Branching Out and Building Connections

At Central Michigan University, there are so many different scholarships, residential colleges, organizations and programs that students have the opportunity to get involved in. However, I will say that the Leadership Institute is particularly my favorite. I may have biased views since I am a Leader Advancement Scholarship recipient but nevertheless, the LI at Central is one of the best in the country and it is the only one of it’s kind that I know of.

Because of the Leadership Institute, I was given the IMG_20161104_134654562.jpgopportunity to travel to the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City with a large number of other students to attend the Connections conference. This was such an eventful trip, in under 36 hours, I attended four educational sessions, two institute session and also spent three and a half hours in the waterpark. You can tell by looking at my roommate Jordan Johnston that we were in for a long, event-filled weekend! (she was smart and took a nap on the way there) The day and a half that we spent at the lodge was by far one of the greatest conferences I have ever attended, which is saying something considering all of the conferences that I attended throughout my four years of high school.


Landrea Hill and I at Connections

While at connections I came across someone who has made a huge impact on my life and someone who is relatively new in my life but has already inspired me to go after the things I want in this world- Landrea Hill and Katie Rae. Landy graduated from my high school in 2014 but I had been fortunate enough to play golf with her, work with her in leadership and also participate in Main Street Show Choir with each other.

Katie Rae and I at Connections

Katie Rae is my GG Mentor in my LAS family tree and I am so very grateful for her and how genuinely wonderful she is. Having known her for only these few short months, Katie has made sure that I know I have her to go to if I ever need anything at all. While at connections, she greeted me with a huge smile and the tightest hug every single time that she saw me even if it was only for a short second. She is an inspiration and I am so grateful to have her in my family tree.

New Connections

Some of my favorite moments at the conference were situations in which I was forced to meet someone new- speed connecting and my institute sessions were the biggest culprits of forced communication. I have no photographic evidence of the connections I made, so I guess you will just have to take my word for it! I made connections with people of all kinds and from all of the corners of campus- Business Residential College, Education and Human Services Residential College, Resident Assistants from many residence halls and many more.

At the speed connecting session, I had so much fun running around the room connecting briefly with people that I had not met before and if we mad a connection on something that we both had some passion for, we would exchange information in order to continue our conversation on a deeper level. We only had maybe 30 seconds during each rotation to talk to one another, but in normal situations those 30 seconds could become extremely uncomfortable but at connections everyone had the same objective: to branch out and make connections, so that awkward silence after you’ve both answered the question never occurred.

I was place in the Cole Institute Session and within that session, we were divided into groups of people. Me being who I am, I sat around no one that I knew so of course my group was filled with people I did not know. The 15-20 minutes that my group sat in our discussion, we were serious in conversation at the start but then erupted into laughter towards the end because we had grown comfortable with one another and that is when memories start being created. This was one of my favorite moments while in Traverse city.

Educational Sessions

I attended four educational sessions while at Connections:

  • Happy Hour with Jesi Ekonen

Join the happiness revolution! Being a leader is not about the recognition you receive, but how you recognize others. This interactive presentation will help you better understand how Zappo’s unique approach to corporate culture is a powerful model for achieving success- by concentrating on the happiness of those around you, you can dramatically increase your own. We explored the core values from the #1 New York Bestselling book, Delivering Happiness, and applied them to the campus setting. Together we identified strategies to encourage the heart of followers

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  • Dancing Through Social Change with Steely Pegg

Love social change? Love the arts? Well, even if you don’t, this session could still be for anyone! We connected to our artistic roots to find out how art in all its forms is helping to change lives through building community within people of all backgrounds. Even if being creative or arsty “isn’t your thing,” this session helped you learn more about the connection of the arts to social justice and explore how you can use it to lead with momentum and make the world better.

  • Rooted in Growth: Mentoring Peers in Your Community with Jill Balliet, Emily Seward and Madeline Klozik

Your leadership position may involve mentoring, but does that role really stop once you finish your shift, leaver your building, or when the semester ends? Mentoring moments occur every day, so how do you meet your leadership potential and create mentoring relationships in each and every encounter that you have? This session explored key concepts of mentoring and ways to incorporate those concepts into your everyday conversations, experiences, and relationships.

If you wanted to branch out to explore Disney and its connection to leadership this session was for you! For more information on this session, please visit the link above.

Overall Experience

The Leadership Institute Connections conference was such an eye-opening experience and I had so much fun getting closer to my Leader Advancement Scholarship Cohort and building connections with people from across campus.

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