LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Earlier this week, a group of Bucknell student-athletes traveled to Annapolis, Maryland to attend the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference. Field hockey's Amy Mucelli, football's Craig Cassidy, and men's soccer's Zack Rockmore took part, marking the fourth year in a row that Bucknell was represented at this prestigious leadership development conference. Bucknell senior biomedical engineering major Jessica Brito also attended. 

The theme of this year's seminar was "Referent Leadership: Cultivating Relationships." Participants explored the challenges of building and sustaining relationships across different borders, cultures, and generations in a way that connects personally. By nurturing relationships in these multiple dimensions, leaders can create opportunities to bring diverse peoples together in pursuit of a common purpose.

VADM Walter E. Carter Jr., the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, delivered opening remarks, and other keynote speakers included Chris Inglis, former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency; Admiral James Stavridis, former Commander, US European Command and Chairman of the Board of the U.S. Naval Institute; Alexandra Wrage, president and founder of TRACE International, Inc.; Lieutenant General John F. Sattler, USMC (ret.), Distinguished Leadership Chair of the Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership; and Admiral James Winnefeld, USN (ret.), former Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

The USNA Leadership Conference began in 1984 for senior cadets and midshipmen from each of the service academies. In 2002, the conference's scope expanded to include students from civilian universities, with topics related to government, business and academia, in addition to the military. More than 200 participants from over 45 colleges now attend each year.

Off-campus leadership development opportunities such as the annual USNA event and the Cornell Leadership in Athletics Conference are part of the mission of the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy. Now in its fifth year, the Leadership Academy delivers programming and instruction that bridge theory, development and real experiences in an interactive learning environment. On-campus leadership programming is ongoing throughout the year and is supplemented by opportunities for student-athletes to travel to leadership seminars around the country.

Each of the Bison student-athletes who attended the USNA Leadership Conference have reported back with their thoughts on the event:

Zack RockmoreAfter days of travel rearrangement revolving around the snow storms hitting the East Coast, we finally arrived in Annapolis on Monday afternoon. The 2016 Leadership Conference at the Naval Academy hosted more than 200 participants from just over 60 military and civilian colleges. Schools attending included Tufts, Cornell, MIT, as well as fellow Patriot League schools Loyola, Lafayette, and Lehigh. The conference offers these participants the unique opportunity to study leadership from the best minds by exchanging ideas and experiences.

First, we arrived at the beautiful Westin Hotel in the heart of downtown Annapolis to drop off our luggage before the night's events. Starting with dinner at the prestigious Naval Academy Club, we socialized with delegates from other schools and group leaders who attend the Naval Academy themselves. We received great insight into the life of a Navy student and the number of options that are available after school. After a terrific meal, the delegates were led by group leaders to Mahan Hall, where we were accompanied by the entire USNA brigade of midshipmen. The entire space was full in preparation for the conference's opening and keynote speaker, Chris Inglis.

Inglis is the Former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency, and currently serves in the U.S. Naval Academy's Robert and Mary M. Looker Distinguished Chair for Cyber Studies. Inglis has years of experience with technological advancement in the cyber world, and displayed how far the world has come. Additionally, Inglis illustrated the rate of the world's advancement and where we could be with technology in the years to come.

However, the presentation was mainly about how to lead in the converged world with ever-changing environments that will quickly incorporate more and more technology. Now more than ever, leadership is essential, as we are in constant contact with our allies and enemies. Specifically, Inglis emphasized that, "people are all people, and people are all different." We must communicate with other nations and respect them while valuing their differences. This respect amplifies what can be achieved and how much cooperation we receive when overcoming our obstacles.

Lastly, Inglis also pointed out that while valuing others' differences, we must also stay true to our mission. Using a company's mission statement as the example, we must decide what the mission is, and then act on it as a whole. Good leadership is leading your company as a whole towards this vision with each employee believing in the mission, from top to bottom.

After the wonderful keynote speech, the delegates gathered in the Bo Coppedge room for a meet and greet with the other delegates and group leaders from the Academy to discuss the remarks from Inglis. We soon met our group leader and friend that would guide us for the rest of the conference, Gee Yong Jorde. Gee Yong is a sophomore at Navy, and we got to know a lot about her before taking the shuttle back to the Westin to prep for the exciting day on Tuesday.

-Zack Rockmore

Craig CassidyOur first full day at the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference began at the brisk hour of 6 a.m., with a well-prepared breakfast at the Annapolis Westin Hotel. We followed breakfast with a short bus ride to the Naval Academy, where we took part in our first panel discussion in Mahan Hall. This panel was conducted by three wildly successful leaders, Sergant Major Carlton Kent, Ambassador Paul Wohlers and DMG motion picture group President Chris Fenton.

These three prestigious speakers discussed many of their own experiences and beliefs of how to lead across varying cultures and organizations. They also stressed the crucial point to develop personal relationships in our ever-growing globalized society, while also balancing the importance of the cyber community. The speakers' different perspectives from a military, diplomatic and business standpoint were both eye-opening and intriguing to hear in unison.

After the panel discussion we broke up into smaller groups for a breakout and discussion session. This allowed all delegates and group leaders to speak their mind on the topics at hand and to contribute personal perspectives to the activity.

Next, we made our way to King Hall for a Midshipman-style lunch. As lunch concluded we made our way back to Mahan Hall do another speaker. This time it was Alexandra Wrage, president and founder of Trace International. She discussed the characteristics of a toxic leader with the example of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Her first-hand experience as an investigator on the situation gave her story a fantastic viewpoint on what a power-hungry, oppressive leader looks like. The day as a whole was an exciting experience that was interactive and will allow me to be a greater leader in the modern world.

-Craig R. Cassidy

Amy MucelliAfter listening to the keynote speaker, Alexandra Wrage, we took a quick 15-minute break to freshen up and get ready for our second panel discussion of the day. This discussion covered the topic of "Leading Across Enterprises" and was mediated by Colonel Arthur Athens with Ms. Christine Straw, Joe Campa, Brennan Hogan, and William "Red" Whittaker. These panelists expressed the importance of humility with confidence, listening is key, and always continue learning. Once the panel wrapped up we made a stop at the Chapel for a quick group picture and then headed back to the hotel.

Our next event planned was dinner at a restaurant called Buddy's Crabs and Ribs. This was more of a casual dinner with a huge buffet (with a very long line) where we got to socialize with other members of Naval Academy. It was great to listen to all of their stories and learn about how everything works at their school. We started dinner at 7 and began to wait anxiously for Lieutenant General John F. Sattler's speech at 8. While we were eating dinner we kept being told how great a speaker Sattler is, and how he will motivate us to want to enlist. As time came for his speech, I was definitely not disappointed. He had so much energy and excitement in his demeanor and you could tell how much he cared. The main takeaway points were how leaders need to gain the trust of who they are working with. They need to show that they are not in this for their own advantages, but that they actually care about who they are leading.

After that insightful speech we followed our representative, Gee Yong, to the Annapolis Ice Cream Company and had some of their extremely delicious ice cream. On this walk we got to see the Annapolis area, which is filled with a lot of cute shops and restaurants. It was really great to see, but that was it for that night. We continued the conference the next morning with a quick breakfast in the hotel and then headed over to the Naval Academy for another breakout discussion to discuss Leadership Across Enterprises. My table began with each of us offering our biggest takeaways from the discussion and then relating it to our personal experiences. I enjoyed listening to other people's experiences and seeing how I can apply what I learned to my own life.

Due to the weather, our trip unfortunately had to be shortened a bit. However, this was still an amazing experience, and I definitely learned a lot from all the great speakers and discussions that we were able to have.

-Amy Mucelli