Central Michigan University’s Leadership Institute doesn’t lie when it claims it’s the nation’s premier undergraduate leadership program. The tools and resources it uses to develop student leaders is phenomenal, and I am so thankful to be one of those impacted by it.
This past weekend, my Leader Advancement Scholarship cohort and I attended the Connections conference hosted by the Leadership Institute. Connections is held at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, Michigan every year and is available to all CMU students. We began the conference with an Institute Session where we were given the opportunity to branch out to people representing varying organizations on campus. After that, we evaluated what assets our communities have. This made us consider how many resources (or should I say connections) are readily available to help us succeed. I have the Leadership Institute staff, the Volunteer Center, the University Center, and many other places I can rely on to help me down the path of reaching my goals.
I have been to a variety of leadership development conferences, but this was the first one where I felt as though I could truly make connections with the people around me. This was very refreshing. After getting a few hours to bond with peers at the waterpark in the hotel, we returned to the main conference room and did an activity called Pizza & Speed Connecting, which brought on many good conversations with strangers. I even got to make friends with a security guard named Frank, who gave me extra wolf ears (see picture). In all seriousness, the name Connections really holds true to its meaning… With such a large number of students at CMU, no one should should feel limited to the niche they fall into. There is so much more out there to experience and learn from.
Day two was full of four different educational sessions of the participant’s choosing. The first one I attended was called “Gettin’ Dirty: The Dirty Dozen.” From this presentation, I learned the top twelve excuses people make in their day-to-day lives when making unethical decisions. It made me think of how I can improve my judgement skills and what excuses I need to avoid in order to make better decisions. Next, I went to my favorite session of the day called “Branching Out Your Free Time: Netflix and No Chill.” In this session, we were taught to make our leisure time more purposeful in order to feel happier. And it makes sense- I would feel better after an hour of writing a reflection of my day than an hour scrolling through social media reading about nonsense. There are so many easy ways we can all make our lives more meaningful and fulfilling. The presenters had us focus on exactly what we need to work on in our lives too, and mine came down to expressing my emotions more. I tend to hold things in and avoid how I am feeling, which just leads to added stress. This can be avoided though, and I am going to take the steps needed to do it.
My last two sessions were after lunch, starting with a mentorship-focused presentation. We learned about how the mentor/mentee relationship needs to have a balance of talking and listening, and it must be a genuine relationship. The best part of having a mentor is that you gain a friend in the process and know you can trust them with any issues. The last breakout session was about rating our values, and we based those values off of which Disney characters we related to most. My highest ranked value was love because I believe it is the most powerful thing in the world. After that, our sessions were complete. To end the conference, we re-grouped into our Institute Sessions and discussed how we can improve the organizations in which we are a part of.
After attending Connections, I feel much more knowledgable about how I can grow personally and how I can connect with both my peers and organizations on campus. There are a variety of opportunities to succeed, and I feel prepared to take action. Considering my involvements thus far, I would love to see LAS connect more with other organizations on campus. Fluidity through major organizations on campus will make CMU a more inclusive environment as a whole and lead to bigger and greater connections. I believe one of the great takeaways from this conference is that everyone has a place at Central. There are over 200 clubs on campus that fit anyone’s interests, so there are no excuses to not be involved in some form. College is the time to take advantage of the resources at hand, and I plan to do just that.