Daniel Masenya is a South African student studying tourism and hospitality at Whatcom Community College through the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI), an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Below he writes about the keynote address by communication skills expert Nancy Mueller at the NWCCI mid-year retreat held in January 2014. Read Daniel’s previous blog post here.
On the weekend of January 24-26 2014, the Northwest Community College Initiative hosted a mid-year retreat for its students at Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center in Stanwood, Washington. The 48 international students represented their three respective colleges: Whatcom Community College, Edmonds Community College and Pierce Community College. The retreat was aimed at providing NWCCI students with opportunities to develop leadership skills, practice articulating goals and strengths, reflect on goals and devise a plan for how to achieve them. Furthermore, NWCCI staff wanted to give students a chance to relax, have fun and interact with one another as well as to experience an American camp.
On Saturday morning, we started off by having a practical and stimulating icebreaker that was meant to wake us up and test our reaction time. Then we sat down for our special guest speaker to feed our minds with wisdom, and we were privileged to have Nancy Mueller, a communication skills expert and an avid world traveler, as the keynote speaker for the day.
Mueller’s theme was Lead to Success.
“Who are you?” Mueller asked us. She said that for us to answer this question we should reflect on our strengths in our own space. “You are who you are when no one is looking”, she said. She advised us to channel our energies into our strengths more than our weaknesses. The idea is to excel or shine in order to sell yourself as an individual, though is also important to acknowledge you weak points in order to improve them. She emphasized that the best way to sell yourself when meeting a potential employer is by having an inspiring and fascinating elevator speech – a 30-second introduction – using adjectives (creative, reliable, confident, etc.) to describe your main qualities.
Mueller again asked rhetorically “What are your values?”. She indicated that our values should dictate where we want to work, help us to know where we to fit in and figure out what is important in our lives. She went on to say that our values are visible through words, behaviors, food, and through unspoken words in the form of customs and manners. Indeed values make us come alive. We exude energy when something is important to us. Mueller’s final question was “What are you passionate about?”. She made us aware that you can succeed when you do what you are interested in and enjoy doing. Passion really is a driving force that keeps you going to ultimately reach your goals.
In conclusion, Muller advised us to adapt in this ever-changing world if we are to prosper. She broke down the word ADAPT. This is how I paraphrased her message: Anticipate the differences, tough situations, and appreciate other cultures; Demonstrate the best that is in you outwardly through your personal grooming, talents, abilities and skills. Ask right questions and get right answers to clarify understanding wherever you are, and avoid making assumptions. Practice adhering to global etiquette, protocols and standards and act accordingly. Practice the best to become the best. Tailor your communication, let your words match the setting and avoid using irrelevant jargon, so as not avoid confusion and misunderstanding. She reminded us to continue to think globally and familiarize ourselves with American norms, customs and practices.
It was indeed an engaging, thought-provoking and empowering address. I hope that what we learned will be applied and positively impact our lives moving forward to the future. Hats off to Nancy Mueller for her knowledgeable content. The students in the end expressed their appreciation to the NWCCI team for making the event possible and successful, and they said it was worthwhile to be part of this historic occasion. Apart from the inspiring talk by Nancy; I must say that my standout moments were when I was a co-DJ with Endor Martinez from Panama during the talent show, and I later stormed to the stage and danced. To my surprise while I was dancing I received a rapturous applause from my fellow students and the staff. We hope this is just the beginning of the greater things to come.