Leadership Symposium at R-MA Hailed as Success

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Celeste M. Brooks P'12, '21, Director of Communications

Randolph-Macon Academy’s second Leadership Symposium held on Saturday, April 13, 2019, brought more than 60 students from private and public schools to campus for an insightful experience. 

After the opening session that provided insight into the role of innovation in today’s world, the students broke into groups according to their topics of interest, choosing from Health Sciences, Military, Cyber/Computer Science, Aviation (Drone), Data Analytics, Engineering, and Non-Profit. 

Organizer Mike Starling ‘88, commandant of R-MA and a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, brought together seven outstanding facilitators who helped the students delve into the world of innovation and how leaders can use it to inspire those around them. The organizers each gave an overview of innovation in their industry, then presented a problem statement, complicated by an ethical dilemma, for the students to solve. Throughout the challenge, students discussed specific leadership styles that promote innovation in particular industries as well as leadership requirements to create or sustain an innovative organizational culture. The groups came back together at the end to share their challenges and solutions with each other. 

“I think the biggest impact that the Leadership Symposium had on me was working in a team with my group (Military) and seeing all the different styles of leadership as well as seeing how others react to the leader. It opened up a lot of perspective for me as a leader such as knowing how others react differently due to age or cultural differences,” commented R-MA student Edward Fedzer ‘20. The Military group that Fedzer joined addressed the problem statement of “How can U.S Military harness artificial intelligence and autonomous targeting technology to destroy the enemy effectively?” with the added issue of how to adapt their plans when third parties were added to the scenario. 

“I personally loved seeing all the people that came to visit R-MA for this event and seeing how many different people could be leaders and followers,” said Fedzer. “It was also enjoyable stating my opinion on how to solve a scenario and hearing the voices of not just my peers, but people from other schools such as Quantico.”

“What I learned at the Leadership Symposium was how to work together as a team,” said R-MA student Sophia Poe ‘20. “There were situations where we all could not agree on a certain topic or figure out situations, but together we figured out solutions and how to work together with communication.” Sophia attended the non-profit session, in which they discussed, “How to educate and involve people ages 18-24 about the Opioid Epidemic in this digitally connected world by bypassing the tsunami of misinformation broadcasted.”

Ben Kopjanski ’20 of R-MA attended the Data Analytics session, which addressed the challenge of “How to reduce the IED threat to Logistics convoys and reduce threat exposure.” He stated, “The biggest impact the conference had on me was when I realized that every job there is has something to do with data analytics, and the proper application thereof can greatly improve any organization.”

R-MA staff and faculty are especially thankful to the professionals who facilitated groups for the day, and who created the ethical dilemmas and leadership challenges the students addressed.

“Our facilitators are experts in their fields, have worked at senior levels and all over the world.  We were incredibly blessed for them volunteering their time and expertise to make this leadership development opportunity what it was,” Starling said. “It also would not have been possible without the faithful support of our dear alumni through the Leadership and Character Development account.  Being able to support the travel of professionals that our students can learn from, and who validate their dreams, is priceless.” 

Brian J. Kelly joined the team for the Aviation (Drones) session. An FAA certified UAS (drone) pilot and instructor, Mr. Kelley has been at the forefront of using drones in film and television production--in fact, the aerial footage on the homepage of the RMA.edu website is his work. 

Glenn Schoonover, a Leadership Partner in Security and Risk Management for Gartner Advisory Services, hosted the cyber security group. Mr. Schoonover is the parent of R-MA graduate Ben Schoonover ‘17. 

The Data Analytics group was facilitated by Terry Hagen, a professional logistician with expertise in supply chain management, convoy movement control, distribution, command and control information systems, unmanned systems, and interagency political-military issues. 

Dr. Bill Bersing is an accomplished senior executive with more than 25 years of success across the energy, engineering, construction, security, IT, and government sectors. He currently serves as the President and CEO of the Institute for Program Solutions PC (IPS). He hosted the Engineering break-out session. Dr. Bersing recently joined the Board of Trustees at R-MA. 

Joining the team to facilitate the Health Science challenge was Dr. Eric Hegedus, who is a professor at High Point University and the Founding Chair of High Point’s Department of Physical Therapy. Dr. Hegedus is married to Dr. Tess Hegedus, R-MA’s Dean of Instructional Leadership and Innovation. 

The Military group was facilitated by Col Robert J. Hallett, USMC, who currently serves as the Director of Futures Experiment Division at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory at Quantico, VA. 

Mrs. Rosemary Williams facilitated the Non-Profit session. She serves on the Board of the national non-profits Military Family Advisory Network and National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations, and as Advisor to the Board for S.A.F.E. Project US (Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic). She also serves as an “Ambassador” for military spouse employment with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. 

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