Students equip for a future in leadership

Students learn the meaning of Inside Out Leadership at U.S. Naval Academy Conference

~Emma Dixon, News Editor~

While listening to a wide variety of leaders from different fields, four CNU students learned their own leadership potential and other valuable leadership lessons at the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference.

Dr. Sean Heuvel and four CNU students attended the four-day conference in Annapolis, MD from Jan. 21-24. 

The theme of this year’s conference was Inside Out Leadership.

Inside Out Leadership is focused on knowing oneself, and the main aspect is learning how to play to one’s strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

During the conference, participants went through a series of seminars and workshops on various topics that helped strengthen attendees’ Inside Out Leadership.

“I think my biggest take away was leading has to come from you first and everyone is going to do it differently,” junior Mackenzie Regen said. “Every situation, every group of people needs a different type of leader and we aren’t always the best fit for every situation but knowing that each experience will help you in the future.”

Students also attended three major panels, which were entitled “Bring out the Best in People,” “Leading Beyond Self” and “Leading from Within.”

Although the conference did have people from different fields, the CNU students said they learned a lot from all of the students and speakers from the Naval Academy itself.

“It wasn’t until I visited the Naval Academy that I was able to even begin to grasp the investment that those in service put into their line of work. I’ve heard of words like ‘duty,’ ‘accountability,’ ‘honor’ and ‘determination’ before. I knew their definitions, but I had not experienced what it meant to uphold those words every single day,” junior Mara Scally said.

“From just the few encounters I had with the students and faculty of the academy, I was able to see those words put into action. I realized the commitment it takes to serve this country.”

Another part of the conference the group enjoyed were the breakout sessions with the midshipman and other attendees.

“They were very engaging and we got the opportunity to meet people from around the world. There was a student from Singapore in my discussion group and I also met two students from Brazil,” junior Nicole Suscello said. 

“[During the breakout sessions] we could listen to each other and ask questions, and it was truly eye opening,” Regen said.

Two of the students, Suscello and senior Eleanor Fink, chose to apply to the conference partially because of their personal connection with the Navy. 

Suscello has interned with the Navy for the past four summers and is intrigued by military speakers.

“However, when I learned more about the conference topic, Inside Out Leadership, I was very interested,” Suscello said. “I am always looking to strengthen my leadership skills, especially by focusing on my individual strengths and weaknesses, in order to better lead in organizations on campus.”

Fink’s grandfather graduated from the Naval Academy in 1957 and attended the conference.

“He was an incredible leader because he attended the Naval Academy,” Fink said. 

Unfortunately, her grandfather passed away her freshman year at CNU.

“I applied hoping I would get to attend to kind of get to know him better in a way. I hoped to learn what life was like for Granbear while he attended the conference, and to learn how he became the incredible leader he was,” Fink said.

While at the academy, Fink was able to go to the archives section of the library and find her grandfather’s name in the book the year he graduated.

Students who went the conference this year encourage CNU students to apply next year.

“It is important to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. You can gain so much by learning from others and their personal stories,” Suscello said. “The conference had both military speakers, as well as CEOs from big companies, so you were able to gain a wide perspective.”

For those interested in applying in the future, Scally recommends reading the application in detail and visiting the conference’s website. 

“Don’t write a generic application,” Scally said. “The way to get in is to be thorough. Make your application stand out and prove that you understand why you want to go and why you would represent CNU well.”

Heuvel said the nice thing about the Naval Academy conference is that it is more practitioner oriented rather than academic in orientation where papers are presented.

“You have a lot of senior executives from the military and business and other sectors giving life advice about what’s worked for them, what hasn’t worked for them,” Heuvel said. “I think that was particularly appealing to the students. That really hit it home for the students.”

“It was really nice to listen to these speakers more on a human level instead of a theoretical, analytical and academic level where they’re present research. I’ve always enjoyed that type of experience where you can listen to people’s life experience and their life journey.”

Heuvel believes the students gained insight on how to advance their leadership as well as gaining professional opportunities from their experience at the conference.

Fink and Scally both found the conference to be an eye opening experience.

“I did not always agree with everything the speakers and panelists said, but they gave me unique perspectives on leadership,” Fink said.

“This is definitely a conference you need to go to with an open-mind,” Scally said. “Thoughts and ideas might surface that challenge your own ideals, but it’s important to listen and understand them before judging or questioning them.” 

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