First annual leadership conference held

Student Development hosted its first annual leadership conference titled “Explore” on Sunday Feb. 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All students were able to register to attend the event centered in the Stark Learning Center.

The conference was scheduled in intervals with breakfast being provided at 9, the keynote speaker, Charles J. Copley, speaking at 10, and then three breakout sessions for students to attend throughout the day with a lunch break at noon.

Copley, the keynote speaker, serves as the executive vice president for Golden Technologies, a medical device manufacturer. Copley is a 1998 Wilkes graduate who received both his bachelor’s degree and masters degree in Business Administration.

Copley was an adjunct professor for 14 years teaching night classes on business topics focusing on leadership, sales, and marketing. Copley also served as Student Government President, President of Off-Campus Council as well as the first President of ENACTUS here at Wilkes.

Copley opened his presentation by sharing important ideas he was taught and learned throughout his life. He shared numerous phrases and ideas throughout his presentation. One of those phrases was “The more you know, the more you understand you do not know…” a phrase that Copley said he learned from his mother.

“When I was 22 I used to get offended by that, I had my degree and then I got my masters degree. The more that I continue to unfold life the more I learn about myself. This statement is not about reading from a book, it is about learning more about yourself as you unfold your life, and the things you learn about yourself on your own journey,” said Copley.

Other ideas and concepts that Copley shared were that growth had to be intentional, meaning that leaders have to reach out and try new activities and learn about other cultures to grow. He also talked about how you win or learn, you cannot lose, focusing on the idea that you fail forward and can always learn from mistakes and slip-ups.

Copley said, “Leaders understand how to adopt this principle and do not let it affect their psyche. [Failure] does not mean that it does not hurt it just means that it does not stop them from moving forward.

Copley then said his own personal philosophy, one that he learned from his father.

“The only person who can give your integrity away is you. In business they can take your money, they can take your house, they can take everything, you can lose everything, but the only thing that you can never lose but only give away is your integrity,” said Copley.

Copley talked about not being able to manage people but instead only being able to lead people while managing the processes those people use and work with. To connect to this idea, Copley also talked about how leadership is a process as well, so by managing one’s own leadership they can lead the people they work with effectively.

Copley said, “Most people say I will believe it when I see it, but leaders say, I will see it when I believe it, I love that. Why would you expect them to see your vision, it is not their vision. Have patience with people, everyone has their own vision.”

At the end of his presentation Copley took questions from the audience and answered them to the best of his ability. One of the questions asked about how to get others to step up to the position of leaders.

Copley said, “I think what all of you are doing this weekend is a great start. I think there are a lot of people who want to be leaders for the wrong reasons. That is why I put so much emphasis on integrity. I think people are often after the title and not reaching down to pick people up. I suggest that all of you have the opportunity to change that, you are the future you have the ability to change that.”

The breakout sessions were presented by Wilkes faculty, alumni and students, and by faculty from other universities. Each breakout sessions consisted of three presentations that students could attend and learn about.

Session one consisted of “Leadership Truth AND Dare”, “Leadership: it’s Just a Personal Thing” and “Teaching Diversity Through Critical Thinking”. “Leadership Truth AND Dare” focused on the five practices of exemplary leadership expressed by the works or Kouzes and Posner. The five practices were: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart.

Student Government President Hunter Hughes said, “It was a great interactive presentation. They had a kahoot and a lot of questions. Overall it was a great learning experience.”

“Teaching Diversity Through Critical Thinking” was a presentation that focused on exploring themes of diversity and acceptance using elements of philosophy, sociology and epistemology. “Leadership: it’s Just a Personal Thing” focused on building mission statements and understanding what is important to you as a leader.

Logan Biechy, junior psychology major, said, “It required us to really acknowledge aspects of our lives that we value or want to improve on. Overall I think it was a very valuable experience because I think it is important that every individual has their own personal mission.”

The second breakout session’s three presentations were: “10 Top Ways to be an All-Star on Linkedin”, which focused on what to and not to include in online profiles target at potential employers and companies; “All I Really Need to Know About Leadership I Learned from Mr. Potato Head”, which was an interactive presentation about communication, ability, teamwork, and intersectionality; “Live Your Why”, which was focused on asking why students want to be leaders and to focus on not the title of leadership but the actions and responsibilities that the leadership brings.

The final breakout sessions included: “How Failure Made Me a Better Leader”, which talked about viewing failures as learning opportunities; “The 6 Thinking Hats Approach to Group Decision Making”, which focused on looking at all points of views in a group or individual setting to form the best conclusions; “Peer Leadership: Making the Most of Student Opportunities”, in which the student presenters focused on peer leadership.

Each of these sessions effectively showcased the importance of many topics that keynote speaker Charles Copley focused on in his presentation at the beginning of the conference.