Young Professionals Network Conference to help inspire new leaders


The Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce will host the 2014 Michigan Young Professionals Network Statewide Conference to train the next generation of leaders – this year with a Central Michigan University twist.

This year, organizers of the annual event said they adapted the Central Michigan University Leadership Institute's model, which aims to equip young professionals with that skill set to prepare them to take high positions in society. That means over the course of the three-day event, the workshops will focus on core tenants of how CMU teaches leadership skills.

"If you look at any segment of our society right now, there's a deficit of leadership," said Dan Gaken, director of the CMU Leadership Institute. "We've got a tremendous generation that is about to retire and we have not done a sufficient job of preparing that next generation of leaders. There is tremendous opportunity in the next years for advancement but those opportunities will be seized by people that have a leadership skill set."

Rachel Rollin, events and membership director for the Chamber of Commerce, said this is one of the major goals of the city of Mount Pleasant, as well.

The chamber created the event to fill a vacuum of such conferences in Michigan that reached a state-wide audience.

"One of the things that the chamber supports is professional development, especially for young professionals," Rollin said. "In our area for economic development, we need to keep our young professionals here in Michigan. This conference is a way to show them what is available in Central Michigan and that we support them."

The workshops consist of activities that build a rapport among peers. They will work to map a organizational assets, assess the needs of that organization, and create plans of action to use their tools to serve those needs.

Young professionals will also have a forum to build relationships and exchange ideas with colleagues from around the state.

Gaken said this was the secondary motivation behind the conference.

"It's almost cliche, but we're heard so often that one's net worth is equal to their network," Gaken said. "It makes it fair for you to ask, 'What worth am I adding by being part of someones network and how do you have an ability to share that and convey that to someone else?'"

In addition to the workshops, attendees can learn tips and techniques from an array of speakers and session leaders from various disciplines and industries.

State Rep. Kevin Cotter, who serves the 99th district, will speak on Saturday during the conference's keynote address. Cotter is a CMU alumnus, and will help patrons of the conference understand how his work in Lansing intersected with his time at the Kerr Law Firm, located in downtown Mount Pleasant.

Sherene McHenry, the keynote speaker for Friday and session leader, has a Ph.D. in counseling. She also is a seasoned public speaker, working engagements throughout North and South America and Asia. Her address will be about enhancing relationships and building a motivated team of employees.

McHenry had about 20 years of teaching experience at CMU, before leaving to pursue her love of public speaking. She said she finds pleasure in maximizing businesses profits by helping them understand relationships.

Much of her work also deals with empowering young professionals to find themselves as leaders and serve their constituents.

"Whenever you can understand people you bring out the best in them," McHenry said. "As a counselor you can impact one person, as a speaker you can impact a thousand. That's incredibly exciting."

The conference benefits from many members of the Leadership Institute, as well as CMU staff members and professionals, including journalism professor Johnny Sparks and Rachel Perkins, associate director of public Relations and social media for University Communications.

Registration for the conference opens at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 12 at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort. Friday's events start at 9:00 a.m and 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Gaken said Soaring Eagle makes for an attractive destination with plenty of entertainment options. This allows for a wider draw of attendees.

"(Our audience are) folks in the workforce that are 35 and under are in the professional realm," Gaken said. "We want to give them some concrete leadership skills, something that they can take back to their place of employment and on that first day back implement into their business."




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