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Students develop conference, learn leadership
Speaker says pursue your passion
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The students and faculty at Brenau University found a way to turn a problem into a unique learning opportunity.

"Two years ago, I wanted to take my Principles of Leadership and Theory class to a leadership conference," said Valerie Walston, the university's dean of student success and retention.

"Obviously we couldn't afford to send all 20 students to a conference, so we decided to bring the conference to them."

For a class assignment, Walston and her co-instructor Melissa Kane challenged their students to organize a leadership conference, to be hosted on the university's campus. The end result was the Influential Leadership: Innovative Results 2010 Student Leadership Conference.
"We've been working on this since the beginning of the (school) year," said Lauren Giles, a senior business management major.

"It's totally student run. We worked on different committees to pull everything together - from picking a theme, to advertising and voting on the panel of guests."
Not only was the conference a class assignment, it was a learning opportunity for the student body at-large, as other students were encouraged to attend and soak up the free educational seminar.

The leadership conference included a panel of guests who answered various questions about leadership development.

"Being a leader isn't about saying ‘You go do this,' it's about we together are going to create something greater," said Lua Blankenship, Brenau's assistant professor of business administration.

To foster teamwork, leaders need to possess charisma, Blakenshipsaid.

"Charisma is that quality that inspires you to do the best that you can," he said.

Other members of the panel included Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell, Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly and Amanda Lammers, Brenau's assistant vice president of student services.

Keynote speaker Charles Bradford Hunter explained to the students how Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and even the Beatles are all connected.

"One thing, that all of these people have in common is passion - it's what drove each of them to be great," Hunter said.

"When you are truly driven by passion, you don't think the same. You start thinking outside of the realm of what's normal. And that's when you start to really become an innovative leader."

To harness their own leadership potential, Hunter encouraged the students to do a little reflecting.

"Think about what it is that interests - that thing that you could do for the next 22 or more years with no recognition," Hunter said.

"That thing is your passion. And when you find it, pursue it."