Comments from Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI) Alumni


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The Legislative Staff Management Institute is the nation’s premier program for developing and enhancing management and leadership skills for legislative staffers.

LSMI emphasizes learning by doing, with practical application of skills for effective communication, team building, negotiation, conflict resolution and creating professionalism based on core values of representative democracy.  LSMI faculty are nationally recognized experts with extensive professional experience as well as research-based knowledge.


In the past six years 185 legislative staffers from more than 31 states have attended LSMI.  Four of every five have rated it as a “Must Go” experience.  Staffers attending LSMI in past years said,

“Outstanding-the program is outstanding. The experience is indescribable; I’m grateful to my organization for sending me.”

LSMI 2011 Participant

“Incredibly invigorating and intellectually stimulating. Enjoyable beyond anything [that] I could have anticipated. Tremendously useful information that will elevate my professional efforts.”

Anita T., LSMI 2011 Participant, North Dakota

“When I returned to work I found myself looking at new process implementation and thinking of the J-curve...What awesome lessons we learned...The whole week was an extraordinary learning experience!”

Milton Riser, Executive Director, Texas Legislative Council

Thank you so much for this year’s LSMI program.  From our very first group activity I began learning (and unlearning) things about myself and with my shift in perspective, it’s still happening. As I told Greg, it was somehow both a humbling and empowering experience, one I value more than I can say.  Thank you again.

Neva Marie Parker, History Clerk, Office of the Secretary of the Senate, California

I can unequivocally say that nearly every aspect of my personal and professional life has been positively and permanently influenced by the knowledge I gained from LSMI and its exceptional instructors.

Sabrina Lewellen, Manager, Senate Constituency Services & Research, Arkansas

After 13 years of serving the Louisiana Legislature, I left LSMI with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement in serving the members of the House of Representatives and the state of Louisiana. Those eight days were packed with valuable information and self reflection - we were given the freedom and the time to learn new things and to experiment with new approaches.

My time at LSMI will stand out as a high point in my career, thanks to the quality of the presentations and the enthusiasm and professionalism of the teachers and my LSMI classmates.

Michelle Fontenot, Director, House Legal Division, Louisiana

LSMI was a career-changing experience for me. The training was spot-on in terms of being tailored to legislative staff, and very relevant to my day-to-day job. I highly recommend LSMI for any legislative staff interested in professional growth.

Leonor Ehrling, Senate Office of Research, California

LSMI instructors provided me with a number of key insights about how to conduct successful negotiations to achieve positive policy outcomes for residents.

Kevin Hanley, Chief Consultant, Assembly Republican Caucus, California

LSMI proved to be an invaluable experience both personally and professionally. I learned several strategies and techniques that were directly relevant to my work as legislative staff and that should serve me well in the future, in any position. The week also provided the basis for much personal growth and for understanding what motivates people. Hearing from other legislative staff across the country was both educational and refreshing, and I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie that developed among all of us who attended LSMI.

Lark Park, Consultant, Senate Health Committee, California

At the outset, I thought the LSMI schedule was too long, but after starting the program I understood how much material there is to cover and the importance of the white water rafting trip (which was great!)! In all seriousness, I learned how to get the most out of each person you work with and to listen while setting aside preconceived ideas of what will be said. I also learned how to negotiate with integrity in a manner that still achieves my goals.

Melitta Berger, Team Manager, Health and Human Services, Legislative Budget Board, Texas


LSMI was a keystone experience in my professional development that resulted in lasting positive change for my division and me. It exceeded my expectations at the time and remains a standout convening.


LSMI was the best professional development experience that I have ever had.


I would say my quality of work improved after attending LSMI. As a result my boss’ expectations have gone up and now expects more than what I was producing on a weekly basis prior to the class. In turn I have been tasked with more responsibilities.


I became the manager of a committee staff that had had many problems. Now we are considered one of the best staffs in our agency. I credit much of that turn-around to LSMI. Thanks!


I moved into an assistant director position. I think the people and process management skills I learned at LSMI helped to make me more competitive. Also, I was so pumped about my experience at LSMI that my colleague and I conducted two training sessions inspired by LSMI. This experience gave me more exposure to professional and human resources development, two areas that are within the scope of my current position.


It was a great opportunity to meet and work with the outstanding faculty members and amazing group of professionals from all over the US.


LSMI changed the trajectory of my professional career and helped me grow personally as well.

LSMI:  New and Improved!

Gary Vanlandingham, Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability
David Pray, Mississippi Program Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee

Class of 2005

How many times have you gone into a store and seen a familiar product with “New Formula” or “Improved” splashed on the label? How many times did you buy the product thinking that the only thing “new” or “improved” was the label?

Well, the Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI), which the authors attended in the summer of 2005, has a new “California Style” that really takes the program to new heights. The new program builds on the foundation established by its former sponsor, the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The Humphrey Institute set a high standard and established LSMI as NCSL’s premier legislative staff training program in the nation.

The University of Southern California and California State University, Sacramento, have teamed up to provide an eight-day program that provides staff with a wide range of effective management tools for facing and addressing the complex issues found in state legislatures. These include interpersonal and organizational communication, team building, coaching, negotiation, networking, and managing organizational culture. The program uses a series of high-energy trainers who build on each other’s work to provide a highly integrated but broad-spanning curriculum.

Everyone has been through excruciatingly dull team building and communication seminars. However, the fast-paced, hands-on sessions offered at LSMI don’t give participants a chance to get bored. For example, the very first session brought team building to a new level with a “Bio-Hazard” exercise in which teams had to learn quickly to perform together or “die.” Another session introduced the class to new concepts in organizational communication with a “Meta-4” exercise in which participants had to form teams quickly and then negotiate how these various teams could work together toward a common goal. Other hands-on exercises taught key negotiation skills applied to a variety of settings (we’ll never buy cars or houses in the same way again!).

LSMI participants also got a chance to put these team building, communication, and listening concepts to practice in rafting down the south fork of the American River. Nothing enhances team building like being in a rubber raft with five or six other people and hurtling down Class IV whitewater rapids--breakdowns in communication and strategy can produce immediate (and wet) results!

The program also provided personalized feedback through a session on effective leadership. As part of this session, participants received a Leadership Effectiveness Assessment based on a survey that participants and the people who work for them completed prior to attending LSMI. These assessments were always helpful, sometimes painful, in highlighting the areas of strengths and weaknesses of each participant’s leadership skills.

Two caveats that alumni of previous LSMI programs always seem to mention were living in a college dormitory at the University of Minnesota and “dorm food.” Mention no more! The California program, which takes place at the University of Southern California's Capital Center in Sacramento, houses participants at a four-star hotel located about six blocks from the training center. Breakfast and lunch were catered from some of the excellent local eateries, and the group dined each night at one of the superb downtown restaurants. Other highlights were an afternoon trip into San Francisco and dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf, and attending a local minor league game (we rooted, rooted, rooted for the home team, but they didn’t win, which was a shame).

One thing that hasn’t changed about LSMI is the opportunity to meet other legislative staff from around the country and make new friends. Because the LSMI participants come from a wide variety of states and positions (including partisan and nonpartisan offices, leadership, information systems, administration, evaluation/audit, fiscal, legal, and research), we learned much from each other. We also created a network of friends that we can call upon in the future.

Overall, the ‘new and improved’ LSMI was a wonderful and highly valuable experience. We encourage all offices to consider sending middle- and upper-level staff to the 2006 program. If demand allows (the 2005 program received 39 applications for 30 available slots), the sponsors may be able to provide two sessions per year in future years.

 It is an opportunity not to be missed!

Updated 3/14/12