News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 14, 2011

Woods students attend leadership conference

Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Excitement built on a two-hour flight to Orlando, Fla., as four future leaders from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College set out for the nationally renowned Phi Beta Lambda Leadership Conference. Expectations were high, as these students represented the only college or university from Indiana.

“I am proud of how well our team represented The Woods and Indiana in their presentations and competitions,” said Jim Tanoos, Ph.D., assistant professor of business at SMWC and PBL adviser.

Students competed against more than 10,000 college students across the nation, returning home empowered to excel as business leaders in the 21st century and, for one student, with a national title.

“It is quite an honor to receive this recognition — not just for me but for the College,” said Cindy McCullough, distance student, who took second place in the management concepts competition. With objective test and simulation decision-making problems, she victoriously presented and defended her decisions before a panel of judges.

The students showcased the success of the SMWC Social Media Virtual Internship program to business, academic and student leaders. The internship incorporated campus and distant students to establish social media strategies for Wabash Valley nonprofit organizations. Social media transforms the way nonprofits interact with their supporters. It allows these organizations to spread their mission to a wider audience, deepen relationships and inspire community involvement.

“The social media internship prepares students for the ‘real-world’ after college and sets them apart from the average graduate,” Tanoos said. “PBL was the perfect venue to share their success.”

The students illustrated the success of the virtual internship, funded by a Ball Venture Foundation Grant, through examples such as:

• A social media presence and strategy with Facebook and Twitter for Catholic Charities Terre Haute

• An integration strategy between the Happiness Bag website and Facebook

• Website development for the Maple Leaf Center

• A volunteer recruiting video created for The Terre Haute Children’s Museum

PBL encourages innovative collegiate business initiatives, such as SMWC’s social media internship. As the college division of Future Business Leaders of America, PBL provides members with opportunities to learn and grow as business professionals. At the conference, students delved deeply into collegiate experiences in marketing, business and new media. Most importantly, they were given an opportunity to share multiple perspectives by interacting with people they may not otherwise meet.

“I never imagined that, as a distance student, I would have the opportunity to participate in any conference, particularly one with this reputation,” said Patricia Jones, an advertising major from Oblong, Ill. “As a non-traditional student, I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with other college students and to learn about current trends from business leaders.”

Tanoos felt since both groups contributed equally to the social marketing internship during the academic year, it was important that campus and distance students were represented at the conference.

The conference was more than just a typical conference. Students learned about general leadership development through workshops, competitions and certification exams.

Erin Pugh, a business administration/accounting major and August graduate from Terre Haute, was able to explore a particularly relevant workshop during the conference. “I am currently studying from a book on how to prepare for the GMT [Graduate Management Admission Test]. I was very surprised to discover the author of the book was the presenter at the conference. He gave us great tips on how to study and how the writers of the exam think,” she said.

“PBL is an amazing organization,” said Katelyn Duke, an advertising/graphic design major from Marshall, Ill. “The conference was a great learning experience on how to prepare yourself for the professional world and how to maintain leadership skills in everything that you do.”

While this may have been the first PBL experience for these SMWC students, they left behind a reputation for excellence, while bringing back to The Woods imaginative ideas for tomorrow’s leaders.