GVSU hosts 2014 Leadership Summit

Welcomes CNN hero of the year

By Peter Chhum | 2/23/14 7:53pm

Grand Valley State University students and faculty interacted with university leaders from all across Michigan on Saturday when GVSU hosted its 17th annual Leadership Summit. The Office of Student Life hosted multiple workshops revolving around the theme of the day — leadership.

The summit welcomed more than 300 attendees from GVSU as well as students from 12 other colleges and universities, including Michigan State University, Central Michigan University and the University of Michigan.

“There’s ways for everyone to be a leader in anything you’re involved in. Leadership happens everywhere,” said Kate Thome, co-adviser for the Leadership Summit and graduate assistant in the Office of Student Life. “Even for students who might not see themselves as a leader, they could go to a session to see that they can be, or they could find out something new about themselves and take it in a direction where they haven’t before.”

The Leadership Summit offered different workshops that covered areas such as social justice, general leadership and personal development. One workshop focused on the pedagogy of how race and mentorship are crucial to academic success and retention in higher education.

The summit also provided campus leaders from across the state an educational opportunity to enhance personal leadership skills and development.

“It’s a day where you can see everyone changing and developing. You can see the enthusiasm people are feeling from the lessons and sessions,” said Kelsey Rice, the hospitality chair on the Leadership Summit planning board. “It teaches students a lot about themselves. It’s not enough to go to class and graduate with a degree. You have to be preparing everyday that you’re in college for a post grad life, and this is a great way to help them prepare.”

This year, the event featured CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year, Chad Pregracke. The event’s keynote speaker entertained with his stories and inspiration for cleaning up the Mississippi River while on his way to form his non-profit river cleanup organization, “Living Lands & Waters.”

“This project was not going to be easy in any regard. Not logistics, not money, not anything. But I realized if this was easy, it would have happened a long time ago, and it is that thought that helps me to this day,” Pregracke said. “I almost quit and thought, you know what, I might not be making the biggest difference, but I am making a difference slowly tire by tire. I don’t know where this is going, but I’m going to take this and make it as big as I can.”

He ultimately left students with the message that making a difference is possible.

“You guys are at the right age to make a difference. You’re going to get out of school with the same degree as a million other students with the same degrees. What CEOs are looking for is something different, the person that went above and beyond,” Pegracke said.

He also inspired attendees not to follow their dreams but to lead them.

“Everyday, you have to lead them to wherever you want to be,” he said. “Nothing is easy, but hard work and persistence make everything possible. I’m an example of that. They say you’re the future; no way, you’re the present.”

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