At the time that his client nominated him, Damon Taseff, MBA ‘08, was not familiar with the Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF). Now, he says he was truly blessed to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF) is German Marshall Fund’s (GMF) flagship leadership development program. Created in 1982 to introduce a new generation of European leaders to the United States, MMF grew in 1999 with a companion program that began sending emerging leaders from the United States to Europe. GMF awards 75 Marshall Memorial Fellowships each year to the best and brightest from all sectors, including business, government and civil society. Selected fellows engage in six months of preparation designed to enhance their understanding of transatlantic relations before embarking on 24 days of policy immersion across the Atlantic.
During this experience, Taseff took time off from his position as principal of Allegro Realty Advisors in Cleveland and traveled to Washington, DC; Brussels, Belgium; Frieburg, Germany; Rome, Italy; Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; and Paris, France. He was immersed in various topics pertaining to politics, immigration, economic policy, business and defense.
“Too often we get lost in the mundane activities that consume our daily agendas,” Taseff explains. “We check email, return voicemails and push paper all the while forgetting how much is really going on in the world and that we are each a very small piece of a much larger story going on globally.”
“Many times events on the other side of the world can seem so distant, but in reality they are not. This trip afforded me the opportunity to put my life in better focus. I was able to step away from my daily routine and appreciate the many issues confronting people in Europe and draw on similarities between the situations we face as Americans.”
Some highlights from his experiences included:
DC: Meeting with the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. and discussing the Russian incursion into Crimea
Brussels: Touring NATO and meeting with a number of high-ranking officials to talk off the record about U.S. and Europe defense issues and challenges
Frieburg: Discussing capital investment with a number of business owners and meeting with Green Party leaders to talk about the political system in Germany
Rome: Meeting with the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President to discuss geopolitical stability and Russia while enjoying a cup of coffee in the President’s Palace, and meeting with two economists at the Italian Federal Reserve to discuss economic growth in Italy, monetary policy and Italy’s lack of economic expansion
Sarajevo: Visiting Srebenica and talking with surviving family members from the massacre
Paris: Meeting with journalists to talk about the concept of free press in France and across Europe, and with a parliament member to discuss the lack of diversity in French government.
Taseff joins the nearly 2,500 other MMF alumni who have had similar experiences across the world. Michael Goldberg, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Design & Innovation at Weatherhead, and current Weatherhead global MBA student Keshia Johnson are both alumni of the program.
Moving forward, Taseff says he will stay connected to the fellowship and will continue to take advantage of conferences and workshops offered to alumni.
“By participating in this program I was able to improve my delegation and decision-making skills, especially as a result of having to leave the office and my personal life for such a long duration of time,” he explains. “I can already see how these incredible experiences, as well as the extensive network of MMF people, can really open a lot of doors for me in the future.”
Taseff shared that while Washington, DC, has the highest concentration of MMF alumni, the second highest concentration is found in Cleveland thanks in large part to the Cleveland Foundation’s collaboration with the fellowship.
“What I’ve really taken away from this experience is that, even within business, we need to slow down our decision-making processes,” Taseff reflects. “Only in an inclusive society will everyone have a voice and the opportunity to express themselves and be heard.”