For my STEP signature project I traveled to Denver, Colorado and attended the National Conference on Student Leadership (NCSL). This conference is designed for student leaders to grow in their leadership skills, share our experiences with hundreds of students from across the Unites States and the world, and to help prepare us for our careers after college. The NCSL conference featured numerous keynote sessions, breakout workshops, and tons of time for networking. This conference had a uniquely dynamic educational program, which committed itself to the personal and professional growth of the student leaders in attendance.
Going into this conference, I had no idea what to expect and wanted to keep an open mind about the entire trip. This experience had a lot of “new” aspects to it that I had never encountered before. This trip was the first time I had flown on an airplane by myself, the first time I had attended a professional conference, and the farthest West I have ever traveled before in the United States. My view of what traveling and embracing new experiences has to offer me, has been positively shifted to new light. This conference not only enhanced my leadership skills and abilities, but it taught me that I need to push myself outside my comfort zone more often. The unknown is a scary thing, but sometimes the best experiences are the ones that aren’t planned or known. The NCSL was one of those experiences for me.
My flight left out of Cincinnati, OH for Denver, CO at 5:45 AM on March 31, 2016. Due to the time change, I landed in Denver around 7:00 AM that morning. My flight’s descent into Denver International Airport could not have been more picturesque and beautiful. The morning fog was beginning to clear, the pink rays of the rising sun were illuminating the sky, and the Rocky Mountains were looming in the distance. As previously stated, this was the furthest West in the United States I had ever traveled. When I got off the airplane and was picked up by my hotels shuttle, I was absolutely speechless on my ride into downtown Denver. The Rocky Mountains were unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life. This car ride into the city is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Seeing those immense mountains opened my eyes to the untapped magnificence of this world that I was missing out on. Travel will become a larger priority in my life because of this natural encounter.
Another experience that impacted my transformation, was getting to listen to James T. Robilotta as a keynote speaker, and then during his breakout workshop as well. Going into this conference, I knew that I wanted to come out of it a better leader and mentor. This year, I am serving as the President of The Ohio State University Men’s Glee Club. I am the primary leader, outside of the conductor, for 80 collegiate singers and I oversee the development and roles of four different Vice-Presidents. I knew I was going to need to be a role model, mentor, and leader to all of these guys and I wanted my time at NCSL to assist me in that process. Hearing the humorous testimonial that James presented enlightened me to a new perspective that my leadership style could undertake. James is the author of a book entitled “Leading Imperfectly,” which focuses on the value of authenticity that can be found in leadership. As an executive board, we all read this book together and discussed the importance of understanding that we could, and would not be perfect leaders in our roles this year. Utilizing the resources that James provided have effectively created a dynamic team focused environment that will continue to set my executive board up for success throughout the school year.
Finally, the relationships that I built during this three day conference made a significant impact on my transformation. I was the only Ohio State student who attended the NCSL, which I will not lie, definitely surprised me. As all Ohio State students know, we are EVERYWHERE and can never go anywhere without running into a fellow Buckeye! However, on this trip, that was not the case this time, which honestly turned out to be a good thing. During the conference, I had the privilege of meeting students from all across the country, and specifically met a group of student leaders from Baylor University who “adopted” me for the weekend! They were extremely welcoming and opened my eyes to another University and student organization that I would have never gotten to learn about if I hadn’t met them at this conference. Getting to hear their perspectives on different leadership styles was truly eye opening and reminded me again of the importance of not being tied to the outcome of situations.
The transformation and development that I experienced at the National Conference on Student Leadership is one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This trip was one of the more “adult” things that I have ever done, outside of going to college at one of the biggest public schools in the country, and I wouldn’t want to change it for anything. In terms of my professional goals, I not only wanted to hone in on my leadership skills for my executive position with the Men’s Glee Club, I also wanted to develop my skills for my Store Management Internship that I had with Macy’s this summer. This position allowed me to gain hands on experience on the front line of the business this summer, and allowed me to manage a team of sales associates on the selling floor. Following graduation, I will be going into the Store Management Executive Development Program with Macy’s, where I will be continuing to learn the role of a sales manager in the retail business. The leadership knowledge that I gained from the NCSL will be applicable for my professional career with Macy’s, and beyond. These skills are very versatile and are applicable on a personal level and a professional level. I look forward to continuing to apply what I learned at this conference to my life for many years to come.