Harvard place for Dame Jennifer
Former Premier Dame Jennifer Smith is going back to school — on a course for high-flyers at one of America’s top universities.
Dame Jennifer has been accepted on the prestigious year-long Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University and won a scholarship from the university, the oldest in America, to attend.
The course, which starts next month, is designed to prepare experienced leaders to take on new challenges in the social sector and will end with the preparation of a major project in a special area of interest.
Dame Jennifer said: “The idea is to give back to the community and that can be interpreted as widely as you like — it can be the community, the region, it depends on what the project is.”
She added: “What they say is they don’t want you coming with too many preconceived notions — they want you to be inspired by the courses you take and the people you meet and what fires your passion.
“I told them my passion was children, education and women’s issues, women’s rights in particular.”
Dame Jennifer is one of fewer than 40 candidates selected for the course from around the world.
She said: “I don’t have a project formatted yet. You have to present that in October. Some people have written a book or started a non-profit or a foundation or you could come up with a joint project. “I’m still wavering between children and early education and women’s rights.”
But she said a 2005 conference in Beijing on women’s rights and representation in government, atttended by a delegation from Bermuda, had set targets which had not been met.
Dame Jennifer added: “We haven’t achieved all we wanted — it wouldn’t be so concerning, but in some areas we have gone backwards.”
She said that the discovery of trafficked women being used as slaves in London showed how much work needed to be done.
She added: “In other places, there has been a violent backlash, if you will — we can’t leave it unattended. If one is not free, we are not free.”
The Advanced Leadership Initiative was set up in 2009 as a collaboration between the Harvard faculties of business, education, government, law, medicine and public health.
The university said the aim is “to build knowledge about societal challenges requiring interdisciplinary leadership skills and to capitalise on demographic changes that create opportunities to educate and deploy accomplished leaders at later life stages in public service.”
Harvard added: “Harvard is seeking to tap the experience of a socially conscious generation of leaders and help redirect and broaden their skills to fill critical leadership gaps in solving major social issues.”
And the course site said that “a select group of Fellows from diverse sectors with a track record of achievement and accomplishment have come to Harvard to transition from their primary income-earning careers and prepare for their next phase plan as change agents for society.”
Dame Jennifer, retired from politics in 2012 after losing her St George’s North seat in the December general election, which she had held since 1989 following a nine-year stint in Senate.
She became the first PLP Premier when the party won the 1998 general election and the first elected woman Premier in the Island’s history, while her five-year term as the country’s leader makes her the second-longest serving Premier after Sir John Swan, who occupied Cabinet Office for 13 years.
Dame Jennifer said: “As long as there is life, you have to be living it, enjoying it and giving back. You have to change what you’re doing — never say never, but I doubt I’ll be entering politics again.”
She added: “I don’t know what Bermuda will do with me, but I trust there will be some area, either here or elsewhere, where my experience and skills may be put to good use. I’m open to all the possibilities that might be presented during this year ahead.”
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