As we continue the march toward the November conference, we wanted to check in with some of our March attendees and see what lessons from Orlando were sticking with them months later. Today, we speak with Spencer Stidd, graduate advisor of the Pepsi Scholars at Ohio University.

Q. While you’re in a paraprofessional role, I would venture to guess that your interest in this work started as a student. What inspired you to become a leader as a student?

All of my involvements began after I was hired to be a Building Manager for Ohio University’s University Center. As a Building Manager, I had my first opportunity to be a campus leader and from that experience I learned about additional roles on campus. My favorite role was serving as the Communications Director for the 2012 Ohio University Homecoming Steering Committee. I initially took this role because I was a graphic design major who desperately needed practical experience with a client and this opportunity would allow me to design all the marketing. What I never expected was that I would love another part of it more. I found myself striving to create something beyond my initial intentions. I wanted my contribution to be more than well-illustrated graphics but an integral part of everything the “Better Than The Best Ever” homecoming theme represented about the university; the pride that comes from being a member of the Ohio University community.

Q. Can you tell us about a great moment you’ve had as a student leader that has made it all feel worthwhile?

The day of the big homecoming parade I was exhausted and dragging from working all week long but I was serving as the parade marshal. As the parade marshal, I was in charge of leading the parade up to the main street of campus, Court Street. Directly behind me was the Ohio University Marching 110, easily the most exciting band in the land, and the second we turned on to Court Street they began playing “Stand Up and Cheer”. I got chills seeing the entire Ohio University community laid out in front of my cheering and embracing everything it means to be a Bobcat. I can’t even being to fully recount how incredible that moment was but it made all the sleepless nights and long workdays worth it and ultimately led to me being a student affairs professional!

Pepsi Scholars Leadership Gala (1)
The Ohio University Pepsi Scholars at their year-end gala

Q. What were you most excited about, as you left the conference, to share with those on your campus?

I think the best way for me to answer this question is to share part of a speech my students, the Pepsi Scholars, shared at our annual Leadership Awards Gala after the conference:

“This conference was nothing like I have other experienced before; the first general session began with flashing lights, loud dance music, and excited speakers in matching Polo’s dancing and high-fiving students as they came in. There was so much enthusiasm for the opportunity to help leaders grow. But, one of the strongest messages I took from this conference was its tagline “Explore, Engage, and Evolve.” To be a successful leader, we must take up the responsibility to grow our minds, and influence others to be their best, all in order to effect positive change. We take those first few steps into the unknown, challenge ourselves, ask questions, jump in at every opportunity, and evolve not only as individuals, but as a collective people.

Every Pepsi Scholar leaves here understanding our capabilities to effect change, not only on this campus, but in every endeavor henceforth in our lives. Through our time together, this group has explored the meaning of leadership, engaged in activities that created lasting relationships, and evolved into leaders who will never stop evolving, but will always be changing this world.”

I also think this demonstrate just how the Pepsi Scholars utilized the Lead365 conference as a launching point to enact change in themselves, others and Ohio University. This conference also had the unique component of including a professional track alongside the student track. My supervisor, Jodi, and I utilized those sessions to help revitalize some of our leadership curriculum so that we could be as impactful as possible with our program!

Q. What’s an important or significant session or experience that happened while you were there?

The most significant experience I had was just seeing how much this conference changed my students. I always knew that I had an incredible group but this conference allowed them to truly shine. All throughout our time in Florida I had professionals telling me how incredibly thoughtful my students were and how impressed they were with them. Just knowing that my students were walking away from this conference revitalized as student leaders made it worth attending!

The Ohio University Pepsi Scholars delegation in Orlando
The Ohio University Pepsi Scholars delegation in Orlando

Q. If you could tell someone thinking about attending the conference why they should go, what would you tell them?

Everyone should go to this conference at least once! I’ve been to several student affairs conferences over the years but they all seemed to follow the same flow of listening to a speaker and, to be honest, it gets a little boring after 5 or 6 days! This conference is something completely different! From the second we walked in the door it was engaging and fun! We had been traveling since about 6:30am that morning but when we got to the opening session we forgot about how tired and hungry we were and loved every second of it! I really enjoyed how this conference was shorter and filled with engaging sessions that always involved some level of participation!

Our deepest thanks go out to Spencer for sharing her and her students’ stories. Would you like to tell us about the cool things you’re up to on your campus as a result of Lead365? Let us know, we’d love to talk to you!

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