Victoria Kuebler, Managing Editor
The second annual Influence U leadership conference took place this past weekend to give students the opportunity to learn and sharpen leadership skills.
The conference began with keynote speaker Dr. Kristen K. Buck, MD who showed a PowerPoint titled “My Life’s Lessons.” She is currently the senior vice president scientific affairs chief medical officer B Braun Medical Inc.
Buck’s presentation’s message was “we must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” She talked about her journey of always wanting to become a doctor. After finishing her undergraduate degree and medical school, she finally earned those two letters behind her name, MD.
She emphasized that not everything in life goes as planned. At 28 years old, Buck had a seizure and was told she had epilepsy. Later in life, she was told she had melanoma.
“Your life can change in an instant,” said Buck. “Without your health you have nothing. Take care of yourself.”
After she decided to walk away from medical practice, she was waiting to hear from the FDA for 2 weeks. Two weeks turned into 13 months. In that time, she became a contractor.
“It was the best 13 months of my life,” she said.
She finally heard back from the FDA. She thought it was the “ethical place to go and it wasn’t”. She got a call from Big Pharma. There she planned to protect the patients, not the company. Again, it was not the company she was expecting it to be.
“My strength is that I’m human and corporate American doesn’t like that, so just beware, that your greatest strengths can become your weakness,” said Buck.
Right now, Buck works for B Braun, where she is “working with a group of people who are trying to protect patients and bring great products to the world so that people stay alive”. She feels “so fortunate to have this role and work for everyone in my group.”
Her confident speech told students to take each moment as an opportunity to collect tools that will lead to success, to stop thinking that they need a certain position to be happy, and ultimately, the universe does not revolve around just one person and no one is entitled to anything. Buck encouraged students to give back to the community and not let the past define who they are.
“She was definitely the most real and forth coming speaker that has ever been at Cedar Crest College,” said Samantha Korpics, a junior genetic engineering major. “She was different than most speakers in the way that she motivated us to not be discouraged when life doesn’t work out as planned.”
After Buck finished her presentation, students attended three different sessions. Each session time had three different options for students to attend.
The first session students were able to attend “Get Involved Now, Get Ahead Later”, a session with Jenni Cotignola Clark MAEd ’93, where students could learn the importance of participating in extra-curriculars and how participation can pay off later in the professional world. Students could have also attended “Getting Your Point Across With Confidence and With Kindness” with Dr. Cynthia Fulford or “A Comprehensive Look into Everything Related to Club Finances” with Joellyn Colangelo, SGA treasurer.
The second session students were able to attend “The Ups and Downs and Everything in Between” with Katie Dantsin from Moravian College to learn about group dynamics. Students were also able to attend “The Nuts and Bolts of Running Clubs and Organizations at Cedar Crest College” with Tammy Bean or “Branding Yourself Through Social Media” with Natalia Martinez-Colon where student learned about taking advantage of Facebook, Twitter, and other sites.
The third session students were able to attend included “The Who, What, Where, When and Why” with Jenelle Henry, director of career planning to give students the need to know about job finding after college. Students were also able to attend “Ahhhhhh!!! I’m Stressed: Finding Ways to Cope with It” with Bean or “Learning to Master Conflict: A Constant in Life that We Can’t Avoid” with Fulford.
“I probably enjoyed the ‘Ahhhh stressed out’ with Tammy Bean,” said Jess Gilman, a senior history major. “Mostly because we got to throw balls and the coloring.”
“My favorite session was Dr. Fulford’s being nice about conflict session,” said Carly Athanasatos, a junior social work major. “I liked it because she talked about how if you’re confident in how you come off to someone that’s all that matters.”
The key difference between the conference this year and last year are the individuals that organized and implemented Influence U. This year students were in charge of each aspect of the conference. Molly Koonz, a sophomore education major, was the chair of the event.
“Working with other students to get the conference done was a challenge to find how we all worked well together,” said Koonz. “But as soon as we did that, it was an easy go of getting things done. We hit a few bumps in the road planning the conference, such as Hurricane Sandy taking a lot of time out of our planning schedule and having to move the conference back a month, but overall we all worked well and pulled off a great conference.”
“From the very beginning our goal was for this to be a conference that would be run by students,” said Fulford. “Although the template for the conference is set, the nuance differences were chosen by the students.”
The other difference from this year was students were not required to attend. The recent snowy weather may have kept students at bay from attending. While this did mean a smaller attendance, a decent amount of students still attended the conference.
“Last year, Influence U conference required that clubs and organization leaders attend,” said Fulford. “As a result, 120 registered and 98 attended. This year, students were not required to attend, yet we were able to get 80 students to register of their own accord. That is a very impressive number; however, I do believe the snow and extreme cold kept students from attending. I am happy that those who attended this year seemed to have loved the conference proceedings from start to finish.”
Fulford is spot on with reading the mood from the students in attendance. In general, students were deeply involved with participating in each session and were happy with the differences and the direction the conference took.
“When I woke up on Sunday morning and I knew I had to go to Influence U, I was really bummed,” said Athanasatos. “However, I was pleasantly surprised by the organized informational and inspirational style of the conference.”
Students can continue to look forward to event from the Office of Leadership and Students Development, Community Service, Office of Student Activities and Career Planning Activities.