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Of pandemic proportions: Stubblefield Institute Leadership Academy analyzes COVID-19

By Staff | Mar 13, 2020

One-hundred-and-fifty high school students from across the Eastern Panhandle and Maryland participate in the Stubblefield Institute Leadership Academy in the Storer Ballroom on March 2. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — When Shepherd University Assistant Professor of Political Science and Global Studies Samuel Greene first suggested the discussion topic of dealing with a pandemic for the first Stubblefield Institute Leadership Academy in Sept. 2019, he had no clue just how appropriate that topic would become.

But, after that initial idea was approved, he continued over the following months to develop ideas for the 150 high school students in the academy to think about and discuss. In December, Greene heard about the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan, China, and began adding that situation into the academy’s concepts.

“I added in some coronavirus-related resources a few months ago,” Greene said, during the academy event in the Storer Ballroom on March 2, after the large group had split into three groups for discussion of which of the suggested choices they would support, for dealing with the pandemic.

The nominated academy members represented high schools from throughout the Eastern Panhandle and Maryland, along with one local home school student.

“The students came with positivity and were very well-prepared. To me, the most important thing, was not any specific policy option, but it was in thinking through the policy decision process that the groups have to make,” Greene said, mentioning the students surprised him, in their quick agreement on one solution. “One thing that surprised me, was the number of students that were comfortable shutting down the U.S. borders. I thought that would be a difficult choice.”

The keynote speaker for the academy was West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, who discussed the importance of leaders learning from their experience, by sharing some of his own successes and failures with the academy members.

“The contribution of my general discussion about leadership, and then following that up with the discussion about something like the coronavirus, I thought that was appropriately timed,” Warner said. “Politics is the right place for this to take place, because that is where medication decisions and other issues are addressed.

“Right now, people talk about politics being so polarized. A lot of it is because of fake news and misinformation, and I believe that an institute that’s designed for political and civil discourse can pierce through that,” Warner said, mentioning he was glad to speak at the event, as he completely supports the purpose of the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications.

“I just hope that they have a new perspective on leadership — they can see that sometimes failure is inevitable, but honing in on that and addressing that in an effective way is the way that leadership can and should be,” said Communications and Events Manager Sarah Burke, whose statement that the institute hopes to continue holding the institute on an annual basis was confirmed by institute director David Welch.

The academy, which provided breakfast and lunch to its attendees, was sponsored by CNB Bank, represented at the event by Josh Householder.

To learn more about the institute, visit stubblefieldinstitute.org.