Leadership Institute sends athletes to Naval Academy Conference

Brittany Willwerth and Elise Covert

To be a good leader is to develop one’s own style, to acquire the respect of their followers, to push the boundaries, and to strive forward. A few Bison student-athlete leaders had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Navy Academy Leadership Conference, where they received guidance and advice towards developing productive leadership skills. The event was organized through the University’s Athletics Leadership Institute.

Held annually, this year’s conference lasted from Jan. 21 to Jan. 24. Each year, the United States Naval Academy extends invitations to delegates from more than 45 military and civilian colleges. Included in the conference schedule were a variety of speakers, discussions, and opportunities for networking.

This year’s theme of “Breaking Barriers: Obstacles are Opportunities” proved to have a strong impact on student-athletes who attended. In attendance were field hockey head coach Jeremy Cook, Emily Finn ’18, Celeste Barker ’18, Tyler Peterson ’19, and Nancy Ingabire Abayo ’19.

Reflecting upon the most impactful moments of the conference, Finn discussed the role of trust, accountability, and character. It is through these three traits, one can assume a role as a leader and make an impact on those around them.

“One of my biggest takeaways from the leadership conference was from the discussion with Ms. Michèle Flournoy. Michèle Flournoy is the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2009-2012, and is the co-founder and managing director of WestExec Advisors,” Finn said. “During the discussion, Ms. Flournoy talked about diversity and mentoring. She said that the more diversity there is in an organization or team, the more perspectives it gets, and the more successful it will be, and I completely agree with this.”

The conference was run entirely by midshipmen, including a naval officer of the junior-most rank, and military and civilian professors, the lectures offered student-athletes a new perspective.

“Every speaker brought a unique perspective to the concept of leadership and how it has impacted their life. There was a great balance between military focus and general civilian leadership, which was great because I can apply what I learned there to any aspect of my life,” Barker said. “The conversations we had and the personal connections I made are things I will hold on to for a long time.”

The conference built on the progress that the Athletics Leadership Institute has seen in recent years under the direction of Lauren Wicklund, associate director of athletics for leadership development. The event encouraged participants to capitalize on opportunities in order to move forward as leaders, an idea that any University student, athlete or not, can embrace and implement.

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