As a Freshman in LAS, we are taken to Central Michigan Universities Leadership Institute Connections Conference. The Connections Conference is held at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City (yes, we did get to play in the water park).
Going into Connections I really and truly had no idea what to expect. I was thinking something along the lines of a High School Leadership Conference; we all get lanyards and get in groups of people we don’t know, it’s awkward for a minute but then we all get really comfortable doing different leadership activities together. While it was kind of like this, it was not exactly.
When we first got to Connections we all went to our rooms to settle in for a minute, and then we went to this big ballroom where we had an introduction from the Leadership Institute. After the introduction we split into groups based on the ballroom written on our name tags (this I predicted). In the session we discussed some things dealing with leadership on campus and connecting with new people. After this meeting we went back and had dinner at tables based on a different sticker on our name tag (I was still right about the name tag thing I’d like to remind you). At dinner we had conversation cards that we used to get to know the other people at our table. It was really nice to get to know new people on campus and the different things that they’re interested in. After dinner it was water park time.. My mentor, Morgan was unable to go her freshman year, so she came this year with my cohort. Morgan and I spent most of our time obsessing over all of the babies in the water park and walking back and forth from the water slides and the hot tub. We left the water park to get ice cream and shower before we had to be back at the ballroom for a pizza speed dating. Here we just ate pizza and walked around and talked to people that we didn’t know trying to make connections with each other whether it be about leadership or our personal interests. I really liked this because it pushed me out of my comfort zone to meet new people and learn about their interests and passions on campus. After pizza and speed dating, it was time for bed.
On the second day we woke up and had breakfast and then began our speaking sessions. This was the part that I had never experienced before and I really enjoyed. At every other conference I’d been to, everyone had the same speakers and whoever the conference had was what you got. At connections, there were about 5 different speakers for each of the four sessions. You were allowed to choose whichever speaker you wanted to listen to based on your interests and what you though would be most beneficial for you. After the session was up, five entirely new speakers would arrive and you would pick out of those five who you wanted to see. I really liked this because you were able to pick the speaker that interested you and benefited you the most. A lot of topics I’ve listened to people speak on a million times so it was nice to have options of things I might not have heard about yet. After lunch and those four sessions were over we met back with our original groups to discuss some more things about leadership on campus and how we can apply the things that we’d learned to our roles on campus and in our leadership positions.
Ultimately what I took away from from the Connections Conference is how making connections with people is the best way to learn about and accept the things that we do not understand in our lives. Everyday we see things and lets be honest you wonder what the point of something is or who would ever want to do or have that. Why would anyone ever want to join a squirrel watching club? Who would ever actually want to do that? Good question….. Here’s what I learned: ask. Ask why people are interested in what they are, why they do what they do; you’ll be surprised how much sense that makes and what you may be interested in as well. Try to make connections with the people you think you have no connections with because you will be so surprised.