Community leaders share knowledge with students at Leadership Gala

Professionals push the value of networking, advise youngsters to reach out and connect


Students participated in conversation with recognized community members about jobs, their futures and their place in the world beyond college. (Submitted)

Story by Elizabeth Gosling, Staff Writer

The first annual Leadership Gala welcomed six UW-Eau Claire executives for an opportunity to share their experiences and give advice for college students and alumni.

Eau Claire’s Mortar Board Honor Society organized the event held at 6 p.m. Friday, in the Davies Student Center with the hope of giving students of all majors the opportunity to network and learn from recognized people in the Chippewa Valley.

The leaders chosen included Beth Hellwig, vice chancellor of student affairs, Jerry Kuehl, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Northwestern Bank, Kerry Kincaid, city council president for the city of Eau Claire, Mark Alfuth, former CFO of American Public Media, Chris Hambuch-Boyle, Eau Claire school board president and Jodi Thesing-Ritter, Eau Claire executive director for diversity and inclusion.

As a student in the College of Business, Helue Vasquez, the treasurer of Mortar Board and one of the event organizers, said she wanted to be able to extend the networking opportunities her college receives to other parts of campus who may not enjoy these opportunities as often.

She said their goal was to have someone that could talk to people of one or two majors or areas of study. They also looked at specific campus issues, such as diversity or student life.

“What makes our specific people leaders is that from different perspectives and different areas, they try to help people,” Vasquez said.

The South Dakota Ballroom in Davies was set up with six round tables for the guests.

Following the event, Vasquez said the guests told her they renewed their passions for their careers.

“At the end of the event they were all very excited and thankful, because they got reenergized on their goals,” Vasquez said. “Some of them have been going through budget cuts or political instability or problems in general, but they told me that having young minds and people that are willing to learn and willing to make a change and work for it really got them excited about what they do again.”

Jodi Thesing-Ritter said she loved the gala because it highlighted the importance of networking in the myriad career paths Blugolds undertake.

Thesing-Ritter expressed the importance of students going beyond their comfort zones and trying new things. She shared a story of picking a graduate school. Her advisor told her to pick a school she wouldn’t necessarily gravitate toward and she chose a school in New York.

A a small town native, Thesing-Ritter said she was terrified at the prospect.

“It was the most amazing experience in my life,” Thesing-Ritter said.

Zhi Yi Toh, an international student from Malaysia, said getting to meet different people and listening to their life experiences was a cool opportunity.

Mortar Board is considering hosting the gala again in the future, if students express interest and know about the event.

“You can talk to a teacher in class, you can learn everything there is to know about the subject matter,” Nicholas Calawerts, Mortar Board’s vice president, said, “but if you can’t hold a conversation with somebody in the field, you can’t work on your personal relationships and your interpersonal skills and talk with them, you won’t make it.”