RCEL students experience new perspectives of leadership at US Naval Academy and West Point conferences

Above: (R-L) Rachel Nguyen, Saurabh Harohalli, and David Van Kleeck at the USNA Leadership Conference

Every year, RCEL sponsors students to attend national leadership conferences to expose them to new and different perspectives of leadership.  This year, students attended the United States Naval Academy (USNA) Leadership Conference in Annapolis, Maryland, as well as National Conference on Ethics in America, hosted by the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York.

Juniors Rachel Nguyen, ELEC, and Saurabh Harohalli, ChBE, along with RCEL faculty David Van Kleeck, Ph.D., Professor of the Practice, attended the 2017 United States Naval Academy Leadership Conference.  The theme of the Conference was “Forging Team Spirit: Sharing a Vision” and focused on the importance of teamwork and strong leaders in all types of organizations, including military units, businesses, and sports teams.

“The Naval Academy Leadership Conference was an incredible experience,” said Nguyen. “While many of the ideas of the conference were familiar to me due to RCEL, it was really eye opening to be able to get the perspective of military leaders and students from across the nation. I knew not everyone thinks like an engineer, but I was amazed by how different things were.”

Nguyen added, “The idea that resonated with me the most was that ‘good leaders take care of their people.’ I truly cannot believe how much I learned.”

RCEL also sponsored Constantine Tzouanas to travel to USMA at West Point for the National Conference on Ethics in America.  The two-day conference brought cadets and students from colleges and universities together to focus on the year’s theme: “Selflessness:  Building Unity through Service.”

Constantine Tzouanas at the National Conference on Ethics in America

Tzouanas heard several speakers, including former Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno, as well as Max Kenner, the founder of the Bard Prison Initiative.  He also participated in roundtable discussions about speakers’ key points and shared personal leadership experiences with students from around the country.

“At the Conference, I met and learned from individuals whose experiences differed greatly from my own, like students from military academies and public service/nonprofit professionals,” explained Tzouanas. “Throughout the conference, I could better understand leadership in contexts very different from Rice.  For instance, one speaker emphasized that “more than ideas, people invest in people” – when deciding to support a potential initiative, people must feel confident in the person behind the initiative, just as much as liking the initiative itself.”

Tzouanas said of his experience, “I certainly found the speakers and discussions to be quite insightful, and with these key lessons, I can become a more effective student and leader here at Rice.  The National Conference on Ethics in America was a unique opportunity to learn about leadership outside of a traditional classroom setting.”