Congressman Keith Ellison spoke to a crowd of more than 60 future graduate students at the Learners to Leaders Leadership Summit on campus last weekend. His comments resonated strongly with the L2L participants from more than a dozen different colleges and universities.

Ellison described how young leaders should be looking at how they are preparing themselves to be able to make a difference and have an impact in the community. The leaders of today face problems they don’t yet know how to solve, he said. The solutions are going to come from today’s college and graduate students.

As someone who currently works in consulting, a career that relies on people skills just as much as technical skills, his message of the importance of relationship building resonated strongly with me.

The 5th annual L2L Summit also included two sample graduate class experiences, facilitated by professors Mary Maloney, Mike DeVaughn, and Neil Hamilton. The sample classes, along with a faculty panel discussion, a resource fair, and a keynote speech by management consultant and futurist Julius Pryor, were designed to provide a combination of guidance and inspiration to the participants.

L2L casts a wide net

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An unusual aspect of the program is that it is intentionally multi-disciplinary – with speakers, topics, and information that spanned from business to law, to education, to the sciences. The participants represented a diverse mix of a wide range of disciplines. While future MBAs and lawyers dominated, a broad representation of interests, from social work, to public policy, to engineering and the sciences, to English and the humanities

The L2L Summit is designed to celebrate the achievements and support the professional development of a select group of high potential college juniors, seniors, and young college graduates of color. UST undergraduate students and alumni were well represented at the Summit, but well more than half of the participants were from colleges and universities from around the country. A major focus of the event was on networking, both with the current graduate students and faculty facilitators, and with each other—especially among students from different schools with common career and graduate degree program interests.

“Meeting the faculty, staff, and current graduate students made me feel like St. Thomas is a family with a mission to help others succeed,” commented a 2012 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “L2L has encouraged me to keep pushing forward despite any self-doubts.”

“I personally appreciated the break out session covering the US Airways/American Airlines merger. It gave me a sense of the kind of learning and critical thinking that takes place at a graduate level,” said a 2011 graduate from the University of Cincinnati. “The surprise of the guest speaker [Congressman Keith Ellison] was great. He spoke from the heart and his message was genuine and in line with the theme of the day, which is striving for a higher education.”

Julius Pryor

Julius Pryor

The Wells Fargo-sponsored keynote speaker Julius Pryor took participants through a dynamic presentation centered on the theme of his book, “Thriving in a Disruptive World: 6 Critical Concepts for Navigating the 21st Century.”

In addition to all of our current students, recent alumni, and program staff from Law to Catholic Studies to Social Work who joined forces with the Opus College of Business to make this the biggest and best Summit ever, I also want to acknowledge the program directors and faculty of more than a dozen colleges and universities who nominated our 60 L2L participants to the L2L program.

While colleges compete for top talent, we also recognize the value of collaborating to support the development of that talent. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of an organization like St. Thomas that is seen as a valuable contributor to the success of future professionals and graduate degree holders by fine colleges and universities across the upper Midwest and around the country.

Congressman Ellison poses with UST MBA student ambassadors (from left) Metasebia Ayalew, Janet Namulondo, Nayila Yaro, and Nana Grace Kwapong.

Congressman Ellison poses with UST MBA student ambassadors (from left) Metasebia Ayalew, Janet Namulondo, Nayila Yaro, and Nana Grace Kwapong.