“Collaboration: The Fast Track to Innovation” was the theme of the 14th annual Creighton Business Symposium. As the country’s largest student-run business conference, its planning and executing is a massive undertaking. Sixteen students and one advisor met weekly, beginning the first week in February, for the event that took place Nov. 10 at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.
At first, it’s just a few hours a week, but then it is “all hands on deck” during the final few weeks prior to the symposium, says Heather Doering, MA, business career counselor and Creighton Business Symposium staff advisor. By October, “it’s almost a full-time job” for the two student co-coordinators, seniors Emily Okrzesik and Collin Gill.
The planning committee chose a theme that is relevant to the current business climate, Doering says. One centered on collaboration highlights the fact that many and varied individuals can join forces to realize outcomes that would have otherwise been unachievable.
“Effective teamwork is something that almost any business student can relate to, regardless of major or focus,” says Okrzesik, a marketing and business intelligence and analytics double major.
Speeches and panel discussions are tailored to the theme. And this year’s keynote speakers did not disappoint. The morning address was given by Healy Cypher, founder and CEO of San Francisco’s Oaks Labs, an experimental retail technology company that is pioneering smart fitting room technology. The afternoon’s keynote was Hans Hartmann, former COO of Fitbit and, more recently, Oculus, a technology company producing virtual products acquired by Facebook. He is also the parent of a current Creighton student.
“It was a perfect coincidence how their areas of expertise complemented one another well,” Doering says. While Healey focused on product innovation, Hans spoke about bringing a product to the market effectively.
Okrzesik believes the hours of work dedicated to the symposium have honed both her leadership abilities and project management skills. Another advantage is exposure to leaders of business. “Most beneficial is the network of willing businessmen and businesswomen who are willing to discuss hot topics in business. We aren’t asking for alumni to come and discuss what they do as an accountant at Deloitte, but rather, how they have experienced accounting in light of the digital age and how technology has evolved their role at Deloitte,” she says.
The Creighton Business Symposium has come a long way since its inaugural year in 2004. Originally intended as a vehicle for Anna Tyler Waite Leadership Program students to test the skills they had acquired during the program’s four years, the symposium has developed into much more than a networking and professional etiquette event. It brings together Creighton’s community with global business executives to discuss current issues and business trends and gives students access to some of the country’s most dynamic business leaders.