I recently found myself seated in a boardroom on the 34th floor of the tallest building in Des Moines (yes, there are real buildings in Iowa, I promise) enjoying an exquisitely catered breakfast. I was in the last week of my summer internship. To my left sat the company’s chief technology officer, two chairs to my right was another vice president, and the rest of the management team of my sector of the company were dispersed across the room. I, along with a handful of other interns, had been invited to this breakfast to share our feedback on the internship program.
At the beginning, I was incredibly nervous. But as I sat, I began to picture myself back in the Student Activities Board boardroom, where I had spent every Thursday night for the last year. Most students don’t even know of this room on the second floor of the SUB, others may only know it as the place you get your name tag for the career fair, but for the 35 of us board members, it is where the most minuscule of details of every major campus event are hashed out. The University endows $300,000 approved to be spent in this room every academic year. I imagined the way I had learned to speak confidently amongst some of my most respected peers.
As discussion began, I felt my fears fade away. I was able to actively share my opinions and critiques without hesitation. I helped drive the round-table discussion towards areas for which I had praise or concerns. It felt like I was in my element, even surrounded by such important company figures. At the end of the discussion, the CTO’s assistant even complimented me on my eagerness to speak up, noting that she knew everyone in the room was incredibly impressed.
I can promise you that my success in this situation was not due to being a natural-born public speaker or even having incredibly high self-confidence. I look back on my first few SAB board meetings and see a shy freshman whose cheeks turned to cherries when she finally decided to speak her mind. I remember being so easily swayed in my opinions and too afraid to speak up even if I did have something to say. I cannot tell you how many times I immediately had felt like I stuck my foot in my mouth after I spoke.
For me, the Student Activities Board hasn’t just been about bringing the highest quality events to Truman’s campus. The professional experience I have gained is irreplaceable. Our hard work and dedication naturally lend to the creation of a strong sense of community and some fellow board members have become my closest friends. Plus, it’s just plain fun!
But most importantly, it’s been about finding my voice and learning to think critically about things that are going on around me. I’ve learned to actively assess and evaluate all the experiences I have, in hopes to not remain passive, subject to what others around me want, but to be critical and make everything in my life the best that it can be. This outlook has helped me make huge strides in improving my friendships, education, future career, and so much more and I cannot wait to see where else it takes me.