My Top Takeaways from the 8th Annual SEEM Leadership Conference

Taylor Witman ’22 – Sports, Entertainment, Event Management (SEEM) attended the 8th annual SEEM Leadership Conference on March 22, an event fully planned and produced by SEEM students enrolled in one of the Directed Experiential Education courses (DEE) that JWU offers. She spoke with both the students behind the conference and also a few of the panelists. Here are some of her biggest takeaways from the day.

There’s a saying that experience is the best teacher. After attending this year’s SEEM Leadership Conference, I’d agree. The day-long event spotlighted industry professionals from all different career paths, divided up into different panels throughout the day. Each panel of speakers shared stories about what it took to land advanced leadership roles within the industry. As I am getting ready to graduate this May, I found The SEEM Leadership Conference to be extremely informative and helpful. Here’s what stood out, in my opinion.

The Importance of Leadership

Throughout the conference, I learned a lot about the impact of leadership and what it takes to be a leader. The first panel was the keynote speaker, Kimberly Mahoney, PhD, CVP. Dr. Mahoney spoke about the importance of building your own personal brand for your future. When she said, “You need to be strategic and proactive, show initiative, take action and persevere until you affect the change that you want,” that was very memorable to me. These types of qualities all combine to create great leaders. Leaders don’t wait around for things to happen; they put in the work and make it happen.

Student Emma Smith interviews expert at SEEM event

I witnessed an excellent example of leadership during Mahoney’s presentation: Emma Smith ’23, who co-moderated the session with Professor Lee Esckilsen. As I was sitting in the audience watching, I kept thinking to myself how impressive it was to see one of my fellow classmates on stage asking Mahoney useful and in-depth questions. Later, Emma explained to me that she had the idea to have students moderate the panels throughout the conference. I found this to be a great example of leadership because Emma took initiative. She saw that there was an opportunity for herself and others to be the ones asking the professionals questions and took it. Personally, I enjoyed hearing the questions be asked from a student's perspective. Having students engaged in conversation with the panelists made it feel more relatable.

The Power of Hearing from Alumni

Each panel of the SEEM Leadership Conference was filled with impressive speakers. The panels included a Keynote presentation, Professionals of the Year, JWU Young Alumni, and a Professional Panel. All of the panelists brought insightful information and intelligence to the audience, but I was very excited to hear from the JWU alumni.

As a JWU student, I was able to gain new knowledge and learn from these alumni who were once in my shoes. Now that I will be entering the workforce in just a few months, it was a relief to hear the alumni stories and how they felt after graduating college. I related a lot to Carli Faust ’15, the Sports Tickets Operations Manager for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, which is the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. She touched upon what it’s like to be a woman working within the sports industry, saying, “Starting off, I always felt like I had to prove myself.” She went on to explain that in the past few years many women in her department, including herself, have been taking on big leadership roles. I find this to be tremendous progress for the sports industry because my hopes are to also work within professional sports after graduation.

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Getting Involved Matters (Internships, Networking & DEEs)

The importance of getting involved was frequently brought up throughout the conference. There are many different areas that students can get involved in within SEEM. A few ways to do so are to apply for internships, take part in DEE classes and network with everyone you meet within the industry. The SEEM Leadership Conference was the perfect place to network with professionals. Many of the panelists shared their LinkedIn and contact information with attendees so that we could keep in touch or reach out when looking for full-time positions.

Students produced and ran the conference as part of their DEE.

One of my favorite ways to get involved at JWU was taking a Directed Experiential Education (DEE) class. DEEs give students hands-on experience with planning events, working on projects, communicating with professionals and more in many different industries. For the SEEM Leadership Conference, students are all a part of a DEE that is based around planning the event. Students get to handle all sides of the process, whether it's marketing, booking the talent, social media, production and so much more. These types of experiences help students stand out when applying for jobs. They also allow you to make important connections with peers, professors and industry professionals that will last a lifetime.

Student Success is the Heart of the Event

Student gather with Wildcat Willie behind the scenes at the conference

The SEEM Leadership Conference was a huge success because of all of the hard work that the students involved put into the event. These students worked on planning the conference beginning in the fall semester, all the way up through the day of the event and after. After the conference, Nate DePinto ’22 shared, “My biggest takeaway, and favorite part of planning the conference, has been building professional connections and friendships with my fellow classmates. Seeing how it’s brought other students within the College of Hospitality Management together has been something that means a lot to me.” Each student had their own job to fulfill throughout the day, and it was very impressive to see them all in their element. This conference gave me a new idea of what leadership is on so many different levels. I enjoyed being able to learn and listen to not only the professionals but also all of the SEEM students.

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