Skip to main content
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Full Article

Visit Apply Give

Students Learn ‘Obstacles Are Opportunities’ at Naval Academy

Students Learn ‘Obstacles Are Opportunities’ at Naval Academy
Conrad Shiu, David Petersen, Jess Nguyen and Libby Schwemmer attended the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference at the academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in January.
Four University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business students strengthened their skills at the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference in Annapolis, Maryland. The students joined more than 300 people from 45 military and civilian colleges spending four days learning about leading and persevering through obstacles during sessions led by prominent military, government and industry leaders.

Business students representing the university included: Jess Nguyen, senior marketing major from Omaha, Nebraska; David Petersen, sophomore marketing and international business major from Lincoln, Nebraska; Elizabeth (Libby) Schwemmer, senior actuarial science and finance major from New Berlin, Wisconsin; and Conrad Shiu, sophomore finance, accounting and marketing major from Omaha. The conference’s sessions revolved around the theme, “Breaking Barriers: Obstacles are Opportunities.”

Speakers at the January 21-24 conference —including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Navy and Marine Corps commanders, former Navy SEAL officers, and former Vice President and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney —encouraged attendees to expand their perspectives, build good habits and develop leadership skills to drive change. Themes repeated throughout the conference, students recalled, were gratitude, accountability, diversity, humility, trust, character and compassion.

“One of my biggest takeaways was the discipline of the academy cadets and how that affected their leadership style without compromising their compassion or empathy,” said Petersen, member of the Nebraska Business Honors Academy who also studies in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management.

From left: Jess Nguyen, David Petersen, Conrad Shiu and Libby Schwemmer prepare to hear a session at the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference.
From left: Jess Nguyen, David Petersen, Conrad Shiu and Libby Schwemmer prepare to hear a session at the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference.
Nguyen said she admired conference keynote speaker Simon Sinek’s TED Talks during her marketing and advertising classes at Nebraska. She found Sinek’s address about “playing the infinite game rather than the finite game” inspiring and eye opening. 

“The finite game has a set start and end, while the infinite game is perpetual. The goal is to outlast your competition,” Nguyen recalled from the keynote. “Sinek said to win the infinite game, you must: 1.) Be willing to sacrifice anything to do the right thing for a cause you believe in. 2.) Be courageous in your leadership. 3.) Have a vulnerable team: Your team should feel comfortable enough to speak up. 4.) Your only true competitor is yourself. and 5.) Have an open playbook: Be willing to walk away from money to support what you believe in.”

She plans to immediately implement his advice in one of her leadership roles. She believes it will positively impact her student organization’s officer team.

“As the president of the Multicultural Business Student Association, I want to create a team that believes in working towards providing opportunities for marginalized groups,” Nguyen said. “I want my team to be comfortable enough to tell me I am doing something wrong or they feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, so that I can help solve a problem.”

Jennifer Mostek, assistant director of international engagement and advising, joined them on the trip. Albright’s insight most resonated with her. “Albright said, ‘listening is the most important part of leadership’ and you need leaders who ‘can absorb diverse options and transform them into action.’ That quote stood out to me because I have often heard College of Business leaders described in this way,” Mostek said.

For the past 13 years, Nebraska Business has received annual invitations to send students. Faculty or staff members nominate students to attend who are actively involved in the college and university. During the selection process, each interested student submits a résumé and an application, answering questions such as what they hope to learn by attending and how they will share the knowledge with other College of Business students.

“The students who attended the Naval Academy were gracious and impressive. I was just ‘glad to be there,’ as John Foley, former Blue Angels pilot, told us,” said Shiu, a member of a Clifton Builders cohort. Shiu is also involved in the Honors Academy, Civitas Consulting, Big Red Investment Club and the Center for Sales Excellence.

To share her experience, Nguyen created a four-minute video recapping highlights from the trip. The video highlights guest speakers, photos from the trip, sights from Annapolis and the Naval Academy and more.

Published: February 9, 2018