Leadership Forum prepares students for life after college


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Appalachian State University hosted the 2015 Appalachian Leadership Forum on Nov. 7.

The forum, hosted by Leadership Educators, is designed to educate students on the different aspects of leadership and what it means to be a leader.

“Whether you’re looking to work in an office, or with people in more of a social environment or whatever, it doesn’t matter,” said Kim Mitchell, the staff adviser for Leadership Educators. “The purpose is to bring many different thought processes together.”

The conference consisted of 65 seminars covering a wide array of topics relating to leadership and the business world, how to organize a successful fundraiser, and the importance of introspection for a strong leader.

Rebekah Knight, a senior psychology major who attended the event, said she appreciated the large variety of viewpoints expressed in the seminars.

“A lot of times when someone is talking about how to be a leader, they just sort of tell you, ‘be strong, be courageous,’” she said. “But you don’t really understand how to do those things and how to be a leader. I feel like these really got into the ways to do those big things you’re always hearing.”

Knight said her favorite seminar was on the importance of self care.

“You’re always taught the importance of taking care of others,” Knight said. “It’s nice to be reminded that it’s also important to take care of yourself.”

The keynote speaker at the conference was Blair Townsend. Townsend graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, and received her MD from George Washington University in 2012. Townsend is currently a physician for the U.S. Navy and serves as the department head of undersea medicine at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

In his speech, Townsend identified 11 pieces of advice he gives to aspiring leaders. Townsend’s advice included to never forget where you came from, to not feel sorry for yourself, to know that it’s okay to be confused, to know when it’s more appropriate to follow and to not forget to seize opportunities after you create them.

“I really liked the way he told us that it’s okay not to completely know what we want to do,” Knight said. “So many people tell us that we need to have everything figured out, but he really seemed to get that it’s okay to not have all the answers in college.”

Mitchell said approximately 350 people registered for the conference, which is the most it’s ever had.

“Each year we get bigger and bigger,” Mitchell said. “Last year we had around 320.”

Sara Mbiki, a Leadership Educator, said she thinks all Appalachian State students should take advantage of the help offered by the conference.

“This is a great opportunity for students to learn a lot from different leaders here on campus,” Mbiki said. “A lot of our workshops really help you focus on what it takes to be a leader and what you need to do.”