“The Magic of the Schloss”

When I told my peers at Davidson that I was going to be working for Salzburg Global Seminar with my Davidson Impact Fellowship, a common response was, “Oh, that’s the one that goes to Austria, isn’t it?”

Though I do a whole lot more in the DC office, I did have the chance to visit Salzburg, where the Salzburg Global magic happens.


For about two weeks in October, I had the opportunity to work from the main office of Salzburg Global Seminar in Salzburg, Austria. And “office” is incredibly misleading – the organization is based in Schloss Leopoldskron, an 18th-century Archbishop-Prince’s family-residence-turned-home-of-Max-Reinhardt-turned-hotel. And, no, I never got used to the fact that we staff ate lunch in a room off the kitchen that would have suited 1740s church-state royalty.

I wasn’t sent to Salzburg just to admire the architecture, though. In DC, I’m on the development team, working to fundraise from individuals and institutions for what happens in Salzburg.

So what does happen at Salzburg? Quick history lesson: Salzburg Global Seminar was founded in 1947 (we’re celebrating 70 this year!) by three young men from Harvard who envisioned a “Marshall Plan for the mind” to help Europe recover from WWII. For six weeks during the summer, men and women from all over Europe – people who had been enemies just months before – gathered at Schloss Leopoldskron for a session on American Studies. The topic was chosen for its relative neutrality, but over the course of the session, participants – some of whom had been members of the Nazi Party and others who had been active in resistance movements across Europe – became comfortable enough to discuss their own countries and issues.

Today, Salzburg Global Seminar is a nonprofit that includes many other sessions in addition to American Studies, ranging from healthcare to environmental care, genocide prevention to corporate governance. Both current and rising leaders from all over the world come together for about a week at the Schloss for each session to exchange different perspectives on global problems, and come up with solutions.

All this I had read and written about many times in DC, but I’ll admit I didn’t have a complete grasp on what Salzburg Global really did. Until I got to Salzburg, that is.


The thing that struck me was the “magic of the Schloss.” I had seen that phrase back in DC, and was admittedly a bit skeptical. But as it turns out, there is a magic to this place. From the stunningly beautiful library (with a secret staircase!) to the rococo-style rooms to the grounds with the stone seahorses, Leo and Mo (who make an appearance in the lake scenes in The Sound of Music), there was a definite tranquility all around.

The other part of the “magic of the Schloss” was the thought-provoking conversations that happened between the Fellows. I helped out with the sixth annual Young Cultural Innovators session, during which about 60 twenty-five to thirty-five-year-old artist-activists and social innovators from around the world convened at the Schloss. To say that these people were fascinating, inspiring, and just really cool would be an understatement. (There was also an unexpected Davidson reunion – one of the participants was Calley Anderson, ’14!)

In addition to the scheduled lectures, workshops, and panels, these Fellows organized their own discussions to get further into the issues – including a “Shop Talk” conversation based on barbershop culture – complete with uncomfortable questions and an actual haircut! I really believe there’s something about the atmosphere created by the sessions at Salzburg Global that allows people to ask hard, awkward, and prickly questions and discuss them in a totally open manner – not unlike some of the experiences I had in classrooms at Davidson. That’s the real magic of the Schloss, and the core of what Salzburg Global does.

One night, some of the Fellows organized a program – “The Schloss is Alive” – to exhibit some of their work that they had done in the past, and some they had collaborated on together in the past few days. I wish I could do it justice. The work they showed – documentaries related to their own First Nation community, photography as art and activism, an animated video to a jazz-traditional-Albanian song – and the passion that was obvious in their presentations was honestly moving. And seeing a Japanese musician, Nigerian rapper, South African poet, Canadian pianist, and Japanese dancer – people that had met just days before – perform a beautiful piece all together was something that embodies what can happen at Salzburg Global.


Back in May, when I was explaining my new job and organization to various people, I occasionally got the very skeptical reply, “Okay… so they basically get people together to talk for a few days?”

Okay, basically, maybe. But this is truly transformative talking that happens, with connections and collaborations and projects that last well beyond the week at the Schloss. I’ll admit there are moments of frustration in writing fundraising appeals for an organization that doesn’t have tangible and easily-quantifiable results. But how many of us have had our perspective shifted from a conversation with someone totally different than us, but with similar interests and passions? How many of us have driven ourselves in circles with an impossible problem, only to have someone come in and flip the puzzle around, suddenly revealing a whole new set of possibilities? That’s what I saw happen at Salzburg Global.

So, given all that, I must have been super bummed to get back to the daily grind of DC, right?

Well, not so much. While I miss my co-workers across the Atlantic and the verified magic of the Schloss, I was really excited to get back to DC and contribute what I can to this organization, now that I’ve seen it in action.

Plus, there is something to be said for home sweet home… even if it’s not an Austrian palace.

A Touch of Program

A Touch of Program

2015 Cutler Fellows, Faculty and Staff gather for a group photo in the United States Institute of Peace atrium.

Over the course of my Fellowship with Salzburg Global Seminar, I have focused the majority of my time in fundraising. Juggling the many projects in support of both institutional and individual giving for Salzburg Global keeps me busy, to say the least. Solicitations, grant proposals and reports are constantly circulating among the members of our team. We are always looking ahead to what is next on our fundraising plates and rarely do we have the time to stop and reflect about the end product – yes, the actual seminars.  So, witnessing the development team’s fundraising efforts come to fruition in successful, dynamic programs has been one of the most rewarding parts of my Davidson Impact Fellowship – first through the Young Cultural Innovators Forum in Salzburg and, more recently, in the third annual Salzburg Cutler Law Fellows Program in Washington D.C.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Cutler Salzburg Fellows Program brought together 45 law students from the ten of the top American law schools; University of Chicago, Columbia, Duke University, Georgetown University, Harvard, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, University of Virginia, and Yale. This two-day session was built around a unique workshop opportunity for students writing papers on topics within international law and legal practice. Students circulated their papers among their working groups and Faculty members before arriving in Washington. The program provided a platform for every student to receive approximately 30 minutes of critique on his or her paper from a group of individuals with fresh eyes and ideas.

I served as the photographer for Cutler Fellows program, floating between the workshop groups to capture snapshots of new interactions and lively discussions. I also attended the lectures and panels dispersed throughout the program from law school Faculty and other leaders in international law, including John Bellinger III (former Legal Advisor to the US Department of State and National Security Council under the George W. Bush administration),  Jeffrey Rosen (President and CEO, National Constitution Center) and The Honorable Justice Richard Goldstone (former Chief Prosecutor to the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda). The students seemed excited to network with each other and engage with the program’s special guests. Seeing the program from start to finish was not only a nice break from the typical day in the office but also a nice reminder for why I do the work I do with Salzburg Global.

A Touch of Program

International Investment & Trade Negotiations panel with law school faculty members Rachel Brewster (Duke), moderator William Burke-White (University of Pennsylvania), Mark Wu (Harvard) and Jose Alvarez (NYU).

A Touch of Program

Cutler Fellows discuss their own papers in break-out groups. Each paper received an estimated 30 minutes of critique from students and faculty of other law schools.

A Touch of Program

The Honorable Justice Richard Goldstone speaks on ‘Personal Reflections on Law and Public Service’ at NYU Washington DC.

On Route to Munich

On Route to Munich

The Greek Fellows pose with our Arts & Culture Program Director, Susi Seidl-Fox (10/22/2014).

I am on route via train to Munich after a memorable, successful trip to Salzburg, Austria. My time in with the Salzburg Global Seminar staff in Salzburg was truly priceless on both professional and personal levels. Since my first week with Salzburg Global, I have consistently emailed, called, and Skyped with our staff “across the pond” to gather or provide information on program content and development progress. Many of our projects require collaboration between the Salzburg and Washington D.C. offices. Spending time in-person with my Salzburg colleagues allowed me place faces with names, learn more about how the organization works as a whole and move current projects forward after four months of electronic exchanges.

Before I dive into my time at Schloss Leopoldskron, let me first provide some background information on Salzburg Global Seminar and how I fit into the organization. And, since I am trying to kill time on this train, I will use a fictional conversation I had with a fictional stranger sitting across from me to explain. SCENE.

Stranger: So, why are you traveling from Salzburg to Munich?

Me: I am traveling for business. I work for Salzburg Global Seminar. Have you ever heard of it?

Stranger: No, I actually haven’t. What is Salzburg Global Seminar?

Me: Ah! This is a question I am more equipped to answer after spending a week in Salzburg. So, here goes. Salzburg Global Seminar is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that convenes “current and future leaders from around the world to solve issues of global concern.” I work in our Washington D.C. office location. With a few exceptions, all of our programs are held at Salzburg Global’s Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg. And, since our establishment in 1947, we have brought together 25,000+ Fellows to tackle important questions and international issues. Today, we categorize these programs into three crosscutting clusters: Imagination, Sustainability and Justice. My position with Salzburg Global is titled Davidson Impact Fellow. 

Stranger: Oh, I think I might have heard about that organization once before… What does it mean to be the Davidson Impact Fellow at Salzburg Global?

Me: My position is a product of a partnership between Salzburg Global and Davidson College. As the inaugural Davidson Impact Fellow, I work primarily with our Development team. “What is development?” you might ask. In the non-profit sector, development means fundraising. My position is unlike any other role with Salzburg Global, as I get to work on projects for both institutional and individual giving. This month, my typical day in the D.C. office consists of me juggling research for funding next year’s programs, spearheading the invitation lists for our annual Cutler Lecture, and supporting the design of Salzburg Global’s end-of-year email series to our fellowship network. But, my so-called normal day seems to change month-to-month with our added programs. On top of my development work, I also support the Office for the President with occasional projects.

Stranger: So, how long were you at the Salzburg office and what were you doing there? 

Me: I was working in the Salzburg office over the past nine days. The main purpose of my trip was to work, observe, and participate in the pilot session of Salzburg Global’s Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI). The YCI Forum is a ten-year program that brings together 50+ arts and culture leaders from around the world to develop their vision, entrepreneurial skills, and global networks needed to advance their organizations, their causes and their communities. Simply put, the idea is to have small groups of Fellows from 10-15 “Hubs” convene in Salzburg with other Hub groups year after year. After each YCI Forum, the Fellows return to their respective Hubs with access to a stronger local and international network of cultural leaders and innovators. Our goal is to 1) provide Fellows 4 applicable skills-training workshops for professional development and 2) facilitate collaborative projects within and across the Hubs. I was involved with some of the development research for this program, so it was very exciting experience the session from beginning to end. I attended a few of the workshops and met Fellows from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Slovakia, The Netherlands, Argentina, Austria, and the U.S. I am eager to see what collaborations evolve from the YCI Forum. Next month, I will join our Baltimore participants for a follow up meeting to hear their feedback on the program and thoughts for next year.


(And, the imaginary stranger was very blunt and uninterested in learning more). Until next time!

On Route to Munich

The YCI group gather in the Robinson Gallery to talk about the Hubs and projects in their local communities (10/19/2014).

On Route to Munich

Argentine Salzburg Global Fellows, Florencia Rivieri and Moira Rubio Brennan, during their visit into town (10/19/2014).

On Route to Munich

The view of Schloss Leopoldskron at night (10/20/2014).

Reflections at Schloss Leopoldskron

Since 1947, thousands of people have been invited to retreat at the Schloss Leopoldskron for Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS) programs. During their stay, our participants discuss large topics, forge new friendships with people around the world, and reflect on the work they have done and will do when they return home. Last week, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria to attend the pilot program of our ten-year long Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI). The session came to a close today. And, from my five days working, observing, and participating in the YCI Forum I became more attuned to the importance of a shared understanding of vocabulary and definitions of the selected vocabulary before diving into lengthy conversation. The participants had to pause, rewind, and ask: Do buzzwords like innovation or entrepreneur mean the same thing in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Austria, The Netherlands, Slovakia, England, Greece, and America? And, if not, what will those words mean in our discussion?

Reflections at Schloss Leopoldskron

Schloss Leopoldskron from across the lake (10/18/2014).

I apply this same logic to a word that has cause some confusion in my time working with SGS. The word is fellow. See the three relevant definitions below.

Fellow (fel-oʊ), n. 1. (informal) a man or a boy; 2. (usually fellows) A person in the same position, involved in the same activity, or otherwise associated with another; 3. (also research fellow) An elected graduate receiving a stipend for a period of research. Source: Oxford Dictionaries.

I have seen all three uses of fellow used in just one day in the office. Distinguishing the three from one another is important for my explaining what I do (and for the sake of my future blog posts). Definition 1 . is pretty straight forward and may be used from time to time though not often. Definition 2. is applied to the individuals who are participating or have participated in Salzburg Global programs. Our organization uses the word fellowship for our alumni network of 25,000+ fellows linked through the shared experience of the Seminar. Last, definition 3. is most applicable to me and my role with SGS. I stretch “period of research” to my one-year position in non-profit development supported by both Davidson College and SGS. Although, now that I have participated in the YCI Forum I could argue I fit both definitions 2. and 3.

More to come soon on the YCI Forum and my takeaways from the lectures, workshops, and conversations I joined.

Reflections at Schloss Leopoldskron

My view of Untersberg from the Schloss Leopoldskron (10/16/2014).