According to Greek mythology, Athena is a goddess known for her courage, strength and wisdom. Today, these characteristics are brought to life through ATHENA Connections, a program focused on connecting students to leaders in west Michigan.
On Friday, Nov. 9 from 12 to 2 p.m., the Seidman College of Business is hosting ATHENA Connections at the L. William Seidman Center located in downtown Grand Rapids. At the event, students will learn about the ATHENA Leadership Model, which focuses on eight tenets: authentic self, relationships, giving back, collaboration, courageous acts, learning, fierce advocacy and celebration and joy.
“The ATHENA Connections program is to bring the ATHENA models and their principles to students,” said Associate State Director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center Jennifer Deamud. “It allows for students to hear about those principles as well as hear from community leaders both in the panel discussion, as well as the Keynote speaker. In addition to that, it allows students to connect with community leaders so that they can form relationships so that as they grow in their leadership skills, they have trusted individuals in the community that they can leverage.”
The event will include speakers, a panel discussion and time for networking. Speakers include Master of Ceremonies (EMCEE) Shelly Irwin, 2016 ATHENA Award winner and keynote speaker Jennifer Maxson, a 2018 ATHENA award winner. Once presentations and the panel discussion are completed, attendees are welcome to a free lunch where they can converse with the speakers and panelists.
“After we hear from the panel, we’ll have lunch, but we’ll have time for our participants, our students, to have conversations with some leaders that will be positioned at each of the tables at lunchtime, and they’ll be guided through some questions about leadership,” said Associate Dean of Seidman Student Academic Services Joy Gianakura.
Guided question topics will include questions of leadership characteristics, role models and failure.
Gianakura said that the ATHENA model is the strongest in Michigan, as well as a strong model across the national program. Due to its strength, Deamud said it’s important for GVSU students to learn about the ATHENA model.
“Within Seidman, we really believe strongly in professional development, and this is a really great opportunity for students to understand leadership, to understand networking and to understand more about themselves,” Deamud said. “It’s a great way to partner with a larger organization, ATHENA International, and bring those principles to the campus, more specifically in a more targeted audience to our students, to help them grow.”
This is the second year that this event is being held at GVSU, and both Deamud and Gianakura have high hopes that it will be just as successful as last year. Feedback from last year’s participants was very strong, and many students said that the event made them feel inspired, supported and encouraged.
“(The students) found a different level of networking and the ability to connect with these leaders, have coffee with them afterwards, and follow up with them and just have a different level of connection in terms of networking. It’s a more intimate setting than, say, the career fair,” Gianakura said.
GVSU students of all levels and majors are encouraged to attend this event. Business major or not, attendees will take away invaluable information and support.
“We’re hoping that students will see that it’s being modeled for them in these women who have been in the work world longer and have experienced a lot more,” Gianakura said. “To me, it’s about students understanding how to feel empowered.”