Katherine Wortmann, a William Woods University sophomore from Mexico, Mo., recently represented the Woods at the 24th annual Governor’s Student Leadership Forum in Jefferson City, Mo. She was nominated to attend by Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, WWU president.
During the three-day conference, Jan. 4-6, students from 44 colleges and universities around the state came together for one common goal: to focus on how faith and values apply to leadership.
“This leadership conference was different than most,” said Wortmann. “When it comes to leadership, faith is not something that is usually discussed openly. But the facilitators at this forum broke those barriers and challenged us students to look at leadership in a whole new light.”
Each day the students met with their “small group” and had discussions about their personal values and how they pertain to the leadership roles the students hold on campus.
“We talked a lot about respect and accountability,” said Wortmann. “As leaders, we have to be respectful of all types of people and hold ourselves accountable in even the toughest of situations.”
Servant leadership was another widely discussed topic.
“Our small group talked a lot about how Jesus was the epitome of a ‘servant leader.’ He put his followers and their needs first instead of focusing on what made him happy. When it comes to the perfect role model of a leader, Jesus is the best example there is.”
To put their lessons on servant leadership to good use, Wortmann and her small group volunteered to serve as ushers at the 2011 Governor’s Prayer Breakfast.
“It was amazing to see people of all walks of life at this breakfast, “said Wortmann. “There were firefighters sitting next to legislators and correctional officers sitting next to lawyers. It was so powerful to see all these different professions come together under one roof and pray together for the strength to be the best leaders possible. Not only that, but I saw [Dean of Student Life] Venita Mitchell at the breakfast too. That was a nice surprise.”
Another surprise in store for the students was a trip to the former and current Missouri State Penitentiaries.
“The tours of the correctional centers were the most eye-opening part of my conference experience. I learned that leadership can be found in the most unlikely places. During one part of the tour, we stopped at a drug rehabilitation center and found out that the men who lead the program are former addicts who have overcome their addictions and are helping their fellow inmates get clean. That, to me, is what leadership is all about: realizing your weaknesses, rising above them and helping others realize their true potential.”
At the end of the forum, the students were asked to say one thing they learned from each of their small group members.
“It was so hard to pinpoint just one thing I learned because my group was such a diverse mixture of people. But if there’s one thing I took away from this conference, it’s to appreciate diversity in all its forms and understand that, as a leader, you will encounter all different sorts of people. I am so thankful I was able to be a part of this conference. The lessons I learned from those three short days will stay with me for years to come.”
CUTLINE: Katherine Wortmann, a William Woods University sophomore from Mexico, Mo., at the 24th annual Governor’s Student Leadership Forum.