It is a known fact that Springfield College prides itself in producing great leaders. A motto that is used often here is, “Springfield College: Great Ideas, Great Careers, Great Leaders are Born Here!” Between the majors and leadership opportunities that are offered at SC, the chance to succeed and excel for any student is limitless.
This past weekend four SC students had the opportunity to do just that when they attended the 2013 Hatton W. Sumners Student Leadership Conference at the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas.
For the past six years, SC has been sending four students to the conference thanks to Dean of Students Dr. David Braverman and his connections with the founder of the conference, clinical professor at UT Austin, Howard T. Prince II.
“I know the executive director, Howard Prince, from when we worked in Richmond,” Braverman explained. “When I was in Texas, Howard and I connected and he invited four of my students [to the conference].”
That connection is still going strong.
According to the conference’s brochure, “this conference will develop their (the participants) leadership abilities through opportunities to see and hear inspirational leaders discuss approaches to leadership, and from the examples of other younger individuals leading students in small-group sessions.”
“It’s a really neat experience,” said Braverman.
This year the four lucky students who attended were junior Sean Smith, junior Bernadette Raum, sophomore Ricardo Vieux and sophomore Moriah Billups. Braverman and the committee that selects the attendees try to pick two male and two female students to go, as well as two sophomores and two juniors so he can assure that the students will be at SC at least one to two more years to implement what they learned at the conference back on campus.
“I try to get a variety of experiences, whether that be athletics, work experience, people who are quiet leaders who do a lot of stuff, but aren’t really well known,” Braverman explained on the selection process. “We try not to send people who haven’t been to 10 or 12 other things. If someone’s been to a leadership conference in [Washington,] D.C., a leadership conference in New York, a leadership conference here, we [try] to send somebody else. We could send 2,000 people and they would all represent us well.”
Each year Braverman sends an email out to faculty and staff looking for nominations and recommendations. After he receives a list, the students are notified and then asked to submit an application. Then, the previous attendees from the past year, as well as faculty, all sit down to select their four representatives.
“They [2013 attendees] were great representatives, not the only representatives that could have gone, but they were great representatives,” Braverman stated.
The four began their journey to Austin this past Thursday and stayed there through Sunday. The 180 participants were split up into 12 groups, and those groups turned into their small-discussion groups.
“Those were the people you originally bonded with,” Smith explained.
The four SC participants also selected three workshops ahead of time to attend that sounded the most interesting to them.
“[The workshops I did were] cross-cultural relationships, transformational leadership and influential leadership, and it all kind of covered all of those topics in different ways,” Billups said.
On top of that, all of the participants also had to attend lectures by three keynote speakers that spoke about leadership in different ways. One was Melissa Stockwell, the first female soldier injured in the line of duty in Iraq.
“She lost her leg to an IED explosion,” trip advisor and Director of Student Activities and Campus Union Carl Stiles explained. “She was so significantly impactful on the students. She looked [at her accident] as a blessing because it changed her life and her goals. She has competed in the Paralympics in Beijing. She has competed nationally and internationally in triathlons and come in first in the World Championships three times. She is just an amazing speaker and an amazing woman.”
While all four students agreed that they enjoyed the keynote speakers, the workshops were what they enjoyed the most.
“The workshop I got the most out of was the strength-based workshop with our team groups,” said Smith. “It was kind of what the conference was about. [It was about] finding your strengths and acting upon them.”
The group was asked to take a test that focused on finding their strengths and finding something to complement their weaknesses.
“It was kind of scary how spot on the [strength-based test was]. I didn’t realize it until I read the descriptions,” Smith said.
The workshop that Billups found the most useful was the influential leadership workshop she attended.
“I felt as if that would really help for my position as [sophomore] class president. So that was really helpful for me, and I learned a lot of different techniques,” stated Billups.
As a whole, Vieux learned a very important lesson that will further help him as a member of the wrestling team and the Mixed Martial Arts Club.
“A really cool fun fact that I learned was if you’re leading a specific organization or a group of members, if your team fails, the blame is put completely on you, but if you succeed, then the team gets all of the credit for it and you really don’t get as much,” Vieux explained.
While the conference is obviously structured to teach the participants new and different leadership techniques and skills, historically the SC students often find themselves teaching others what they’ve learned here at SC, as well as gaining new knowledge.
“Our leadership style is different from theirs [the conference],” Braverman clarified. “A lot of them are there for the public policy or self-promotion. Our leaders tend to be focused on other people; changing the world for the better. That’s what we’re about. So we get there and it really comes across. Our folks tend to lead in that conference, which is amazing. It is a great experience for our students to go because they get validation [of] how good they are. They also learn a lot from these other people, and they teach the other people a lot about our style.”
“Another thing that I noticed was that we were very prepared for it [the conference]. A lot of the information we heard we hear in the classroom. It kind of hit home. It wasn’t necessarily a big surprise,” Smith said proudly.
The four participants, along with Stiles, learned a lot and made of a lot of connections while in Austin. The conference was jam-packed with activities throughout the day, but the conference directors also made sure to make time for the participants to really get to know each other and to have fun.
“It was good structure. There [were] always opportunities for fun,” explained Billups.
With such a successful trip this year, Stiles and Braverman are already looking forward to next year and what it will bring.
“It’s a very powerful experience for the students. They get so much out of it,” Stiles said with a smile.