By Taylor Fischer & Savita Sukha

We, Taylor Fischer and Savita Sukha, attended the 2nd Annual Student Leadership Symposium on Saturday, February 11th to hear speakers and BC alums talk about leadership qualities in a competitive world.

The first event of the day was listening to the keynote speaker, Mike Del Ponte, who is an A&S ’05 alum who left BC and started his own socially responsible company called SparkSeed which identifies promising entrepreneurs. Mike spoke passionately about following his dreams and “constantly listening for your calling.” He first wanted to be a priest but realized after some time that it would not be the right life for him. He came to the epiphany that even if “the world needs that, it doesn’t mean you need to do it” meaning that even though the world needs more spiritual guidance, it doesn’t mean that he should be a priest when he could do something better suited for him. He also gave out advice about leadership qualities and making the best of one’s situation and talents. It was definitely inspiring to hear how he built himself up from nothing and used his networking skills to start a company that benefits the world. He now works for BranchOut, a Facebook professional networking site, and is currently working on a top-secret project that will be out in the next few months. For us, becoming leaders and making beneficial changes in the nursing field is our dream; and Mike inspired us to use our resources and strengths to both, have a dream and live it.

For the next part of the leadership symposium we sat at a round table and had lunch with a BC alum. The alum assigned to us was Obiageli Ukadike and she discussed her non-profit organization, The WaWa Project, which builds schools to educate the physically handicapped in Ghana. It was amazing to hear Obi’s story and how passionate she is to help the unfortunate and handicapped people of Ghana who are often abandoned as babies and face a life of peril. By giving them a school and teaching them life skills, The WaWa Project is giving them a new lease on life or as they say, “a temporary home but a permanent education.” The WaWa Project is also working to spread information around Ghana to eliminate the stigma that physically disabled people carry. If the Ghanaian population can see that people with disabilities are also citizens who can contribute to society in various ways, then the bias would eventually disappear and the physically disabled could finally integrate into the rest of the Ghanaian  society. Overall, it was very inspiring to see someone’s small seedling of an idea become reality.

After the round tables with Boston College Alums, six speakers held discussions in small groups regarding the integration of essential values into one’s life.

Savita Sukha went to the In Living and Leading with Ethics and Integrity discussion with Father James Keenan. He pointed out ten key characteristics that leaders should embrace. Some of them included being honest, hardworking, trustworthy, humble, fair, and fortitudinous. Other pieces of advice comprised of avoiding resentfulness, spreading hope, and becoming identified with one’s project. One characteristic that especially stood out was being prudent. Father Keenan explained that this does not mean that leaders have to be cautious but should be aware of what their overarching goals are instead. This taught us that one should not compromise any overarching goals but should learn alternative ways to get to one goal if necessary. Also, Father Keenan’s tip of being a respectful listener was most meaningful to our development as a nursing professional. He said that one should “empower people by listening” and “listen to the person most distant in the group to expand the group.” In the nursing field, nurses have to advocate for patients and the best way to begin to do so is by listening to the patients.

Taylor  Fischer went to the Managing Relationships discussion with Catherine-Mary Rivera. She spoke about the different relationships and how to navigate various obstacles that will inevitably arise when mixing one’s different relationship roles. For example, when Catherine was in college, she often found herself caught between being a sorority sister and her role as an RA for her friends. Oftentimes she had to make tough decisions that may have burned bridges with her friends but it was the right thing to do at the time because it was her job to enforce college policies. Similarly, we face tough decisions everyday regarding our different relationships, such as whether we should fulfill the role of a student and study for a test or fulfill the role of a friend and help an acquaintance who needs us as well. Basically, Catherine gave great advice saying, “Behave differently in your different roles but keep your core values intact. Your authentic self will flow into all the roles you play.” This is vital to being a nurse because one must be able to approach a patient as a professional but also as someone they can confide in. Hearing her stories and along with others taught us about ways to communicate and that managing relationships is based off of honest communication. Nursing is an interactive job that requires the ability to effectively communicate with people from various backgrounds and be honest as well.

The discussions held by Mike Del Ponte and Obiageli Ukadike will benefit our development as nursing students because we saw how they applied their resourcefulness and determination to reach their goals. As a result, we will use those skills to reach our personal goals within the nursing field both inside and outside of our community. We hope to apply the tips that Father Keenan gave and make sure that as leaders, we keep our overarching goals a priority and listen to those around us, including fellow nursing students, professors, and future patients. Also, Catherine-Mary Rivera’s advice of being honest will be with us throughout both our nursing school years and nursing career as honesty will help us keep good relationships between fellow students, patients, and colleagues. Overall, the Leadership symposium was a valuable experience, and we were both grateful to have attended it.