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Monmouth students take leadership role at national conference

Barry McNamara
11/13/2018
From left, Declan Crego, Serena Venenga, Nick Thomas, Hadley Smithhisler and Tori Chaffee present a workshop on humble inquiry at the Lead365 National Student Leadership Conference, held earlier this month in Orlando, Fla.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – Even when learning about leadership, Monmouth College students take a leadership role.

Along with Monmouth Assistant Director of Leadership Development and Service Jake McLean, five students attended the Lead365 National Student Leadership Conference, held earlier this month in Orlando, Fla.

The students led a workshop about humble inquiry, which is a communication and organizational leadership theory developed by legendary management scholar Edgar Schein. They were the only students in attendance to make a presentation.

The other presenters were professional speakers, including James Robilotta, who will come to Monmouth’s campus Nov. 17 to speak at the Scots Leadership Conference, sponsored by the Associated Students of Monmouth College and the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center.

The goal of the Lead365 National Conference is to prepare college leaders, graduate students, new professionals and educators “to lead 365 days a year.”

Monmouth students who attended the conference were: Tori Chaffee ’21 of Volo, Ill., Declan Crego ’21 of New Glarus, Wis., Hadley Smithhisler ’20 of Valley City, N.D., Nick Thomas ’20 of Elmhurst, Ill., and Serena Venenga ’21 of Fredericksburg, Va.

Already a highly active member of the College’s Stockdale Leadership Fellows, Smithhisler said she appreciated the opportunity to sharpen her leadership skills at the conference.

“I attended sessions and workshops about accepting feedback, building high-performance teams, introverted leadership, developing grit and creating real social justice change,” she said. “A main theme of the conference was discerning your values and strengths so that you can lead authentically and truthfully.”

Keynote address

In addition to helping with the workshop, Crego delivered one of the conference’s three keynote speeches. He called attention to efforts to bring more “green energy” to Monmouth and other college campuses.

“Have you ever stopped to wonder about the garbage we create?” Crego asked the audience of about 400 people. “How about the things we waste? What about the energy that we use?”

Crego used a bag of trash to illustrate how much waste is produced by the average person during a typical day. He said the Environmental Protection Agency claims that figure is 4.4 pounds, of which only about 1.5 pounds are usually recycled.

“That means that for the three days we’ve been here, we’ve produced well over 5,000 pounds of garbage,” said Crego, a physics major who is in the midst of several research projects on campus, including ones involving nuclear energy and solar energy.

Crego gave the audience two thoughts to remember for having a goal and completing it. One was to communicate that goal, so they wouldn’t have to try to achieve it alone.

“Together, we can do anything,” he said.

His other advice was to list tasks required to achieve that goal, allowing progress to be seen as tasks are checked off.

Teaching humble inquiry

Smithhisler said she enjoyed learning more about humble inquiry, which is the process of asking genuine, open questions to build relationships with people and to guide them to answer their own questions.

“The highlight of the conference for me was definitely our student presentation,” she said. “We taught conference participants tips to practice humble inquiry and allowed them time to practice with each other. ... Through our workshop and my overall experience at the conference, I’ve decided that I need to build more time for asking questions into the groups and teams that I am a part of.”

McLean is also a fan of Schein’s theory because of its broad application.

“Humble inquiry is not just for leaders – it helps anyone have better conversations,” said McLean.