Revisiting the Salzburg Spirit and Opportunities for Connection




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Feb 15, 2019
by Oscar Tollast
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Revisiting the Salzburg Spirit and Opportunities for Connection

Elizabeth Power Robison, vice president of Center Advancement at the Milken Institute, returns to Schloss Leopoldskron and reflects on new project Elizabeth Power Robison at Salzburg Global Seminar

Elizabeth Power Robison is no stranger to Schloss Leopoldskron. In addition to being a Salzburg Global Fellow, Robison is one of a few who can count the palace as a former home. Robison interned at Salzburg Seminar – the former name of the organization – in the summer of 1992. While she’s returned multiple times since this internship, this was her first trip in her role as vice president of Center Advancement at the Milken Institute.

Robison was one of more than 40 participants to attend Citizen Diplomacy at the Crossroads: Activating Networks for Change, a three-day immersive learning program hosted by Salzburg Global Seminar, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance.

Alongside others, Robison took part in workshops, panels, and case-study discussions. She said, “When Ben [Glahn] said how much had changed at the organization, I kind of smiled because from an outside perspective, I haven’t been back at the Schloss since 2005, and it feels like nothing has really changed. I say that in a very positive way in that the culture of the organization… the energy, the spirit of the team that [is] here, I think have those important Salzburg values.”

Robison suggested she may have been distressed if she had felt a change, as she expanded further on what the “Salzburg values” consist of. She said, “Interestingly, given the topic we have here, fellowship is, I think, a really core part of the Salzburg experience… I think connection both in our conversations and relationships here but [also] the interconnectedness of the world, especially at a time where our leaders are using rhetoric that’s so divisive…

“For me, the Seminar represents that coming together of that community, that fellowship, but also a willingness to speak in candor and transparency that you might not find in another setting. There’s something kind of like a truth filter that comes out here.”

Robison joined the Milken Institute in January 2018, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank “determined to increase global prosperity by advancing collaborative solutions that widen access to capital, create jobs and improve health.” Robison says it’s also referred to as an “action tank.” It has offices in North America, Asia, and Europe.

“My role there is quite broad but focused on what I’ve done for my whole career, which is raising funds and building relationships for the organization. It’s been great,” Robison said.

One of her latest projects has involved interviewing world leaders about their dreams of impact, where they’ve come from, what they’ve achieved, and what education has meant in their process. Robison said, “It really is uplifting to talk to people who have really achieved great things, and you realize the challenges everyone faces in the world.”

Robison was attracted to return to Salzburg to reflect on the idea of global leadership and the responsibility of organizations to cultivate global leadership through their fellowship programs. Speaking on the second day of the program, Robison said, “We haven’t even been here 24 hours, and people are friendly, communicative, [and] conversational. Everyone wants to engage. You don’t see anyone kind of drifting away. They’re in such a short time creating a connection and engagement, and it to me is spectacular. I feel like I’m right back in it.”

Robison was born in Massachusetts but grew up in Vermont. In high school, she went on American Field Service and was given the opportunity to study in Israel. After graduating from college, she moved to Salzburg for her second experience of living outside the US.

“I think the experience of Israel and then Salzburg, which are very different countries and cultures, really, I think gave me a sense of the diversity of the world, at least in the kind of European context.

“It’s always been important in my whole career, even if my career didn’t seem aligned. International travel and experience and global communication [were] very important to me, so even working in higher education for 25 years I built international programs, funded international travel opportunities, created faculty-led trips and have continued to be very active in that.”

The program Citizen Diplomacy at the Crossroads: Activating Networks for Change was held in partnership with The German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance, as part of the Global Leaders Consortium (GLC).