North Central College - Naperville, IL

North Central hosts 2012 Blue Key National Conference

More than 100 students from across the country traveled to North Central College for the 2012 Blue Key National Conference, which took place Jan. 13-14.

The students represented 13 different colleges and universities, ranging from the University of Portland in Oregon to Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. Over the course of the conference, students had the opportunity to participate in a vast array of activities.

“Considering that North Central is a new chapter, it’s very laudatory for them to take the initiative to host the conference with students from different states,” said Chris Sieverdes, executive director of Blue Key Honor Society and a professor emeritus of Clemson University.

North Central College President Harold Wilde gave opening remarks on the first day of the conference, which also included academic presentations—a new feature for the 2012 conference—and a keynote speech from noted humanitarian and physician Samantha Nutt. Nutt spoke of her experiences providing aid in war zones and encouraged the students to continue to serve in spite of cynicism from others.

“Do not give up,” Nutt said. “True leadership comes from perseverance and having something to offer that is more than the status quo.”

Nutt gave a number of detailed first-hand accounts of the violence and atrocities in places she has served, leaving the students with an eye-opening experience.

“She was not afraid to talk about the issues,” said Robin Emerson, a junior from Colorado School of Mines. “She also didn’t present her experiences as a sob story—she presented the facts. I thought she gave a really powerful speech.”

The second day of the conference included breakout sessions, an in-house service project and a second keynote speech. To start the day, students had the opportunity to attend a selection of breakout sessions on topics such as volunteerism, financial planning, sustainability and public health.

“I think the workshops put an interesting twist on leadership and really give a different take on it,” said Jacob Holm, a senior from North Dakota State University.

One session Holm attended was on “Theatrical Facilitation as Leadership” led by Kelly Howe, North Central College assistant professor of theatre. Howe invited students to take part in acting demonstrations related to leadership.

For the in-house service project that followed the sessions, students painted umbrellas for Umbrellas for Peace, a social cause. Rose Gabler ’13, whose grandfather started the movement after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, is closely involved with the cause and saw an opportunity to unite the goals of Blue Key and Umbrellas for Peace for the conference.

“I thought Umbrellas for Peace was a good project for Blue Key since they both stand for peace, service and hope,” Gabler said.

Prior to the conclusion of the conference, North Central College political science professor Stephen Maynard Caliendo gave a keynote speech on “Leadership in ‘Post-Racial’ America.” During the speech, he discussed the issue of racism as a systemic problem and how to address the problem through leadership and service.

“It’s been very exciting for our chapter to be a part of this and being able to set the bar high for next year,” said Alexandria Kordelewski ’12, conference chair of North Central College’s Blue Key chapter.

Written by Klariza Alvaran ’13, a student majoring in interactive media studies.