Major General, NSHE acting chancellor share leadership secrets with WNC students

Major General Ondra L. Berry delivered the keynote address at Western Nevada College’s Student Leadership Summit on Friday on the Carson City campus.

Courtesy Steve Yingling, Western Nevada College

Western Nevada College’s Student Leadership Committee hosted an impactful and life-changing summit on Friday. Attendees were presented with leadership styles and strategies, how to reach goals, the importance of networking and introspection during the all-day Student Leadership Summit in the Reynolds Center.

Welcoming messages were presented by Interim President Dr. J. Kyle Dalpe and Coordinator of Student Life Heather Rikalo for the “Leadership: Self-Discovery and Development” event.

“The WNC Student Leadership Summit is a great way to engage students — our future leaders — in discussions on a variety of topics,” President Dalpe said. “Kudos to all who participated and big thanks to our speakers.”


If the students were still a little sleepy from rising earlier than normal on Friday morning, keynote speaker Major General Ondra L. Berry certainly woke them up and energized them for the special day ahead of them.

“Why is vision so important?” he asked the students. “You have to see where you are going!”

He motivated them with many other words of wisdom:

• “When you stop growing, you’re in trouble.”

• “When you lead yourself better, you lead others better. Be the best you. We spend too much time wishing we were someone else.”

• “If you are leading something or someone, you need a passion for it.”

• “Know your purpose: Why are you doing what you do … it’s a game-changer?”

Gen. Berry also made them laugh:

“Look in the mirror in the morning and unleash it on the world.”

Afterward, the students selected several breakout sessions to attend, learning more about becoming successful and how to improve their leadership skills.

“Absolutely worth it. It was really enjoyable,” said ASWN member Benny Buchanan. “The speakers were incredible; the keynote speaker was fantastic — they were all resounding hits with the student body. The major general was incredibly motivational and had a lot of insights that could help me and really help people, in general, become better people and better leaders in their communities.”

One of the breakout sessions was presented by Nevada System of Higher Education Acting Chancellor Dale Erquiaga. He talked about the different leadership styles in his “Leading from the Heart When Your Head Tells You Something Different” presentation.

Erquiaga shared how he began his professional career as an authoritarian leader and evolved into a servant leader. He also discussed delegative and participatory leaders. Depending on a leader’s situation, it could necessitate being nimble, moving from an authoritative-leader one day and a servant-leader the next, he said.

By the end of his presentation, Erquiaga emphasized to the students that he really enjoys days like Friday when he can work directly with NSHE students, which number more than 100,000 collectively.

“It’s just a great reminder why I do this!” he said. “I’ve been able to impact a lot of lives, and you give me hope that you will be able to do the same.”

Carson Tahoe Health CEO and President Michelle Joy imparted what type of leadership works for her in the healthcare profession. Besides listening to patients, she said it’s important to care for your employees.

“What is the No. 1 reason people leave an organization? The manager,” Joy said. “Put people before the purpose. How are we making people feel when they come to work?

“Have fun! Healthcare is a hard business and there is a lot of burnout. We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our own families.”

Joy also instilled confidence in the students.

“Every single one of you has the ability to lead in you,” she said.

WNC’s faculty and staff also contributed to the breakout presentations. Continuing Education Coordinator, Lauren Slemenda’s talk, entitled the “Alligator Pit”, taught students about working toward challenging goals and how to avoid pitfalls; Philosophy Professor Susan Priest presented the “Six Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them,” providing students with insight into what kind of procrastinator they are and more about their personality; and Business and Management Instructor Jacob Council talked about “How to Lead Multiple Generations.”

Additional breakout presentations were delivered by Northern Nevada Cultural Foundation President Michael Smith (“Time Management and Productivity Enhancement”) and Nevada Air National Guard State Command Chief Master Sergeant Kevin Brun (“Navigating the Generational and Cultural Differences in the Current Workforce”).

Students also learned from a panel of current students and alumni: Current ASWN President Suzanna Stankute, former ASWN President Andrea Sanchez De Loza, Access Program Coordinator Adrian Barrera, Campus Security Officer Matthew Romero and Nursing & Allied Health Coordinator Ellie Dutton. The discussion was led by Student Success Coordinator Tyler Golden. Students were given advice: “Do things that make them feel uncomfortable,” “Take what they can from the leaders whom they like,” “Only you are holding yourself back,” “Make meaningful relationships, get involved and find a mentor so he or she can help you solve problems and issues,” and more.

Devin Sizemore, owner of Your Referral Partner, was tasked with the final presentation of the day: “Connect Your Way to Success: The Value of Relationships.”

He emphasized to students that it’s important to meet as many new people as possible, challenging them to meet someone new once a week. Most importantly, he stressed not to judge anyone.

“Every relationship matters and the bigger your network is, the more successful you’ll be,” he said. “Treat them all the same and don’t be surprised who pops out of your network.”

Sizemore said his network of people allows him to avoid searching for many of the day-to-day needs for he and his family.

The event concluded with a number of students receiving raffle prizes, including a $500 Visa gift card.  


(Note: there are multiple photos with Major General Berry in them)

• Carson Tahoe Health CEO and President Michelle Joy was one of seven presenters who students received important leadership tips from on Friday during the annual Student Leadership Summit at WNC. It was the first time the leadership summit was held on the WNC campus.

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