Making CONNECTIONS

Going to the Connections Conference was such an amazing experience. I not only learned many useful things to bring back with me, but I also made connections with people that I don’t think would have been made if I hadn’t gone and put myself into the mix. This has been my favorite conference that I’ve gone to, even including my conferences I attended in High School. I got to connect and re-connect with people, as well as listen to great speakers.

We first started off the weekend in our Institute Group. These were random assigned groups. We got to talk in smaller groups about what we think makes up a leader and what resources on campus we had. It was amazing to see all of the different groups and their resources. I really liked how they rarely split us up into groups based on what group we were representing. I got to talk to other people outside of LAS or people I had met through the Leadership Institute. We got to end our weekend meeting with our Institute Group and this time we focused more on things we liked about our groups, things that needed to improve, and things that needed to change. I noticed that many other people put that they wanted their group to be more inclusive and that they also wanted the trash talking of other people to end. It was good to see that other groups faced similar troubles. But it was nice to rejoice that most people put that they wanted their friendships to continue, and positive attitudes, and inclusivity to continue. The positive always outweighs the negative and it was nice to see that other groups were similar in those ways as well. I really appreciate how the Institute Groups brought many groups together that were involved in different types of organizations and that we got to see how different we were and that we also got to see how alike we were. I think it’s very important to keep the fact that different people can come together and make something amazing the front of whatever we do as leaders. That’s what being a leader is to me.

The first speaker I listened to was Erin Smith-Gaken. Her workshop was called the Dirty Dozen. It was mainly based on making ethical decisions. She gave us different scenarios and we got to anonymously answer them with a clicker. For example, one of the scenarios was talking about taking extra food out of the cafeteria and most of chose that we would or would have done it before even though the rule is that you are only allowed to take either an ice cream cone or a piece of fruit out of the cafeteria. The majority of the reasoning for taking the extra and “un-allowed” food out is because we’re paying for it in our food plan. It made me really think about the decisions I make as a leader and how they need to be ethical and moral while I’m in that position. It was really interesting to see that I wasn’t the only one making the more unethical decisions. Every time I went to go press the clicker I was almost afraid to see that I was the only one making the worser of the decisions, but it was nice to see that it wasn’t just me.

My next session was with Jamie Brown and it was called Taking Care of Your Leadership Garden. This workshop was about how when you take care of people you need to nurture and help them grow as well as create a plan of action. Although I feel I didn’t get as much out of this session as I did the in my other sessions, it was still a nice refresher that I can’t only be focused on my growth but I need to focus on the others around me.

My third session was with Jill Balliet, Emily Seward, and Madeline Klozik. This session was called Rooted in Growth: Mentoring Peers in Your Community. I thought it was a good idea to go to this session because coming up in May I will be becoming a mentor and will be helping my mentee get through their first year at CMU. Even though I’ve had a wonderful mentor and know the way to be I want to mentor and the relationship I want with my mentee, I figured that going to a workshop wouldn’t hurt anything. I actually learned other techniques on how to properly mentor and how to handle situations and questions the right way to actually help them. We got into groups and were given situations and got to switch up who was the mentee, bad mentor, and good mentor. It was really nice to be in each perspective and how it felt to give the bad advice and how it felt to receive the bad advice. This session was more relatable to me because I’m nervous that to become a mentor and have someone rely on me for actual advice.

My last and final session was with Tim Popma and Steely Pegg and the session was Leadership through the Eyes of Disney. I thoroughly enjoyed this session because I got to relate how I lead back to my favorite disney characters. I felt that my leadership style closely fits with Peter Pan. This is because I keep my imagination open and am still able to lead people. Although I go off on different paths sometimes, I still am able to come back to where I need to be and reach the goal. I loved being able to just have fun with Disney but still learn about leadership. Growing up only being allowed to watch Disney movies this was a great way to bring some of my childhood to my adulthood.

I’m very happy that I got to attend this conference. This was my first time ever going to Great Wolf Lodge and I’m happy I got to make new friends while I was there. Good enough friends that I’m taking them home with me to take them to Frankenmuth since I live so close. I actually made CONNECTIONS at the CONNECTIONS conference. Who would have thought?

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