In 2011, a group of Romanian graduates from the US Ivy League universities decided to recreate and pass on a similar educational experience back home. This group of friends shared a passion for education and a desire to offer their peers in Romania and Eastern Europe similar educational and social opportunities to the ones they experienced abroad. The goal was to create a network of talented, like-minded individuals who could learn from each other and support each other in school, work, projects and life. And so, Aspire Academy was born, with the mission to discover, develop and connect young leaders in Eastern Europe and beyond. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this unique educational and professional development experience – Aspire Professional 2016. The four day workshop and interactive sessions offered by Harvard and Stanford professors as well as successful leaders and entrepreneurs was as much an intellectual feast as it was an inspirational call to action.
A particularly memorable lecture was delivered by Steve Jarding, who teaches two of the most popular classes at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government: “Running for Office and Managing Campaigns” and “The Making of a Politician.” An international educator, lecturer, writer and political consultant, Jarding brought a wealth of experience that he generously shared with unparalleled passion and candor. His lecture on “What it takes to be a leader” emphasized, in no uncertain terms, the impact of public service. His second lecture focused on “Media Training”, in which he detailed the time tested formula for successful political communication. Needless to say, his presentations were a roaring success and worth every minute of the classes that went late into the night.
Presentations by prominent Romanian business leaders such as Fady Chreih, CEO of largest private healthcare network – Regina Maria; and Marius Stefan, founder of Autonom – largest car rental company, have been not only informative, encouraging and entertaining but also on point about the value of audacity in defying established norms of thinking and doing things which led them to success. The motto that we are the ‘makers of our own luck’ may come across as a cliché for many, but trying to live by this principle can do wonders for all.
Similarly, executive coaching based on neuroscience offered by Alis Anagnostakis and the Dale Carnegie training experience provided by Andrei Popescu were awe inspiring. However, throughout the training days, I could not help but think that such concepts as design thinking, emotional intelligence, and introspection are rather commonsensical. It takes a French philosopher like Voltaire to break it to you – “Common sense is not so common.” It is all the more ironic that, despite being simple and almost obvious, more often than not we fail to engage in self-awareness, demonstrate empathy or even effectively connect with an audience. That is why such trainings are invaluable.
Hence, I cannot encourage potential applicants enough to become part of the Aspire community by participating in one of the three training platforms: for high school students, university folks and young professionals. First of all, Aspire has a significant impact thanks to the top notch academic pedigree, but, even more so, Aspire builds connections among highly motivated and successful people across the region and beyond. It offers a competitive edge to already resourceful people, bringing them one step closer to their goals. Finally, did I say that all this magic takes place in the heart of Romania’s Carpathian Mountains in the picturesque Poiana Brasov?
PS: Here is a taste of Steve Jarding’s eloquence and passion.
PSS: Steve Jarding is no stranger to Moldova either, where he recently provided media training and political consultancy to a prominent politician!