During one weekend in Indianapolis the top 100 undergraduate students from the Krannert School of Management join together to enhance their leadership skills while networking with top company recruiters. The Doster Leadership Conference only happens every two years, but it’s an event that can have a life-long impact.
“One of our regular conference sponsors, nine out of their last 13 hires were Krannert students who attended this conference,” says John Ertl, a senior majoring in management. “In addition to the leadership focus, companies have the opportunity to do high-level, engaged recruiting at the conference and the students they meet are really the best talent from Krannert.”
Ertl was one of two executive directors for this year’s event, along with Amanda Short, a sophomore majoring in management. More than 170 students applied to attend the 2013 conference. The top 100 students were chosen based on GPA, prior leadership experience, internship experience and how well they met Krannert’s educational goals of analytical insight and global leadership.
A copy of Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success by Purdue alumni and UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was given to all participants and served as the conference theme. Annemarie Sullivan, a sophomore majoring in management, says her view of leadership expanded after reading Wooden’s book and hearing his principles for success. “I learned to appreciate the teamwork process and to focus less on the outcome. Success should be defined by growth and not number of wins,” she says.
In addition to principles from Wooden’s book, students heard an inspirational keynote speech Friday night from former Colts player Shawn Harper. “He spoke about dreams, challenging yourself and finding solutions to everyday problems. He got everybody pumped up for the weekend,” Ertl says.
Shama Kabani, president of Marketing Zen Group and author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, spoke on Saturday. Sullivan says, “I thought her presentation was very engaging and useful. Being the social media-focused college students that we are, Shama was able to tell us how to use our social media to its greatest potential.”
Students also gained insight on networking and marketing from Anna Runyan, the blogger behind Classycareergirl.com. Kevin Leung, a sophomore majoring in accounting and management, says Runyan’s presentation taught him the importance of networking.
“Before DLC I knew networking could provide opportunities, but I never knew how to network effectively,” Leung says. “Anna Runyan gave herself the challenge of meeting with four people she knew and four people she didn’t know every week. Her experiences inspired me to attempt this challenge as well to increase my own network.”
In addition to speakers, there were team-building activities, leadership exercises, a dining etiquette presentation, an informal reception with company representatives and a career fair.
The event was held at the Crown Plaza Hotel at Union Station. With major support from sponsors and fundraising by the student-run Doster Leadership Forum, the cost for students to attend the Friday night through Sunday event was just $35. The Krannert School Alumni Association also supports the conference. This year the group raised $10,000 and had five members attend.
Gary Naab, BSIM '67 and KSAA Board member for the past 17 years, has attended all eight DLC events held so far. "With an outstanding track record and extremely positive feedback from both the attending students and sponsors, the Doster Leadership Conference has become a remarkable off-campus Krannert event that continues to deserve the commitment of time, talent, and treasury of the KSAA Board of Directors and corporate sponsors alike," Naab says.
Students agree. “From the quality of the speakers to the networking opportunities and even the gift bags we got at registration, I could tell that the School of Management Council really worked hard to maintain the quality of the conference,” Sullivan says. “So, kudos to SMC for such a professional and fun conference!”
Leung says the conference has changed the way he thinks about leadership. “It was interesting to see that all the students there were leaders, but had different leadership styles. It taught me that anyone has the ability to be a successful leader as long as they treat those they are leading with respect and as equals.”
For Ertl, even though he missed out on some of the weekend activities working behind-the-scenes, the conference has had a huge impact. “It’s been an overall great experience for me personally. It’s really fine-tuned my communication skills. Having that long-term goal, taking the steps along the way, thinking through things carefully and building strong relationships … It should translate into success in my future career.”