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“It changed my life.”

Brett RobertsThat’s how CSU Monterey Bay student body president Brett Roberts summed up his time at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy’s student leadership seminar.

Nearly 30 student body presidents and other elected student leaders from throughout the California State University system, Santa Clara University, Dominican University of California and St. Mary’s College attended the seminar June 16-23 on the CSUMB campus.

The objectives of the seminar, called Education for Leadership in Public Service, are to teach leadership principles, strategies and practices; to send the students back to their campuses and communities as more effective leaders; and to encourage them to pursue lives of public service.

Roberts, a senior computer science major from Moss Beach, especially enjoyed the presentations by guest speakers, including state and regional political leaders, heads of military institutions, and criminal justice, business, media and sports leaders. Topics ranged from consensus building to criminal justice.

Frank Hespe, a local lawyer, was one of his favorites. “He put us through a mock exercise of balancing a $700,000 budget with a $100,000 deficit and assigned us to represent – and fight for – various interests groups,” Roberts said.

“The lesson is the skill of compromise and consensus-building. I enjoyed this exercise because we all took it so seriously and the gridlock arguments we were having made me think of our own legislature and how hard it is to get things passed.”

At the end of the eight days, the students gave presentations on their thoughts and definition of leadership and how they planed to apply the lessons they learned to their academic, professional and political objectives.

“It has reinforced my core beliefs on what a good leader is,” Roberts said a day after finishing the seminar. “I saw leaders from all walks of life and saw that leadership qualities were all very core values within them.

“This will help with my role as Associated Students president. Not only has it helped me learn about being an effective leader, but it has strengthened a bond between me and the presidents from the other CSU campuses.”

Since the leadership seminars started in 2000, nearly 400 students have participated.

“There’s no question that what we do is to help the students think how leaders think,” Sylvia Panetta, co-chair and CEO of the Panetta Institute, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “We also encourage the students to continue their education.”

Learn more about the Panetta Institute for Public Policy and its programs.