CRU’s Executive & Entrepreneurial Leadership Forum at The College

The EII Forum was held in the Mcallister Room in TD Arena overlooking Meeting Street. (photo courtesy of McKayla Conahan)

On Wednesday night, Feb. 21, 2018, over 50 of the College’s top leaders on campus as well as leaders from MUSC sat down to network and engage with prestigious members of the business community in Charleston and beyond. Table hosts sat down to engage with the students at their tables and provide expertise from the business world about leadership and much, much more.

The event, sponsored by CRU, is held at college campuses nationwide, according to Don Knox, who has been helping put on these events around the Southeast for the past five years.

CRU had previously held this event three years ago and brought it back this year with speakers that were sure to captivate the student audience – Wayne Braswell, the former Vice President of J.M. Smuckers Company, Charlie Andrews, a judge and family court law attorney and Marcus Bryant, a CSU graduate and President and CEO of Vantage Custom Solutions.

The speakers broached topics of leadership, diversity and faith as the evening wore on. Students were encouraged to ask questions during the Q & A times following the three keynote speakers’ brief messages to the students. As all the speakers and tables hosts were there as a testament to leadership with their Christian faith as the foundational element, the forum had a emphasis on positive treatment of people in the workplace to create the best environment possible for people to feel needed and appreciated.

Marcus Bryant paced the floor in front of the podium during his inspirational speech about his experience with leadership in the business world. (photo courtesy of McKayala Conahan)

Bryant charged the students with a question – “What evil will die as a result of existence in history at this moment?” A passionate statement, this view of how impactful leaders are promotes the importance of living in a way that demonstrates strong ethics and working for the good of others and not just yourself.

Emphasizing the importance of knowing yourself and what you are good at, Bryant suggested asking those around you for their insight in how you are successful in order to find the right avenue and fit for you.

One of the most intriguing statements that came from Bryant was question – “if your business was a person, would you like him or her?” – which really put into perspective the idea of working for yourself and what you love versus creating a business that makes you money bit destroys any semblance of happiness you may have had, as Marcus experienced in an executive role where he abandoned parts of himself in order to be liked.

Charlie Seager Andrews walked up to the podium, ready to share her life and tips about living as a Christian leader. Of these tips, the most prominently shared were the ideals of mentorship and finding someone that you can look up to that will live life with you and give you the leadership skills you need to be successful. She even mentioned the idea that a negative mentor shows you how to be a positive leader, as she was influenced by the behavior of her father to always use positive reinforcement over the concept of fear.

Braswell appeared with the demeanor of a man who has speaking engagements all the time and knows how to captivate an audience. The older man has experience a great deal of success in his life and warrants it all to the Lord and his relationship with Jesus Christ. Even so, his leadership tips apply to every aspect of life with a clear list of 5 tips that produce a driven and smart leader.

Ron Kessinger, a table host, engaged with the students at his table, speaking about his recent business startup in Charleston. (photo courtesy of McKayla Conahan)

Students were inspired by the concepts that were brought up at the forum across the board.

Patrick Kircher, the IFC recruitment chair representative, was inspired by the importance of mentorship in the business world.

Ethan Runzo, a representative from SGA, left the event with the idea of “the power of investing in people that you work with and just really showing them that you care and how that can affect your business practices.”

Even some of the table hosts demonstrated their appreciation for the opportunity to socialize with students from the College and MUSC.

Lauren Nilan, the Risk Management Officer for the Bank of South Carolina, enjoyed the evening as she was able “make some connections with students on a business level but also open up that door to talk about Christ.”

Overall, students and table hosts alike took their interests and brought them together in a beautiful evening of learning. Students who came in with a less than enthused attitude left with a positive experience and lots of great tips to take back to their organizations and become the best leaders for the College’s campus.

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