It’s official — the Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda National Leadership Conference is now an annual tradition for St. Mary-of-the-Woods College students. From June 24-27, four members of the college’s Phi Beta Lambda club competed in events, earned certifications and explored the rich history of San Antonio. The club made a big splash during its inaugural appearance at last year’s conference in Orlando, Fla., with one student placing second in the nation.

“I have been lucky enough to be able to attend these conferences on behalf of [the club] and represent the one thing that I feel strongly about in society – leadership,” said Patricia Jones of Oblong, Ill., public relations officer for the college’s chapter.

Thanks to the support of the college’s career development center and Lilly Endowment, Jones, Katelyn Duke, Diana Hernandez Cruz, Ashley Tharpe and Jim Tanoos, assistant professor of business and the chapter’s faculty sponsor, flew more than a thousand miles to represent The Woods.

“At the conference, students get to network with like-minded individuals in the real world,” Tanoos said.

“They were able to sharpen their already strong skills and develop the confidence to keep climbing higher toward larger scale leadership roles.”

The students presented the success of the college’s virtual social media marketing internship to business, academic and student leaders. Even with a rocky start, the presentation still wowed the crowd. “We had problems with the projector, so we proceeded to show the slides on the table via our laptop,” Jones explained. “I think the judges were impressed that we did not fall apart and give up.”

The students also participated in hands-on workshops and sat for certification exams in areas like business communications, integrated marketing and retail management. “You get a taste of what employers are looking for,” said Jones, who sat for the two-day business communications exam. “They offer the ability to apply my knowledge first hand. Having this extra experience provides me with a greater advantage in the workplace.”

The conference also focused on strategies for individual Phi Beta Lambda chapters. These workshops discussed valuable skills that apply not just to the clubs, but also to business management in general. “The skills I gained at the conference will help me more in leadership and in communication,” said student Katelyn Duke of Marshall, Ill., and president of Indiana’s state Phi Beta Lambda chapter. “I found a lot of new ideas on recruiting members for our local chapter.”

St. Mary’s liberal arts core creates a collaborative learning environment – an ideal incubator for emerging leaders. Campus and distance students from any discipline can join the Phi Beta Lambda club, increasing their exposure and enhancing their professional development. In our ever-changing, ever-expanding global community, a solid foundation of leadership skills is the key to career success.

“Many claim that America is in the midst of a ‘leadership crisis,’” Tanoos said. “With activities like [Phi Beta Lambda], SMWC gives students opportunities to step in and take leadership roles similar to challenges in the real-world.”

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