‘10

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“Politics is artful communication. It is finding the right words, meeting the right people, and quickly adapting to often difficult situations. Each day might mean meeting a hundred new people, writing a press release that will be scrutinized by thousands of voters in the paper, composing a letter to an organization or top donor asking for financial support – often with only your story and a name on an index card. These are nerve-racking situations, and they are all make or break in a political campaign. And all of these situations lay at the periphery of the MLDP coursework, yet bear direct connections to the core principles taught in each MLDP lesson.” – Taylor Stevenson ’10, in his reflection report on the role of MLDP in his recent election campaign

During the Fall 2009 term, Taylor Stevenson was invited to participate in the pilot group of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center’s Management and Leadership Development Program (MLDP).  His experience in this program served as an effective bridge to life after Dartmouth, enhancing his skills and discussing tools for success.

Fall 2009 MLDP Participants - Stevenson is in the back row, center.

Winning the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) endorsement for Minnesota State Senate District 12, Taylor campaigned this past year in preparation for the November 2010 elections. Reflecting on this experience and his initial run for the DFL endorsement, Taylor contemplates the impact of his participation in MLDP on both of these campaigns:

“I think most of this applicability stems from what underlies the MLDP coursework: effective communication. Leaders, be they political, business, athletic, etc. have the unique ability to effectively communicate their “vision,” that is, exactly what it is they are thinking.”

Taylor cites this lesson of communication, along with numerous examples of exercises conducted in the MLDP sessions, as specifically aiding him in his campaign for the Minnesota State Senate.  For instance, he states that:

Many workshops dealt with conveying complex ideas. One I recall had us coming up with ideas for campus social activities and then finding a way to effectively market these to campus. This last exercise played on three levels of communication: translating an abstract concept in one’s own mind into concrete terms, finding agreement among competing concepts within a small group, and then bringing a consensus vision to a general body in a compelling way.

This process is almost exactly like creating a platform for a political campaign. In my own campaign, I needed to come up with positions on issues I cared about. Once I had wrapped my head around the issue and come up with an initial position, I needed to explain this and mesh it with close friends and political confidants around me. These discussions led to a honing of the idea and message crafting that we then ultimately would convey in what he hoped was a compelling way to the electorate.”

In addition, Taylor refers to various other ways that the skills and tools learned through MLDP were applicable to his campaign:

“Obviously, when MLDP participants go out into the real world, they are never going to get an exact replica of a workshop they completed during the MLDP coursework. But I cannot describe how many cold emails I had to write or tactful responses I had to compose to rude inquisitions where I drew on one particular class about electronic communication. Social dynamics in political campaigns are often highly volatile, and there were a number of instances where I found myself administering the principles of another workshop in conflict resolution. Still another workshop had me working on communication that gave me tips I used either explicitly or implicitly in my campaign. The list goes on and on.”

Finally, Taylor advocates that “MLDP has not only real-world application, but the principles it instills in its participants are far more applicable and wide-reaching than anyone can imagine…At the end of the day, excellence in any career path, even the most insular, depends upon one’s ability to communicate. That is the ultimate lesson MLDP teaches and one that was invaluable in my political experience.”

Taylor Stevenson '10 (in the striped shirt) with President Obama during a campaign visit in May 2007.

Taylor is among the growing number of Dartmouth students who have successfully completed the Management and Leadership Development Program, which is offered during the Fall, Winter, and Spring terms at the Rockefeller Center.  You can learn more about the program both here on the Rocky blog, and on the Rockefeller Center web site.

- Kali Montecalvo ‘13

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