This year’s Region III Lead On conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan has come to a close and let me tell you, what an exciting and inspiring time!
If you’re wondering what Lead On is, here’s a snapshot: it’s a regional conference that is put on by students, for students from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Ontario. Started in 1988, the conference’s goals are to encourage and enhance the professional growth and development of students interested in the field of campus recreation. This year, Oakland University’s Department of Campus Recreation was able to take 18 students to the conference to help expand their set of experiences and give them the tools to grow.
The conference included educational sessions on everything from leadership to how to run an employee recognition program and how to get an internship, all of which offer the opportunity to learn from the people around you. There were also opportunities to have a resume reviewed and network with students and professionals from other university recreation programs.
OU student Ben Varnhagen got a first-hand experience on what it’s like to present at Lead On. “At Lead On this year, two intramural coworkers and I presented on staff retention, the mentor/mentee program we have in place, and student development within the Rec center,” said Ben. Ben’s group also talked about how the Intramural OU Mentor/Mentee program has helped with retention efforts of the student staff as well as the overall growth. “Presenting at Lead On was an excellent opportunity to practice public speaking and presenting,” said Ben. “It also gave me an opportunity to work as a team to accomplish a goal. Many networking and professional relationships came as a result as well.”
Marketing Graduate Assistant Sarah Button was a part of the planning committee for the conference, which was made up entirely of students. Sarah served as the Marketing Committee Chair; her job was to handle all social media, videos, and program creation for the conference. “Working to plan Lead On was a ton of work (months long), but extremely rewarding. I made so many great friends and professional connections that I know I will have for a very long time,” Sarah said. “I would highly encourage other students to apply to be on the Planning Committee in the future. If you’re looking for a challenge and to work with some awesome people that like to have fun, please be on the look out for the application in the next few months!”
We asked Welcome Center employee Christina Luczak what stuck out to her at the conference, in which she replied, “I attended a session that talked about making authentic professional relationships. That really stuck out to me. I sometimes worry about getting into grad school or getting a job, but if you meet someone who can help you with your career search or if they know someone that is in your field, having those relationships is invaluable when it can help you succeed in your career.”
Intramural Supervisor Charles LaPastora got to go for the first time this year. “I was able to gain valuable skills and insight from other students and professionals in the same field of Recreation that I will apply to my job as [an] Intramural Supervisor,” said Charles. “I am very glad I went. It was useful even though I won’t pursue a job in campus recreation after graduation.”
As Charles pointed out, you don’t have to have Campus Recreation as an intended career path in order to attend these conferences every year. The idea is that you’ll be able to attend the conference and return to your respective campus having networked with other people and brought value to yourself in the process, making you a better overall person and professional.
For a complete set of photos from the conference, click here.
To learn more about Lead On, other professional development opportunities, or more about getting involved at the Rec, email Marie VanBuskirk (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Recreation Leadership Council President Sarah Button (email@example.com).