Resources for Student Veterans

CCPE’s mission is centered around helping our students advance or change career paths. Our student body consists of working professionals, many of whom are active duty or veterans, so we understand the busy lives and shifting responsibilities of our students. As we honor the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces today, we’d like to share some resources to help our student veterans be successful:

GUSVA+Formal+Logo+1Georgetown University Student Veterans Association (GUSVA) does more than advocate for veterans issues on campus. GUSVA provides a community where student veterans can network, socialize, and help each other achieve their educational and career goals. Learn more.

VESO-Logo-HomeThe VA’s Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO) has a variety of online career tools including a Military Skills Translator to help service members convert their military experience into civilian terms and a Profile & Resume Builder where veterans can create a public profile for employers committed to hiring veterans. Learn more.

logo_ACEprintThe American Council on Education (ACE) is an excellent source of information for those seeking veteran-friendly universities and academic programs. ACE Veterans’ Programs promote access to and success in higher education for service members, veterans, and their families, and offer a variety of education and career readiness tools. Through advocacy, research and innovative programs, ACE can help student veterans make the right decisions about continuing their education. Learn more.

Want to join the conversation? Georgetown is hosting a number of events during the month of November to honor service members and raise awareness of key issues. Click here for more veterans news.

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Innovation Nation

innovationFrom November 8- 10, Georgetown University hosted the 2015 edX Global Forum  in Washington, DC.  edX is a global consortium of universities dedicated to connecting learners to the best universities and institutions from around the world. edX is a platform for MOOCs – massive online open courses. Georgetown University is a founding charter member of edX along with Harvard, MIT, UC-Berkeley, and many others.

Megan Smith, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO), was the keynote speaker. Appointed by President Obama as the first female CTO, she has lead the Office of the Chief Technology Officer since 2014.  What does the Office of the CTO do? Megan highlighted three priorities: (1) increase the “technology quotient” (TQ) of the federal government (i.e. make government more tech-savvy); (2) improve public access to government services via technology; and (3) drive innovation through education. The third priority caught the attention of the audience, which consisted of university presidents, deans, provosts, and faculty.

Megan spoke of education as the foundation of our “innovation nation”.  Yes, the U.S. has always been an innovation nation, though the the stakes are much higher now.  We have so many billion dollar problems to solve – from climate change to global hunger to migration – that we need all the talent available.  Moreover, the notion of studying for the first 20 or so years of your life and then stopping to focus on a career is obsolete. Learning and education are now constants – and a must-have – for individuals everywhere.  Yes, we are all full-time students – now and forever. As an innovation nation, we must start experimenting in education and move away from a “factory” system that caters to younger minds only to a flexible, just-in-time system that supports all learners, regardless of age, nationality, or gender.

220px-Megan_SmithSo you would think – as the USCTO – she would launch into exciting new technologies, apps, or services to support life-long learning. But she didn’t. Instead, she talked about culture. Why? Experienced leaders know that culture trumps technology – and culture trumps strategy – every single time. You can have the best technology and strategy in the world, but they are worthless without a culture that values them. She challenged educators to put fun back into learning. Yes, fun! Happy people make great learners!  She talked about how passion and kindness count – not just test scores. Creativity is often a function of passion and kindness. Why kindness? Because it is a “kind” culture – a culture that accepts diversity and difference – that cultivates creativity and solutions to billion dollar problems.

So what about universities?  Megan challenged universities to be more porous – allow more people, and ideas, both in and out.  There is a global hunger for learning and universities should meet that demand.  She also challenged universities to be at the forefront of countering bias; not so much explicit bias – which doesn’t occur as much – but implicit and unconscious bias that unknowingly pervades the choices and decisions we make, both individually and collectively, from hiring to voting to educating. Why? Again, it goes back to kindness and creating a culture that allows diversity and talent to flourish. Translation: technology won’t solve our problems; people will.

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The College Scorecard: What’s New?

President Obama recently announced a revised College Scorecard (, an online tool designed to provide easily accessible data on higher education institutions. The revamped College Scorecard is an effort to provide information for students, parents and the public to compare colleges without relying on commercially published rating systems. In fact, it is the outcome of efforts by the administration to devise its own college rating system, which was abandoned because of serious concerns about the complexity of rating institutions with different missions, profiles and resources against each other.

The US Department of Education has published information on colleges through the College Navigator and the old College Scorecard for many years. So what is new here? First, the updated College Scorecard website is much easier to navigate and understand, with clear graphics and comparison tools. Second, information about earnings of graduates six and 10 year out and repayment of student loans is included. This information was either not publicly available or difficult to access previously. Third, the raw data behind the tables is available to colleges and researchers, so that they can combine it with their own data sources to make more extensive information available.

All of this represents a significant step forward in providing prospective students and their families with important, valid and reliable information in the college selection process. It focuses users on important metrics such as graduation rates, earning potential and education costs. But the College Scorecard has some weaknesses as well. First, it looks only at overall institutional outcomes. Earnings, for example, vary significantly by field. Data is not available to compare what engineering graduates from different institutions earn, or to distinguish between earnings of teachers and computer scientists. Second, data is available only on first-time, full-time students, and only for students who start and finish at one institution. This group represents only a small portion of today’s higher education student population.

Should people use the College Scorecard? Absolutely. It is a wonderful tool to learn more about individual schools and to compare factors important in education decisions. But it should be a first step in the process of evaluating higher education institutions. Tools such as the Student Achievement Measure (, which includes transfer and part-time students and four, five and six year graduation rates in its database, are good sources. And the websites of colleges and universities provide great information. Key words to search for are “at a glance,” “fact book,” “quick facts,” and “student outcomes.”

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InXpress Americas – Franchise Management Certificate

Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, Corporate and Custom Education department just wrapped up a customized Franchise Management Certificate program for InXpress Americas. A North American division global courier service, sought to expand and strengthen their franchise network in the southwestern U.S. by investing in their franchise leaders and owners. This program took place over the course of 6 days ending with a certificate completion ceremony on the last day after their last class. Taught by subject matter expert Ben Litalien of Franchise Well, students had a very insightful experience and were able to build on their current knowledge and brand success.

Here is a quote from one of the franchise owners of the InXpress Americas Franchise Management Program:

“I have 25 years’ experience in international franchising and I was astonished at how everything I had learnt in 25 years was fully covered in a number of days by Ben. I was equally amazed to learn so many new things. Ben is not only a global master of his subject, his delivery and teaching methods are both engaging and inspirational. I would strongly recommend his courses as world leading and certainly the best I have ever attended.”

Kind regards Mark
Mark Taylor (Global CEO)


The Center for Continuing and Professional Education has worked with several organizations to provide education, industry knowledge and trends to enhance employees worldwide. If you’d like more information on training for your organization, please visit our website at or contact us at / 202-687-7000.

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Discover Your T-Score

letter_THave you ever been the hiring authority for a vacant position, written a position description, or performed a job interview? The diversity in submitted applications can be broad to say the least! How do you choose and what makes an application stand out? Hiring managers are looking for candidates who have subject matter expertise (depth) and the soft skills (breadth) that will contribute to the organization. The Education Advisory Board has released the first two white papers in a four-part series on Creating T-Shaped Professionals, a new concept when searching for well- rounded candidates.

The “T-Score” concept draws from the desire for new employees to have strong soft skills (e.g. collaboration, critical thinking, and leadership abilities) while also demonstrating specific skill expertise (depth). The ideal candidate will have both breadth and depth in their professional toolbox and hiring managers are developing ways to scan an application in order to determine a candidate’s “T-Score.”

This comes out simultaneously with the start of a new academic year, and at a time when the value of a liberal arts education is debated nationwide. The main argument is that having “hard”, technical skills isn’t sufficient, even in the tech world. George Ander’s August 17 story in Forbes, ‘Useless Liberal Arts Degree has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket’ shared why a traditional liberal arts degree is valued by tech companies. Ander argues that strong soft skills – those often gained from a liberal arts education and what EAB refers to as the “T-Top” (breadth) – can have lasting contributions to a tech company. Traditionally, tech companies have a number of employees with strong “T-Stem” scores (depth), those with a deep expertise in a specific skill. So a candidate with a strong and balanced overall T-Score can bring new value and make the organization more resilient. Similarly, Valerie Strauss wrote Why the Tech World Highly Values a Liberal Arts Degree in the Washington Post on August 30, and included the email that Dartmouth associate professor Cecilia Gaposchkin wrote about the value of a liberal arts education.

As we embark on the 2015-2016 academic year, whether you are thinking of a job or career change, take a minute and think, how would a hiring manager review your “T-Score”? Do you need to strengthen the depth of your technical skills or the breadth of your soft skills? That score could help you land your next dream job.

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Inspired Living & the Pursuit of Happiness


Over the past year or so, I’ve seen many articles on the idea of choosing experiences over material things. One in particular, The Science of Why You Should Spend Money On Experiences, Not Things by Jay Cassano at FastCo, challenged me to think about what has inspired me in recent years to re-think my relationship with “things” and to compare myself, a Gen X-er, with other generations. Here’s what caught my attention: “We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories we tell each other.”

Many articles focus on millennials and their active pursuit of experiences, such as Millennials’ Zesty New Identity: The ‘Burning Man’ Generation by George Anders. Many suggest that the shift has occurred due to millennials, but I think it ties in with previous generations who are interested in minimalism.  The older you are, the more likely you’ve accumulated more things and feel settled in a career, but more and more people are contemplating how to create more meaningful lives without the clutter. So several generations are aiming for the same goals, but from different angles.

My introduction to a more minimal lifestyle came from a variety of blogs during the past five years. I don’t know the specific ages of the bloggers, but they skew older than millennial. The first one I found was Zen Habits, which the creator Leo Babuta says is, “…about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.” Many other blogs  followed, including: Miss Minimalist, who has achieved her goal state and now shares stories of other minimalists; Unclutterer, who doesn’t suggest you get rid of everything, but instead focus on how to organize the things you need and create a life that works for you; Married With Luggage, about a couple who sold everything and spent the last eight years traveling the world; and Zero Waste Home, whose creator Bea Johnson says “We feel happier and lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff. “

If you’re over 35 or 40, you’ve likely accumulated quite a lot over your life, some of it handed down by frugal, depression-era parents and grandparents, who taught us to hold tight to those possessions. There’s a definite cultural shift though, with more people  down-sizing, traveling the world, and going back to school. I can see this backed up by the number of people of all ages, and from all over the world, who enroll in certificate programs at CCPE, myself included. We are learning something new, seeking new experiences, and creating new social networks to share stories with. We are in pursuit of the experience, from which we gain meaning and happiness.

“By shifting the investments that societies make and the policies they pursue, they can steer large populations to the kinds of experiential pursuits that promote greater happiness.” – Dr. Thomas Gilovich and Amit Kumar, Experimental Social Psychology

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Examining Our Fear of Negotiating, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

Once you’ve figured out what’s holding you back, what your fear is, you can face it and prepare for salary negotiation. This preparation will give you confidence to move forward. Kim Keating breaks it down into four steps: Do Your Homework, Silence is Golden, Time to Negotiate, and Make a Decision.

As with any type of negotiation, you must do your research and have facts available to support your request. This is the homework phase. According to an article at, “Women who fail to negotiate their salaries at the start of their careers could leave up to $2 million on the table.” The amount you want now may seem small, but it can make a big difference over the course of your career. Assess your qualifications and skills, do research on salaries in your field, and, if possible, find out what people in the company are making. Think about why they need you and use credible compensation data so you can say that “this is the standard.”

When Keating says “silence is golden,” she’s suggesting not bringing up the actual salary amount until the right time. You want the employer to know your value before discussing any salary. Use the findings from your homework and consider all aspects of compensation, including benefits, tuition, and retirement to get an accurate picture of what you’re worth. She says to make that number as high as you can back into. Ask questions and determine what the offer is based on. Take the time to get your research together, even if you need more time. Susan Adams shares advice from career coach Ellie Chase in How to Negotiate Your Salary Once You Have the Job Offer, “A lot of people are afraid that if they ask for more time, the hiring manager will rescind the opportunity. But that doesn’t happen 99% of the time, he says.”

When it comes time for the actual negotiation, you’ve done the homework and can speak with confidence. Women tend to underestimate themselves, but this is not the time to back down, even though it’s true that women might experience more hurdles than men at this point. One such problem is what Keating calls the likeability-competency conundrum, where women who act authoritatively are disliked more than men. An article at, states that women may experience what is referred to as “…“gender blow-back”—a subtle but powerful punishment for stepping outside our cultural gender role.” This is an unfortunate reality, but one that can be overcome. Choose to defy the stereotypes and demand better pay.

Whatever you experience, it will help make your final decision. The turnout may be a best case scenario, just acceptable, or worst case. There are so many variables at this point that will affect your decision. Is it a good company to work for? Do they offer something that your current position doesn’t, so you’re willing to take their offer? Did the negotiations give you insight into the culture of the company, for better or worse? If they don’t match your criteria, it may result in a worst case scenario where you don’t get what you want and choose to walk away, but that’s not a defeat. The process has prepared you for the next negotiation. It’s up to all of us to face our fears. The result may be that we eventually change the culture surrounding salary negotiations for the betterment of all.

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2015 Summer College Immersion Program Closing Ceremony

Our Summer College Immersion Program came to a close on Saturday July 25, 2015 at Riggs Library with a banquet ceremony. Students from all over the U.S. spent 3 weeks on the campus of Georgetown University, During this time students reflected on what they thought the experience would be like; being away from home, meeting new people, experiencing college life as well as making new friends. They prepared a service project video to culminate their experiences. The Summer College Immersion program entailed centralized offices at Georgetown University discussing the college admission process and financial aide. Student panelists participated in speaking about college life, their experience with selecting courses/majors and schools to attend. Current high school students provided advice and how students should prepare as rising seniors as well as freshman’s once they attend college. The International Relations course included students from all over the world, that added a dynamic to the program that students would experience more diversity.

Students took an SAT prep exam which was followed-up with Capital Educators going over portions of the exam to prepare students for a successful score. The program was also designed for students to be be prepared to participate in mock college admission interviews. Some of the activities prepared for the students were a tour of the University of Maryland, a National’s game, visit to the Newseum and Kayaking. Important components of the program included icebreakers, reflecting, journaling and team building exercises.

Kyle Burns, Director of Custom Education and Instructional Design has been spearheading this program diligently for the past few years. Along with Georgetown University partners and sponsors, we are extremely proud of the work and perseverance of these students. We look forward to updates and seeing what lies ahead in their future. A special thanks goes out to the students of Cristo Rey and KIPP for embarking on this journey. We’d also like to thank Director; Antony Lopez, Assistant Director; Phillip Benevides, Mentors; Vismark Juarez, Oyetola Oyeyemi, Rachel Henry, Alejandra Baez, Michaela Gallien, Harper Weissburg and Selena Escalante for all of their hard work and time spent with the students during their visit to the hilltop. Special thanks goes out to Dean Kelly Otter, Associate Dean; Edwin Schmierer, President and CEO – Cristo Rey Network; Jane Genster and Director of College Support – KIPP through College – KIPP DC; Kamillah Holder for their continued support of this program and its mission. HOYASAXA!

Please click here to view the KIPP/Cristo Rey Students Service Project Video!

Please visit our website for more information on corporate and custom education at Georgetown University!

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Data Analysis and Art Intersect at MoMA

Seen at the The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on August 1, 2015.

Data Analysis-MOMA


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The Human Potential of Artificial Intelligence

bladeRunner_1456156aWhen your favorite movie is Blade Runner, you tend to think about artificial intelligence a lot. In the movie, several androids, skinjobs with built-in lifespans, set off for Earth to meet their maker in hopes of extending their lives (they weren’t supposed to be on Earth, but that’s not what this post is about). They are amazing beings with incredible strength and abilities, yet their emotional level is like that of a teenager trying to figure out why they exist and what it all means. They are built to serve not to think deep thoughts. Their journey is violent and when one skinjob finally meets the maker, Tyrell, we see a visionary who is self-absorbed and who never truly considered the consequences of creating such powerful beings.

In countless movies, I’ve seen different interpretations of AI, but never truly imagined any of them as reality. The year in which Blade Runner is set has already passed and we’re nowhere close to living in outer space or driving flying cars, so I’m not worried that AI will change my life for the worse. Andrew Ng, chief scientist of Baidu, has no worries, at least for a while. In an article on deep learning at Wired, he says, “I think that hundreds of years from now if people invent a technology that we haven’t heard of yet maybe a computer could turn evil.” I tend to agree with Andrew Ng, but some influential people are very concerned.

Liviu Nedelescu, in We Should Want Robots to Take Some Jobs, states, “According to Ray Kurzweil, Elon Musk and others, once artificially intelligent machines are able to design other machines, humans will become an endangered species.”  Stephen Hawking thinks, “…the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Bill Gates wonders why some people aren’t concerned. When people like that express apprehension you have to wonder how realistic AI might actually be and stop to consider that you should be worried too. Others though, see great potential.

Throughout history work has been automated and we’ve adapted (whether it was with a fight like the Luddites or gradual acceptance like computers). In Beyond Automation, Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby, reference David Autor, an economist at MIT. He writes about “strong complementarities.” He states that, “Tasks that cannot be substituted by computerization are generally complemented by it.” The authors call this “an augmentation strategy”, which they say “means starting with what humans do today and figuring out how that work could be deepened rather than diminished by machines.” They suggest that “creating meaning and innovating will be democratized through technology.”

This is where I perk up and imagine a world where the routine tasks are taken care of so that everyone can take on work that both challenges and fulfills them. This doesn’t have to be a new industrial age that will leave many people jobless, but it will require us to study our chosen profession and figure out what skills we have that can’t be automated. It has the possibility to change education in ways many of can’t even imagine. In the New York Times article, Relax, the Terminator Is Far Away, John Markoff quotes Sebastion Thrun, a roboticist, who says, “I’m a big believer that technology progresses by complementing people rather than replacing them.”

BladeRunner_Roy_TyrellMy greatest hope is that those creating and implementing the automation—the makers—take that idea to heart. Instead of being power-hungry like Tyrell in Blade Runner, makers choose to take a more enlightened approach and consider the effects on individuals, not just focus on the bottom line.

By the time AI is making great changes to civilization, I’ll be much too old to leave Earth for the off-world colonies where “a new life awaits” me … in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!” So for now I’m going to contemplate the creative potential and opportunity for more meaningful lives that technology can make happen.

“Let the machines do the things that are beneath you, and take the opportunity to engage with higher-order concerns.” – Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby, in Beyond Automation

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Eligible Certificate Programs for Veterans!

The Center for Continuing and Professional Education is proud to announce that eight additional certificate programs have been added to the list of eligible certificates for veterans! A variety of CCPE’s certificate programs are eligible for funding through the Department … Continue reading

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Examining Our Fear of Negotiating, Part 1

Working with certificate programs in non-credit education, you’ll find plenty of students who are looking to move up within their current organization or switch to a new career. They are achieving their educational goals, but when it comes time to make a decision on a job offer or ask for a raise, a big challenge is knowing how to leverage themselves to prove their worth. This is especially relevant for women because of the gender pay gap.

In June, CCPE partnered with Lean In DC, who hosted Kim Keating, founder and managing director of Keating Advisors, to speak on “Close the Wage Gap.” KeaKeating.2cropting’s years of experience in strategic human resources make her advice extremely valuable. On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, more than 50 attendees, men and women, attended the event and had the good fortune of getting her advice firsthand.

Keating started the conversation by asking what challenges attendees have faced. Answers were varied from “this is the maximum salary we can offer” (which is not true) to hostility at a job seeker’s attempt to negotiate. There are so many factors to consider when you’re making a decision whether or not to take a job. Sometimes you want the job so much that you’ll forgo negotiations just to get in. Or you won’t negotiate at all because of one or more of the following, which Keating cited as the top five factors affecting negotiation:

  1. salary being non-negotiable
  2. fear of being rejected
  3. lack of negotiation skills
  4. fear of not getting the job
  5. intimidated by the hiring manager / boss

Most attendees agreed that lack of negotiation skills was their biggest fear. Statistics from Keating Advisors show that less than 20% of HR directors have negotiated a raise for themselves and 96% of HR directors had no formal negotiation training. You might have expected different statistics for that particular group, but it illustrates that people aren’t negotiating. Which of the five factors are affecting you?

I’ll share more advice from Kim Keating and others in part 2.

Connect with Kim Keating and Keating Advisors on LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Read more from Kim Keating at The Huffington Post.

Suggested reading from Lean In DC:
Overcoming the Confidence Gap for Women, New York Times, June 12, 2015
How To Report Your Past Salaries In An Online Job Application, Forbes, July 14, 2014
Sorry, Recruiters! You’re Not Getting My Salary History, Liz Ryan, LinkedIn
#talkpay: can America’s wage inequality be solved by sharing our salaries online? The Guardian, May 2, 2015
Women’s Earnings and the Gender Wage Gap in the Washington Region, Washington Area Women’s Foundation


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Summer College Immersion Program – KIPP/Cristo Rey

College ImmersionGeorgetown University, in partnership with the Marineau Foundation and Roseti Family Foundation, provides a college immersion experience that prepares deserving students from the Cristo Rey and KIPP school networks, organizations that serve underprivileged, low-income, and diverse student populations, for college success. Students are typically first-generation college students. The three-week program brings 44 students together each summer on main campus to take courses in International Relations, Biology, and College Writing with Georgetown professors, live in residence halls, explore Washington, D.C., and participate in college-prep workshops. The program is designed for students who have aspirations to apply to the most selective colleges and universities.

This week our Summer College Immersion Program kicked off with students arriving on main campus on Sunday, July 5, 2015. They received warm welcomes from Dean Kelly Otter and Associate Dean Edwin Schmierer, followed by a presentation from Assistant Dean Amy Levine. During their three weeks, they will learn about university life from admissions to financial aid, tour the University of Maryland, take an SAT exam prep course, and complete university-level courses. They will also take part in reflection hours, book reviews, and health and wellness activities.

Over the last five years, about 200 KIPP and Cristo Rey students have participated in the summer college immersion program. 100% have been accepted in college and more than 85% have or are expected to graduate on time.

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Dog Tag Bakery – Business Administration Certificate – Cohort 2

The Center for Continuing and Professional Education at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies has just kicked off the second cohort of The Dog Tag Bakery’s Business Administration certificate program. Classes began the first week in June and will go through October 22, 2015. Georgetown University’s Custom Education division partners with Dog Tag Inc. to deliver the educational component of their Fellowship program, which serves wounded warriors, care givers and spouses in two cohorts each year. Dog Tag Inc. is an organization that seeks to provide a transformative opportunity for veterans with disabilities by offering an education at Georgetown University and real life work experience in their small business venture, Dog Tag Bakery. Upon completion of the Dog Tag Inc. (DTI) program, transitioned veterans are business ready, (professionally equipped) competitive and employable.

There are 11 students currently enrolled in cohort 2 and 7 students completed the previous cohort 1 in December 2014 and the grand opening of the bakery followed shortly after, pictures from that event can be found here.

Here are photos from our first Dog Tag Bakery Certificate Completion Ceremony, looking forward to sharing more in the coming months.

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The Courage Wall


By facing her own fears, Nancy Belmont created something that has struck a cord all over the world. Belmont was a student in the Leadership Coaching Certificate Program in 2013. Over the course of the program, she found her life heading down a new path. She was inspired to find a way to share her insights and eventually created the “Courage Wall.”

Over several weeks in May and June 2015, the wall (an 8-feet tall by 20-feet wide chalkboard) stood in Alexandria, VA. In large letters across the top, the board said “I Wish I Had the Courage to …” Below that there were 100 spaces where, every day for four weeks, passersby had the opportunity to complete the sentence.  By putting the idea out there, her message of courage has resonated throughout the area. Each day the board was filled anew. It became both a call to action and interactive public art.

The Courage Wall quickly gained national attention from major news outlets and then international attention, including an Aljazeera broadcast that went out to 35 million people and a tweet by first lady Michelle Obama. Belmont says that the wall was “a reaction to hearing clients (and myself) say over and over again that they couldn’t possibly be more of who they are because they were afraid of what would happen if they did.”

We asked Nancy about her life, work, and the Courage Wall.

How did you get to where you are now?

After working with countless leaders (and myself) I was driven to raise the consciousness of how fear holds us back from living bigger, bolder, more authentic lives. Inspired by Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” community chalkboards, I decided to erect a “Courage Wall” in my neighborhood. This 20’ x 8’ chalkboard reads, “I wish I had the courage to…” Each day, for a month, the board would fill up with over 100 declarations of courage.

There were entries like “…check into a shelter,” “…earn less money,” “…forgive my daughter for her drug addiction,” “…finish my book,” “be the man she thinks I am.” People from all walks of life poured their hearts out onto the board. Husbands and wives found new connections. Parents and children learned new things about each other. Strangers cried together.

CourageWall_4The Courage Wall was so powerful it ended up in the Washington Post, Forbes, ABC and even on the TODAY Show. Aljazeera broadcast the story of the wall around the world to 35 million and even Voice of America Russia did a spot. The global hunger for the courage conversation became very apparent, so I started to work on how I could make it an integral part of my business.

We are in the process of creating Courage Walls for new communities, developing an online Courage Community and launching Courage Conversations events in the near future. We are partnering with non-profits to bring more courage to their constituents and working with teachers to develop Courage Curriculum. Courage, it seems, resonates with everyone. And it’s high time we had more of it!

What are your future goals?

I am very excited about continuing the conversation on courage. I learned some things from the Courage Wall that are important for all of us to remember. First, fear is part of what it is to be human. Fear lives in each one of us; it’s the way that we interact with the fear that determines how boldly we live. Second, there is more inside of each of us than we are today. Each of us has hopes and dreams of being more authentic, more impactful, more courageous than we are. I believe that if we can continue the courage movement, individuals, and our world, will be more vibrant, fruitful and alive.

Learn more about Nancy and the journey that led her to create the “Courage Wall” here.

The Courage Wall will be up at the Ballston Mega Market, Welburn Square, from July 2-31. Stay updated on the Courage Wall by following We Live Big on Twitter and Facebook.

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Write Code, Any Code: Advice to Future Data Scientists

code_exampleThe Georgetown Data Science Certificate program sets ambitious goals for students— cramming software and statistics into 108 hours for a semester, while also expecting students to work on and produce innovative capstone results. Most students come out of the programming realizing how worthwhile the approach is; while data science is a team sport, effective members of data teams are “jack-of-all-trades” who can adapt and do a variety of jobs at any given time. In order to be successful in the certificate program, and more generally, in the hypothesis-driven world of data science; I hope you will consider the following tips digesting all of the information we’re throwing at you.

  1. Write code, any code. The best way to learn is by doing. Your code doesn’t have to be pretty; just make it do something, anything. Just like writing, you have to write bad stuff in order to refine it into the good stuff. Ideas of what to do should not be a blocker – on the forums we have many simple suggestions of small software projects to write, better yet go to codeeval for small programming challenges.
  2. Note what’s troubling you. You have a lot to explore; mark down the interesting stuff that you’re struggling with, and then back off of it for a bit. Return when you’re ready to explore the topic in depth.
  3. Focus on what you’re good at. Not everyone is a programmer, not everyone is a statistician, not everyone can be a domain expert. Whatever interests you, whatever talent you have—augment what we’re discussing with that. One clear example: data narratives are of increasing importance; folks who have a journalist’s background focus on these types of projects and apply the data science pipeline to the act of creating data stories.
  4. Find your own workflow. Windows users will probably find that combining Windows Explorer (or Finder on Mac) with the Terminal will help them better understand what they’re doing. Use an IDE like PyCharm or Spyder or just a simple text editor. If you don’t understand command line git—get the GUI version. Combine the tools you know with the ones that you don’t in order to have the best results.
  5. Relax into it and absorb. When information is coming at you like a firehose, don’t get lost in the details. Instead try to take in the whole picture and note topics, terms, or anecodotes that you either found interesting, or didn’t understand completely. Come back to them during the week in a non-class session.
  6. Follow up. Finally, follow up with your instructors. Ask for pointers to more material or specific questions from the notes you took. Use the forums to discuss with your classmates. Use the study cubbies at Georgetown to get together to work on the material, software, or machine learning topics. Don’t be an island!

Data science is exploratory in nature—innovation happens when we apply data inference techniques to new data sets or new methods to older data sets. As a result, you’re embarking on a career whose predominate feature is continuing education. The certificate program will give you the tools and terminology to make you dangerous, to introduce you to the topics you need to explore in depth. By using the above strategies, I hope that you will quickly be able to discover a career path that is more technical and more hypothesis driven.

Post written by Benjamin Bengfort, Data Science instructor and advisor. Read more about Ben here

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Demand for Litigation Support Specialists Increasing

cowen2014The Cowen Group, a leading provider of staffing and recruiting for Litigation Support professionals, notes in its 2014 Ninth Annual Salary Survey Report that “as a whole, corporations are predicting the biggest increased demand for Analysts, Paralegals, eDiscovery Attorneys, and Consultants.” According to this report, Washington D.C. salaries for Litigation Support Specialists are 44% above median nationwide salaries, reaching $130,000.

Salaries are also expected to increase according to, especially for litigation support specialists, though salaries vary based on practice area, experience, location, and industry. Prospective students are encouraged to research salary expectations on,, and Search for paralegal, litigation support, or litigation specialist positions.

Research provided by Corey Brooks, Director, Georgetown University Paralegal Studies Program

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Why You Should Care About Bitcoin

bitcoinWhen most people think about bitcoin – the cryptographic digital currency launched in 2009 by the pseudonymous programmer Satashi Nakamoto – they think of an obscure, online money scheme subject to wild swings in value, fraud, and illegal activity. This is the narrative the media has told.  But what is often missed is an understanding of the underlying concept and technology that supports bitcoin, called the blockchain.

Blockchain technology has the potential to be a disruptive force in society, and worth paying attention to if you work in finance, law, or real estate; plan to get get married, have children, or buy a house; or live in a developing country with no access to banks or financial resources.  Yes, it’s potentially that important.

I won’t discuss the technical details of the blockchain – Wikipedia does a good job of that – but it’s important to understand how the world works now and why blockchain technology is different.

Today, we depend on central authorities to function. Think of the government and banks. One important problem they solve is trust. If I want to buy a car from a dealership, how does the the dealership know I have the financial resources to do so?  In other words, how do they trust me?  Well, they look at my credit score, social security number, possibly bank statement or work history, etc. to verify who I am and what I have.  This is all verified by some central authority – an authority that holds records – a private ledger – about me in some protected vault or server to which I have no access.

But there are several problems with this. First, sometimes central authorities abuse their power – think of the financial crisis when banks collapsed because of fraudulent lending and millions of people lost their jobs.  Second, sometimes central authorities lose records, or make recording mistakes.  It happens all the time. Third, other people can steal my records or the hack the system to access my record for fraudulent purposes e.g. identity theft. Fourth, a system dependent on central authorities such as credit card companies is expensive. Finally, central authorities can sometimes be inaccessible, especially to the underprivileged. There are a lot of poor people who are “unbanked” – they can’t get access to a bank or don’t trust banks.

So how does the blockchain technology get around all this? In one sentence: it is a secure, decentralized, verifiable, permanent, unhackable, secure, and multipurpose public ledger.  What does that mean? Ok, let’s unpack all those adjectives:

  • Decentralized – no one owns the blockchain transaction system (you can set it up on your computer if you want)
  • Verifiable – all transactions are confirmed by multiple, independent sources (e.g. computers) in the system
  • Permanent – transactions are irrefutable and inviolable; once a transaction occurs, you can’t change it (not corruptible)
  • Unhackable – because the system is decentralized and exists on millions of computers, the computing power needed to hack the system is impossible to acquire (unless we invent quantum computers)
  • Secure – it is cryptographically protected, meaning while it is public (see below), only the person with the “key” (i.e. passcode) can access components of the blockchain relevant to him/her
  • Multipurpose – it’s more than a currency, but a system that benefits any transaction that requires trust
  • Public – anyone can access it from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection

So how does this apply to our lives? Beyond money, here are some potential applications:

  • Protected digital identities
  • Easily auditable databases
  • Open and verifiable asset registries and property titles
  • Enforceable smart contracts
  • Accurate credit scores
  • Affordable cross-border mobile payment systems and remittances
  • Secure driver’s licenses, birth certificates, college transcripts, and marriage certificates
  • Verifiable patent and copyright claims
  • A true sharing economy where anyone can trade with anyone

So the next time you hear about bitcoin, don’t think about a currency – think about the underlying blockchain technology. Sooner than later, it will change our world.  Central authorities won’t go away for good reason – we need them – but change will happen.  A good analogy is the TCP/ IP protocol that the internet is built on. It decentralized communication.  The blockchain and bitcoin decentralizes trust in transactions – meaning new products and applications that can lower costs, protect identities, stamp out corruption, and empower the underprivileged.  This is why some of the smartest and most sophisticated investors in the world are pumping billions into blockchain applications today.  Oh yes, and the U.S. government is on board too.
Learn more at our Future of Financial Planning Seminar Series starting June 16.

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Your Brain, Plasticity, and Learning

brainIn 2007, Dr. Norman Doidge wrote a book called The Brain that Changes Itself (Viking Press). He tells the story of how new research has lead to novel insights into how our most complicated organ works, and more importantly the implications for learning, aging, and leading a healthier and more balanced life.

First,  we have to get over common misconceptions about our brain.  The most important of these misconceptions is that the brain, its structure, and everything in it is fixed once we reach a certain age.  That is, we’re born, we learn a lot while we’re young (e.g. mobility, language, and abstract thinking) and so our brains grow bigger until we reach a certain age.  Then we settle into our ways and everything in our head is fixed.  Until we get older.

Well, wrong. Dr. Doidge, through his analysis of the work done by leading researchers such as Dr. Michael Merzenich (UC-San Fransisco) and Dr. V.S. Ramachandran (UC-San Diego) as well as investigations into patients with neurological conditions, emphasizes the idea of neuroplasticity – that is, our brain is a plastic organ that changes constantly throughout life depending on our circumstances and what we chose to intentionally practice (or not).

In other words, we have the capability to change the physical structures of our brain – specifically, our brain “maps” – throughout life. When we’re young, it’s easy since our brain is automatically on learning mode all the time to learn the skills we need to survive.  When we’re older, we often equate learning with gaining more knowledge, but it’s more about sustained, intentional practice of a new skill that changes or creates new brain maps.  As Doidge states, “to keep the brain alive requires learning something truly new with intense focus.”  Yes, you have to exercise the brain.

So practically speaking, what does this mean for us?

  • “Perceived” vs. Real Learning: Many mid-career professionals mistake moving up the career ladder as learning. Usually it’s not because we mostly re-play already mastered skills. So we are deceived into thinking that we are learning as we move up in a profession, but our brains aren’t changing.  Again, you have to learn something truly new with intense focus.
  • Multi-tasking: Multi-tasking is the enemy of learning. Multi-tasking introduces interference and noise.  It literally blocks neurons from forming strong connections in your brain, so you get weak connections and surface-level learning. Intense focus is the key.
  • Unlearning: Unlearning is just as critical as learning. You know this if you ever tried to overcome a bad habit. Why is it so hard?  To get over previous learning, you literally have to change the shape of your brain.  You do so through intense, focused practice on a new skill that replaces the strong connections in your brain that controlled the old learning. Think of it like this: your brain only has so much “real estate” and your neurons compete for space. So you have to “re-develop” the space where the brain map of the bad habit exists and replace it with new and strongly-connected neurons. The problem is the old map has a solid foundation that requires a lot of effort to clear or redevelop.
  • Aging: We associate cognitive decline with aging, but it doesn’t have to be. As Dr. Mezernich states, “Everything that you can see happen in a young brain can happen in an older brain.” How? Again, sustained, intentional focus on learning a new skill. If you can do so, “the changes can be every bit as great as the changes in a newborn.” And you can delay substantially or reverse cognitive decline.

So the question you have to ask yourself as a professional is: How are you exercising your brain today? For more, watch the Ted Talk by Dr. Mezernich.

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Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

In mid-March, Mashable ran a short story on a SXSW panel involving the executive chairman of Google, Eric Smith, Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, and the United States’ Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. The panel topic was “How Innovation Happens” with a focus on diversity. During the Q&A session, someone noted how the men repeatedly interrupted Smith, much more than she did them, and asked if they thought this was a sign of the unconscious bias they were discussing. This was notable because the question came from Judith Williams, the Global Diversity and Talent Programs manager at Google.

Ms. Williams leads workshops on unconscious bias at Google. After releasing a report on diversity in early 2014, Google decided that they were not where they should be when it comes to diversity. This led them to focus on unconscious biases. These are cognitive shortcuts that help us process information and our experiences over a lifetime build up to form them. Law professor and researcher Jerry Kang, author of Implicit Bias, A Primer for Courts, states “We naturally assign people into various social categories divided by salient and chronically accessible traits, such as age, gender, race, and role.” Whether you want them to or not, every experience you’ve had contributes to your biases, which can be positive or negative.

While Google has taken steps to address this issue (more than 26,000 Google employees have participated in the workshops), this is not the norm. Determining how to teach diversity, as well as unconscious biases, in the workplace can be a huge undertaking, but one that will benefit everyone. This year, Georgetown launched an online program for faculty and staff, which focuses creating a community that is free from discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct.  This could be a first step in uncovering our unconscious biases.

As an LGBT woman in the tech field, Megan Smith has likely experienced a lot of unconscious bias throughout her career, but has not let that hinder her. Her pragmatic response to the panel question is an indication of that, “It’s something we all have and it’s something we have to really debug.” Our biases are something we can work to change in the workplace, but we have to be honest with ourselves and ready to deal with bias in a respectful and thoughtful manner. What is important for us, as Judith Williams states in a New York Times Opinion, is that “…employees are comfortable with — and held accountable for — calling out prejudice, both blatant and subtle.”

Would you like to add your thoughts and experiences on unconscious bias? Please share your comments below.

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