Yesterday morning Matt, Dyana, and I sat down for brunch at the Claremont with Dr. Luong and one of his guest lecturers and close friends--Jessie, a local social worker in Martinez (As well as the ILC staff). As soon as we were placed around him at our table, Dr. Luong launched into speech at once. His casualness was very comforting, and while it was hard to break his flow, he organized his speaking in ways that needed minimal prompting from us. He was blunt at times, and calculating at others, but always a compelling speaker.
I was struck by his honesty and practicality as he described his program as well as when he extolled advice on college and life in general. He spoke openly about the importance of relationships and emotional maturity in our lives, and I found it interesting how often he steered the conversation towards these ideas. He Illustrated this in his obvious bond with Jessie, a friend of his for over 20 years. Moreover, his refreshing take on the necessity of happiness in one's education was a comforting view, especially coming from a high ranking professor at a top university.
Like his program, Dr. Luong places an emphasis on the holistic view of success. That, other than prodigies on the order of Stephen Hawking, without social skills and a strong overall character it is hard to get far in life. He impressed upon us the importance of having a broad perspective, and the danger of assumptions as a leader. He described himself as a middle-aged nondescript Asian man with glasses wearing a Costco shirt and posed the question of how anyone could know that he was a Yale professor, more than that a skilled marksman and an ex-downhill skier, driving his point home neatly.
While piling my plate on a return trip to the buffet, I was also affected by a wonderful conversation with Jessie about the role of empathy in leadership, as well as a certain moral consciousness that a leader should develop.Thoroughly impressed by Dr. Luong's taste in staff I asked him about his faculty, and as he described his staff members and guest lecturers, many with very different approaches, ideas, backgrounds I became more and more enthralled with the program.
It is hard to encapsulate a brunch so full of ideas and conversation. However as I walked away I was most impressed by the emphasis he placed on perspective in leadership, and empathy for those who one is leading. I felt as if I had been honored with the inside scoop on college, leadership, and life, from someone who makes considering many perspectives a primary concern. I now hope more than ever to be accepted into the program and experience the vision Dr. Luong assembled for us during our short meal.