miercuri, 25 iulie 2012

Discover... Connect... Make a Difference!... HKS-OCA Spotlight Interview -- July 2012

Discover... Connect... Make a Difference!...

Welcome to the OCA Spotlight Series! / http://www.hks.harvard.edu/degrees/oca

OCA (Office of Career Advancement) Spotlights highlight the career stories of alumni, who in their own ways, are working to make an impact on the world. We hope that, through this program, you will find ideas and encouragement for your own career journey, and will take the opportunity to connect with alumni, who are generally happy to talk with students and make connections themselves.
This Spotlight features Marian Stas MPA/MC '99, Youth Leadership Program Coordinator, “Leaders for the Third Millennium," a man working to change the face of education in his native Romania as way toward creating meaningful social change in the society at large.
Says Marian, "Don’t hold back from immersing yourselves fully into the transformational process – you will have missed a lot otherwise. And seek out the meaningful public value to which you can contribute, in the aftermath. It is easy to stand on the sidelines and say what should be done. It is not easy to be the one to do it."

Tell us about your current job. 
I wouldn’t necessarily describe my work in the terms of a “job” but rather in the terms of aligning myself with a vision which brings along meaningful public value. In the specific case of my country, I consider that the most significant public project over the next 10-20 years is by far the transformation of the educational system as a main driver for the transformation of the society and its institutions at large.

This is, by definition, an exercise of “real leadership” (to use the framework created and explained by Dean Williams in his book about “helping people and organizations facing their toughest challenges”), which I consider worthwhile for Romania.
Right now, the Romanian school system is caught in its old Communist paradigm. We need leadership and transformation, but to begin we need acceptance. Right now, people are split on whether we need reform in education. They are not used to radical transformation, therefore I work from within the schools in a position of informal authority to get my message across and become a known voice. I publish, and I contribute both formally and informally through speeches, interviews, formal documents submitted to the Ministry of Education and to Parliament, petitions and by working on education-related projects.

Flanked by supporters of his work, Marian poses in the spirit of Time Magazine's choice of "The Protestor" as the 2012 Person of the Year.

Experience & Advice
Let me illustrate my work during the last ten years mentioning three relevant projects in line with this vision:

  • “Leaders for the Third Millennium” – a youth leadership extra-curricular program for high school students offered since 2002, now has over 10,000 graduates. This project was a “Trojan Horse” of sorts. I founded it knowing that I wanted to transform education in the country. To get that done I knew I needed to legitimize the conversation first and make myself accepted (or, at least, not rejected) by the school system. The success of this program helped me do that.
  • The introduction of International Baccalaureate (IB) programs in the public school system (this is work in progress since 2007: in 2009, “Barbu Stirbei” National College in Calarasi became the first public school in Romania out of about 8,000 in total, accredited by the IB Organization to offer the Diploma Programme).I was and am the process facilitator for getting this program going. I traveled to IBO headquarters in Geneva to talk to people there. I talked to high schools, invited them to join the process of application, and helped them get funding so that they could apply.
  • Values-centered curricular decentralization in pre-university schools (this, also, is a work in progress since 2010. To me, this is the most critical process towards the authentic transformation of the educational system). I initiated the project. My argument is that there is almost no other voice talking about alternative curriculum. Right now students take13-19 subjects each semester. When you tell people there is a way for them to take eight instead and to be more effective, they think immediately of work going away and teachers losing their jobs, and that is where the conversation stops. I see my role as making the vision part of the public conversation, but doing that means introducing ideas drop by drop by drop and bit by bit. There is tremendous inertia and the only way around that is to create fertile ground and drop seeds.
Tell us about the journey you’ve taken to get to where you are.
I would best describe my journey as an act of “social courage” (to quote one of my essential readings: Rollo May’s “The Courage to Create”) and, again, I refer specifically to creating meaningful public value. Besides the work briefly described in my previous answer, teaching in the HKS Mid-Career MPS Summer Program since 2000 is a significant part of what I consider to be a meaningful contribution to creating public value, which, to me, is transformational in its every single moment of manifestation. Understanding the contexts in which I operate, respecting the people I meet along my journey and learning from them are also parts of the exercise of working on my own self.

I also have worked believe it or not, in the military in Romania, where I found that the best way to manage my career was simply to create new projects, hence, my next job. For ten years I was the Chairman of the Board of an NGO. At some point I realized that projects can become bigger than the organization and that projects had to come first if I was to remain true to my vision.

Is what you are doing now what you thought you would be doing when you entered HKS?
Not at all! I was 37 when I graduated from the MPA/MC program, in 1999. My year at HKS was an awakening experience, which I didn’t begin to fully understand until a few years afterwards. For me, it was a professional and human experience of an intensity and significance without precedent. However, to do justice to my pre-HKS life and work, I would say that both prepared me well to embark on what became a true transformational journey for me, and for my family as well.
I say this because after I returned home, my life and the life of my whole family changed. Graduating from Harvard opened a whole new world of connections and networks. There were more opportunities for projects and for travel, which not only benefitted me but also each and every family member when the time came.

There are lots of smart people in Romania, who don’t have the instruments -- that is the knowledge and the leadership skills that I was able to acquire in the Kennedy School, without which it is difficult to foster change. There are many more like me now since I graduated and I am proud to be one of the senior (read “old”) persons among them.


What do you think has been the greatest professional benefit to you from your time at HKS?
It would have to be the leadership exercise to articulate a long-term vision about myself as an individual, and about how I can contribute to creating meaningful public value. This was something which I know for sure I learned as a mid-career student at HKS.
What was your favorite HKS course? Why? They were two, actually. First, the Transformational Leadership course taught by Geri Augusto ( http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Pdf/Augusto%20Short%20Bio_July%202007.pdf ). And second, the Alternative Dispute Resolution course taught by Brian Mandell. From Geri I learned the difference between transactional and transformational leadership. (From her I also heard fascinating stories about a country very dear to me, South Africa). Brian taught me “the language of HKS.” As an international student, I remember vividly that in mid-November, well into the Fall semester, I was telling Brian that while I fully understood the words he spoke, I still didn’t get the message carried by them. Now I do!

What course(s) or HKS experience do you feel best prepared you for what you are doing now?
In fairness, I would say that the HKS experience as a whole was more significant than one particular course or the other (see also previous answer). I would separate the two terms of the equation as follows: HKS offered an experience of an intensity which, to me, was unparalleled until then. In turn, I was ready to fully assume the endeavor –   which I did, with no holdbacks, whatsoever. Thus, the two important processes: me being shaped by HKS and at the same time me contributing to HKS life became possible, and they really contributed to what I am and what I do now.

How do you use the HKS network in your professional life?
Let me share one example to illustrate. In April 2008 Bucharest hosted the Transatlantic Forum, a high-level gathering of decision-makers, political leaders, opinion shapers, and academics to discuss the most pressing needs and interests of the NATO community. The Bucharest Conference, which followed the precedents of past NATO Summits, took place at the same time as the Bucharest NATO Summit and served as the official public platform for the Summit. The event was organized by The German Marshall Fund of the United States along with Chatham House and was supported by the 2008 NATO Summit Support Committee. At the heart of the project was my good friend Bain Ennis, MC/MPA-’03, who produced the event. Bain asked me if we could invite graduates from our leadership program “Leaders for the Third Millennium” to volunteer for the on-the-ground running of the show, with a broad spectrum of assignments ranging from overseeing the food supply for the entire team, to arranging the room and escorting delegates during the conference. About twenty-five students enthusiastically confirmed participation. The rest, as they say, is history. The conference was a success, in no small measure due to the contribution of our young volunteers: high school and undergraduate students, who found in Bain an inspirational leader, a role model and a true friend, while also being exposed to his wonderful music! This project set a successful precedent for GMF of using young volunteers to help in the preparation of similar events. I am happy that it took two HKS Mid-Careers to make it happen!


What career advice do you have for busy students juggling problem sets, great Forum events, family demands, social events and a job search?
Keep mind and heart cool and clear. Consider the HKS learning experience as a holistic one, rather than one fragmented by various particular components. Don’t hold back from immersing yourselves fully into the transformational process – you will have missed a lot otherwise. And seek out the meaningful public value to which you can contribute, in the aftermath. It is easy to stand on the sidelines and say what should be done. It is not easy to be the one to do it.

What specific career advice do you have for students interested in pursuing opportunities in your area?
Follow your dream. Create your own project. It is, perhaps, the most meaningful human experience you can get.
I have found that since leaving HKS, I have done everything I wanted to do, and I have never gone hungry. At the end of the day, one can do two things: apply for a job and send out a million CVs to do that, or follow one’s dream and create one’s own projects, which by the way can bring in money, too. I do many things. I do projects I like and somehow I have always managed to also pay myself out of those projects.

Obviously the world is much more nuanced and complex that I am saying here, but sometimes it is worth looking at things as simply as whether you will send out a whole bunch of  CVs, or whether you will look into yourself, follow your true dreams and create something of your own that will also pay you. You might be surprised at what you see.

To learn more about Marian and his work, join him on Facebook at
You may also email him at marian_stas@yahoo.com

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