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2019 Forum at SEU Recap

By Grace Jicha, SEU Student

On March 14, 2019, over 500 attendees gathered in Bush Chapel to hear from influential business leaders from across the country at the annual Forum at SEU. The speaker lineup included Horst Schulze, Bill and Giuliana Rancic, Carla Harris, and more. The day was filled with live music, refreshments, and networking.

Speaker Takeaways

Hotel busboy-turned-hotelier, Horst Schulze, founder of Capella Hotel Group, explained how he worked his way up in the hospitality industry with aspirations of creating the finest hotel company in the world. He stressed the importance of excellent service and giving employees a purpose to work for that adds value to their lives as well as to the company.

Entrepreneur Bill Rancic returned to the Forum with his wife, Giuliana, and they spoke on using empathy within business and leadership. They explained how necessary it is to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes when developing your brand for a product or service. They also encouraged us to be innovative by challenging the status quo — even when the status quo is working.

President of the Florida Chamber Foundation, Tony Carvajal; President of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, Dr. Ed Moore; and former Congressman Dennis Ross  discussed how to engage in civil discourse by encouraging positive interaction rather than opposition or defense. They encouraged us to seek out information from different perspectives to educate ourselves, and speak to people who have differing opinions.

Author and speaker Jon Gordon shared how optimism in leadership and hard work can lead to great success. He emphasized that to lead, you must serve through caring for your team and sharing your vision with them so that the team as a whole can be a part of it.

Form and Function founders Michael Romero and Josh Babyar spoke on creating a narrative that your team can get behind. They shared how in order to create a successful brand you must have people at the table who represent the people you are trying to connect with and that it is important to celebrate with your team to create culture.

Jennifer Thompson, former Orange County commissioner, and Gow Fields, former Lakeland mayor, discussed finding your “why” and using that as a driving force to become engaged within your community. They reminded us to keep our “why” with us to motivate ourselves to continue doing our jobs well.

Dr. Rob Mckenna, the founder of WiLD Leaders Inc., spoke on the importance of personal development in order to lead effectively. He encouraged us to remember that change is necessary to develop as a leader and that leaders must be willing to be editable when change comes.

Dr. Chris Owen, executive vice president of Southeastern University, spoke on the best practices in creating a healthy team, including clear vision, compelling values, clear expectations, and conflict resolution. He expanded on not only creating a vision but carrying it out through how a leader interacts with his or her team.

Southeastern University president Dr. Kent Ingle gave us insight into how effective framework leadership is, and how to carry that out. He explained that it is necessary to define your frameworks, and clarify your vision continually, in order to lead with excellence.

Former Congressman and director of the American Center for Political Leadership (ACPL) at Southeastern University, Dennis Ross, shared about the importance of economic and political literacy when it comes to civic engagement. He encouraged us to spend more time finding common ground so we can open the doors for civil discussion.

Carla Harris, vice chairman at Morgan Stanley, closed out the Forum with high energy, passion, and even in song. She discussed the importance of being intentional and valuing your team. Harris encouraged leaders to be open to celebrating their team’s failures because really, it is celebrating that they tried.

Special Stories

The SEU Forum did not only highlight speakers, but attendees as well. Rob McGruder won a semester of tuition at SEU to help him toward pursuing his dream of opening a youth center for children in need.

Cory Petcoff, president of Barron Realty, received the 2019 Forum Leader of the Year award. This award recognizes an individual in the Lakeland community who exhibits leadership qualities, guides and inspires others, is recognized in their field for their accomplishments, and serves the community through volunteer activities.

Anti-bullying advocate Jaylen Arnold committed to attend Southeastern University beginning in the fall of 2019. He plans to continue his mission to educate the public about bullying and fair treatment for people with disabilities. He expressed his gratitude for Southeastern’s support as he continues advocating for others and pursues philanthropy work.

Clarify Your Vision, Lead with Purpose

Overall, the SEU Forum helped to further Southeastern’s vision of continually investing in others. Each speaker brought insight and knowledge about vision, breakthrough innovation, and team culture. We learned not only how to create a vision, but how to build and cultivate a team to bring it to completion.

The next Forum at SEU will be held on March 12, 2020. Tickets will be available later this year.