Published Nov. 22, 2013

Washburn women shine at International Leadership Association 2013 global conference

Marsha Carrasco Cooper, Kristen Onions, Mary Ralston and Amanda KennedyThree Washburn students saw months of effort pay off with second place in an international leadership competition. They’re still excited. And still talking about their days at International Leadership Association 2013 global conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Amanda Kennedy, Kristen Onions and Mary Ralston applied to be part of the Washburn Leadership Institute’s case study team. Each brought her own strengths to work on the team, first with a lengthy research paper, next with the trip to Canada and a Day of Transformation style poster presentation.

As competitors in the finals of the case study competition, along with eventual winner Gonzaga University and third-place finisher Christopher Newport University, they were judged on a 15-minute board meeting style presentation to competition judges.

“People who wrote our leadership textbooks were watching us while we were quoting them,” said Kennedy, a junior social work major.

For Ralston, a junior studying forensic chemical science, being at the conference felt like begin surrounded by celebrities.  The ILA annual global conference is the big event for leadership scholars around the globe.

The competition, each of the woman said, pushed them to their limits. Emotions ran high but their attention to detail and willingness to take risk made the difference.

In the final round of the contest, each of three teams had to make a case for the next expansion of Tim Horton’s. Canada’s largest quick service restaurant chain, known for always fresh donuts and coffee, has some locations in the United States. They argued for expansion to Cameroon, in west central Africa.

Marsha Carrasco Cooper, associate director of the Leadership Institute, traveled with the team as advisor. She was prohibited from collaborating with them or providing written feedback, but she could verbally critique.

“The Washburn women definitely took a risk. The judges seemed to recognize that,” Carrasco Cooper said, noting that the judges asked some very specific questions about the country. “They had answers. They were very confident about their choice. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Once Team Washburn knew it had made the finals, they had a chance to educate other competitors about who they are, where Washburn is, and, of course, “What’s an Ichabod?” They also received lots of positive affirmation from Leadership Institute Director Michael Gleason and others via social media.

“It put more pressure on because we knew it was a big deal,” Onions said. “We wanted to do really well.”

Each of the women on ILA 2013 Team Washburn pushes herself to be her best. At the end of the day, each said she was more than happy with second place.

Onions, who will graduate in May with a degree in communication, said the experience was confidence building. She’s eagerly awaiting feedback from ILA judges, which should arrive any day.

She said: “We were a great team.”

After their return, Gleason applauded the team as a group and as individuals.

“These particular students exhibit effective leadership in many ways across our campus and community every day,” Gleason said, adding that each then took her skills to competition against some of the world’s top leadership programs at typically much larger universities. “It just amazes me how talented they are in both the theoretical and practical elements of leadership.”