“Leaders Bound Together” – A recap of the SMWC student senate’s leadership summit

December 4th, 2012 | SMWC

Elizabeth Jeffries '84 began with an interactive presentation about building connections.

Leaders aren’t born; they are made. At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), leaders are made every day. To ensure that our students leave these halls with diverse leadership tools, SMWC’s student senate hosted the second annual all-day leadership summit, “Leaders Bound Together: Building Relationships that Nurture Leadership,” in November.

“Leadership is about empowerment. It requires action,” said summit participant Marcia Pence, a Woods Online history and political science major from Fishers, Ind.  “Leadership is not a passive pursuit. It requires taking the reins instead of simply being led.”

The summit included breakout sessions on group dynamics and conflict resolution, as well as an etiquette lunch and networking tactics panel. Elizabeth Jeffries ’84, professional speaker and author, opened with a keynote address exploring the importance of relationships in leadership.

“People will not remember you for what you said or did,” Jeffries told the audience. “They will remember you for how you make them feel. Leadership is service over self.”

More than 50 people attended the event, including four faculty and staff members, 41 campus students and eight Woods Online students. The entire event was available for live streaming through Adobe Connect and each session can still be viewed online.

“We wanted those who were not able to physically attend to still be able to join in,” said Sherry Bube, a music therapy junior from Nashville, Ind., and vice president of student senate. “We especially wanted our online students to have an opportunity to expand their leadership skills and knowledge.”

Pence, a Woods Online student, traveled nearly 100 miles on a sunny Saturday to reenergize her inner leader. “I came to the Leadership Summit because I felt that I'd been a leader a long time ago and I wanted to tap back into that energy again,” she said.

Participants in group dynamics discussed how conversations evolve depending on the leader.

That animated energy was the thread that stitched together this year’s summit. According to the feedback reports, more than 90 percent of participants surveyed were “very satisfied” with the summit’s organization. One hundred percent of participants said they’d recommend the summit to others. While all sessions scored high, the networking session won most popular.

“The networking session was most beneficial to me because it's so rewarding,” Pence said. “Most people don't take advantage of networking, which can be costly in terms of lost connections and support.”

In the group dynamics session, led by Molly Ellsworth ’92, ’10G, a parish business manager, participants analyzed ways different kinds of leaders can use their own talents and work together to reach the same goal. “Good leaders need to be flexible,” Ellsworth said, “so they never get bent out of shape.”

The leadership summit offered an etiquette luncheon, with tips for networking while out to eat.

In the conflict resolution workshop, the participants discussed how to avoid mismanaging conflicts to avoid more damage. “If handled positively, I believe conflict is an opportunity to grow,” said session leader Michelle Itczak, an adjunct professor in SMWC’s Master of Art in Art Therapy Program. “Overcoming those challenges can build trust and strengthen relationships.”

During the etiquette luncheon, Susan Gresham ’79, director of SMWC’s career development center, prepped the summit participants for interacting with professionals at luncheons, conferences and workshops. She stressed the importance of small talk as an icebreaker and even supplied each table with topic cards to practice during lunch.

The summit’s final session, a panel on networking, participants received candid tips from SMWC alums who understand the power of connections – Ellsworth, Judy Hund ’87, clinical development liaison consultant at Eli Lilly, April Simma ’03, director of major and planned gifts at SMWC.

April Simma '03, director of major and planned gifts, talks about the advantages of connecting with the College's alumnae/i network.

"Networking is a key ingredient to a successful career,” Simma said. “In my field it is essential. Woods alums themselves are a vast and diverse network of support and encouragement. We can make lasting, life-changing connections by networking with other professionals, both in and out of our specific fields."

Making connections is an important element of leadership. Effective leaders never stop growing and learning. Both the student senate and the summit’s participants understand that leadership is more than a skill; it’s a way of life.

“My goal is to integrate leadership into my personality,” Pence said, “so it becomes who I am as opposed to a role I play.”

Learn more about SMWC's student senate or last year's leadership summit.

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