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Kennedy Center Annual Meeting Reflection and Report

The Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education Annual Meeting is a provocative, rewarding, and beyond worthwhile professional development experience…EVERY YEAR! I attend as part of the “Michigan 1997” partnership team, which also includes Robin Bailey (Ann Arbor Public Schools), Jennifer Scott-Burton (Washtenaw Intermediate School District), and Jim Leija (UMS). We get great work done as a team and spend individual time thinking slow, reflecting, and connecting with colleagues from around the country.

Some highlights:

Equally as significant as the convening’s great content delivery was the precipitation delivery that shutdown DC, documented through many tweets.




MI 1997 was highly engaged in leadership roles at this year’s conference…maybe more so than any other team:

  • The whole MI 1997 was a lead presenter in two sessions: “Making Partnerships Work” and “Preparing to Bring Students to Performances and Exhibits
  • Jim gave a presentation on the new UMS TalkOut program at the “Bright Ideas” session (check out the slides)
  •  Robin is on the National Advisory Committee and had various facilitation duties
  • Omari was on the Nominating Committee for the Advisory Committee

Other presenters led wonderful sessions too:

  • Daniel Pink motivated us with his talk about embracing unconstrained work time…”Fedex Time”
  • Ryan Hourigan spoke about the power of making the arts accessible and inclusive to students in special education programs (he’s a U-M PhD alum too!)
  • Eric Jansen presented compelling and fully digestible brain research highlighting the connections between arts learning and personal development
  • ALSO, Barbara Shepherd, Garry Golden, and Eric Booth extended their streaks of presenting bold ideas that invite paradigm shifts in thinking.


We get LOTS done too…and this this year we actually REDESIGNED our UMS K-12 Program!!! More soon…

Three Take Aways

  1. Commit to a Gaudy Goal: something that’s big, ridiculous, and creates stretch
  2. Make Learning Links Explicit: Sometimes the links are so obvious that we forget to do this.
  3. Integrate Advocacy: To be effective, impact assessment and sharing needs to be embedded rather than added on

Our team finds bits of inspiration throughout the Annual Meeting, and some of that comes from hearing what’s inspiring others around the country.

 Photos: From L to R: Barbara Shepherd with Jennifer Scott-Burton (left) and Omari Rush with Eric Booth (right).


What inspires you, Barbara?
“Connecting people to the people they need to know or connecting people to the resources they need to have. That’s what inspires me to come to work every day.”

— Barbara Shepherd, Kennedy Center’s National Partnerships Director, overseeing programs such as the Partners in Education Program and Any Given Child Initiative

What’s inspiring Eric Booth right now??
“El Sistema! Never before has he encountered an idea that has spread around the world with so many different manifestations, but that all have the same core idea of intense arts engagement that produces significant and meaningful social benefits, and each county working within El Sistema has unique social benefits that they are looking to realize. He’s really excited about this moment in time!”

 — Eric Booth (who is described as “the father of the teaching artist profession” and “one of the 50 most important US arts leaders.”)

Photo: Robin Bailey (right) and Kathy Dewsbury-White (left)


What inspires you, Kathy?
“My great colleagues…the good ideas around the US…yeah, that’s what inspires me!”

 — Kathy Dewsbury-White, Arts-Related and Integrated Professional Learning Coordinator for the Ingham Independent School District, and a member of the MI 2007 partnership team.

…and Jim captured video of his inspiration probe:

Now, back in Ann Arbor, our task is to use our refreshed minds to spur the positive change and development we envisioned at the Annual Meeting…it’s definitely possible…and already happening.

At On the Road with UMS

Photo by Bill Shell.

Jim Leija, UMS Director of Education & Community Engagement, with members of the cast of “Shakespeare in the Arb,” Maria Thomas, Martin Walsh, and Jean Leverich at On the Road, our annual fundraiser for UMS Education & Community Engagement programs.