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SNHU Community Creates Its Moment at 8th Annual LEADS Conference

A blue graphic with multicolored boxes across the top and a diagonal line pattern on the bottom with the text LEADS 2022

Investing in yourself and your future is an essential part of your personal and professional growth. Saying yes to developmental opportunities is a quality Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) students know well, according to Amanda Seibel, director of the Office of Student Involvement. 

The theme of SNHU's 8th annual LEADS conference was "Create Your Moment" for this very reason. “Lots of people wait for opportunity to come to them, but at SNHU, we go out and find it," said Seibel, a co-chair of the event. “... If we've learned anything from the SNHU community, it's that each of us has the tenacity and grit to direct the course of our future and our own success and that we can do it best when we come together.”

LEADS, an acronym for Lead, Engage, Achieve, Discover and Succeed, featured diverse session offerings to help attendees "Create Their Moment." Historically based on SNHU’s Manchester, New Hampshire, campus, this year marked the 3rd fully virtual conference and a growing number of SNHU community members in attendance.

Sessions for Everyone

Campus and online students, alumni, faculty and staff were invited to attend the free virtual conference, opting into the sessions that interested them most and worked with their schedule. To accommodate time zones across the United States and beyond, there were opportunities to tune in at a variety of times throughout the day and in the evenings.

Chantel Freeman with the text Chantel FreemanChantel Freeman, LEADS co-chair and the associate director of the Office of Student Involvement, enjoyed welcoming people to the conference, knowing some have attended it in years past and others were experiencing it for the first time. “My favorite part is watching students recognize each other in the sessions too and leave with those connections," she said.

Almost 4,000 people registered for the two-day conference which featured 11 sessions – a majority of which were led by SNHU alumni, faculty and staff. The sessions followed three tracks: academic achievement, leadership and career advancement. 

Some of the most popular were:

Genny Acosta with the text Genny AcostaGenny Acosta, a student earning her online master’s in accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting, attended all of the LEADS sessions this year. “All the events offered were helpful, beneficial and empowering,” she said.

Some of her favorites centered around wellness – an area that’s historically been a part of the conference but was expanded on in a big way this year. The LEADS organizers partnered with Help U, a wellness, counseling and coaching resource for SNHU students, to bookend the conference with mindfulness exercises.

Acosta said she learned new stress relief strategies, breathing exercises and the importance of self-care through these sessions as well as in “Self Care & Wellness: Have You Thought About It Lately” led by Dr. Ronda K. Bibbs, SNHU microbiology and human anatomy/physiology adjunct instructor.

Feeling Qualified After Keynote

The keynote presentation, “You are More #Qualified Than You Realize,” also resonated with many attendees. Led by Amanda Nachman, the CEO of College Magazine, TEDx speaker and bestselling author, the address explored the ways in which people achieve a qualified mindset, drawing from interests and experiences, to help them create a successful future.

Julie Rust with the text Julie RustJulie Rust, a student pursuing her online bachelor’s in business administration with a concentration in accounting, particularly enjoyed Nachman’s keynote. "I have never thought of myself as a strong person but after listing all my strengths, I found I was more capable of things than I gave myself credit for,” Rust said.

In an exercise to “level up” her professional story, she realized she can speak to the volunteer work she did with a local elementary school in addition to the four mission trips she took to an orphanage in Honduras.

Brinda Patel with the text Brinda PatelBrinda Patel, an online master's in healthcare administration student, also came away from the keynote with actions she can take to boost her career. Not only does she feel as though she gained techniques to improve communication and discover her professional value, but she learned how to forge connections with others in administrative positions.

Particularly, Patel is planning to apply what she learned to initiate conversations with chief administrative officers and operations managers at local hospitals. "As a student, the overall idea of (the) LEADS session has been proven beneficial and (a) very educating experience," she said.

Leaving LEADS Empowered

Samantha Sierra with the text Samantha SierraAttending LEADS gave Samantha Sierra, a student earning her online operations management degree with a concentration in project management, the push she needed to make moves in her career.

In Magoon's "Finding What Gives You Energy" session, Sierra spent time completing a worksheet to outline every task she does at work and how she feels about them. Later that week, she asked her boss if they could meet and discuss her future at the company. "I brought in my worklist that I had carefully thought up, summoned up my courage, and had a really great talk with my boss," Sierra said.

She came away from the conversation feeling supported by her manager and understanding his vision for her career path in the company. "He said that he wants to do whatever it takes to retain me long-term because he does not want to lose me after I earn my degree," she said.

Sierra plans to apply other communication techniques she gained at the conference in her professional life. She wants to use her voice to stop apologizing when it isn't necessary, building assertive communication as a woman in business instead. She also learned new ways to contribute to business meetings and conversations after attending Varney's "Finding Your Leadership Voice" session.

"So, when I say that the LEADS conference changed me, I truly mean it," Sierra said. "It gave me the inspiration and courage to use the voice that I have had this whole time but have been too timid to use properly. I will no longer hold myself back and wonder what someone else wants from my life. I will use my voice not only for myself but for my team. Because, like Jenn Magoon said, what’s the (worst) that could happen?"

Getting Involved, Building Connections

Amanda Seibel with the text Amanda SeibelSeibel hopes conference attendees left their sessions feeling inspired and connected to the rest of the SNHU community. “There are many ways to create their moment, and everyone’s path may look a little different,” she said. She also hopes attendees from all over the world now know there are many ways to get involved as a student at SNHU.

Freeman echoed Seibel’s sentiment. “We hope that their experience with LEADS left them feeling inspired and better prepared to take on the starring role in their own stories, and to know that they are part of a vibrant and supportive SNHU community,” she said.

If you missed the conference or a session, you can still watch the recordings.

Online. On campus. Choose your program from 200+ SNHU degrees that can take you where you want to go.

Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, institutionally accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.