Home>Valentina, Fellow at the Marshall Memorial Fellowship Programme


Valentina, Fellow at the Marshall Memorial Fellowship Programme

Valentina Lana has graduated in the one-year Master in Advanced Global Studies. Coming from Italy, she is fellow at the Marshall Memorial Fellowship Programme.

You have been selected for The Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF) leadership development program. Could you tell us more about your future role and responsibilities?

>I was selected in 2022, an important year for the GMF as it marks the 75th anniversary of the Marshall Plan and the 50th anniversary of the German Marshall Fund.

The structure of the program consists of two segments: a theoretical portion and a practical session. As a Marshall Memorial Fellow I will receive a six-month training on transatlantic relations with a focus on democracy, intercultural dialogue, transatlantic trends, diversity and inclusion, and the future of transatlantic relations.

In March, after the training, I will travel to the US for 24 days to visit five communities, including a rural community, and participate in high-level meetings with politicians, policy-makers, diplomats, business people and others. The purpose of these meetings will be to understand, in practice, what the current status of transatlantic relations is, to learn from them and define how to actively improve the dialogue and cooperation between Europe and the US.

I will also have a chance to organize individual meetings; in my case, I’d like to meet people active and passionate about ethics and corporate social responsibility and study legal models that proved their effectiveness in the US, in the hope of defining what could be imported to France as part of the debate on the objet social de l’entreprise.I will of course meet with leaders in my area of expertise - which is what I now teach at the Sciences Po law school with the former Minister of Economy, Michel Sapin - : the fight against corruption and best practices to prevent, detect and deter illegal and unethical practices in business.

Finally, I will dedicate time to better understand the dynamics of disinformation and polarization as tools to undermine democratic processes and the very essence of democracy; I will observe cities as compelling examples of peaceful cohabitation and inclusion, as well as places of segregation and democratic apathy. Most of all, all along, and with humility and curiosity, I will have dialogues with the other fellows - who are the leaders of the future - and learn from their experience and wisdom, while developing strong relationships of friendship and trust.

How did you secure this role? 

I just tried. My recipe was a good mix of preparation, courage, spontaneity, and audacity to dream.

Given the outstanding quality of the research and of the work of the German Marshall Fund in general, and the prestigious alumni who preceded me, I thought the MMF would be one of the most difficult leadership programs to enter.

I had been longing to participate in a leadership development program for years and was a finalist in another program in 2019. Then the pandemic froze all the programs for two years, as in-person interaction and travel abroad are essential components: all of that was made impossible by Covid-mitigation measures. 

When the application process was reopened in the summer of 2021, I worked on my essays and tried my luck.

How did your PSIA experience help you with the role?

PSIA gave me a general knowledge of the topics studied by the German Marshall Fund: the future of democracy, security and geopolitics, technology and innovation, the rise of China.

More than that, my time at PSIA taught me the soft skills and codes necessary to effectively interact with individuals in a position of leadership.

And, in general, my experience at Sciences Po as a student first, and as a lecturer after, injected the confidence to try what seemed impossible - by just adding the invisible apostrophe: I’m possible - and dare to be as big as my dreams.

Moreover, PSIA friends and mentors encouraged me to apply and inspired hope and motivation: they dreamt bigger than I dared to do for myself and compelled me to follow their dreams and make them mine.

What advice would you give to others?

i. Do not be intimidated by the work the GMF does: after PSIA, you will be equipped with the intellectual tools to quickly understand the topics, even when some of them are not your primary area of expertise.

ii.a Do not be intimidated by who took part in the program before you: the MMF counts alumni of the caliber of President Macron.

ii.b If you’re haunted by ii.a, try to remember that many MMF alumni are also Sciences Po alumni. A strong enough reason to mitigate any fear of not being up to the task.

iii. Do not over-prepare: a grain of spontaneity doesn’t hurt in a highly selective process where your individual and unique leadership skills and style are assessed.

iv. Do not ask yourself too many questions about the process: it’s easy to think that the application for a leadership program promoted by a think tank will be like an exam where the highest grade will be given to the candidate who best masters the fields researched by the German Marshall Fund. However, the jury looks for more than how knowledgeable you are, as it gauges your willingness to turn knowledge into action, your values, your integrity, and your sincere desire to be a part of a community of builders of a dialogue between cultures aimed at promoting peace and prosperity. In other words, the jury looks at what the French philosopher Montaigne evoked: une tête bien faite as opposed to une tête bien pleine.

v. After the interview, congratulate yourself and do not list all the things you should have said, or said differently - I did: such a loss of time on a lovely March Thursday afternoon, one day I will always remember.

vi. Whether you are selected or not, as every good leader, always observe and listen with attention, and never stop learning and caring.

vii. Put your best foot forward with courage, and don’t forget the invisible apostrophe: I’m possible.