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The 2nd Annual Aspire Conference was a huge success!

By The Aspire Center

October 23, 2020

Students participated in a socially-distanced coloring party in The Caf during Keynote Speaker, N...Students participated in a socially-distanced coloring party in The Caf during Keynote Speaker, NatterDoodle.The 2nd Annual Aspire Conference: Navigating a Changing World, one of the Aspire Center’s yearly signature events, was met with great success. This year’s conference was held virtually on Oct. 13-16, with sessions revolving around personal and professional development that highlight creativity, entrepreneurship, and leadership and within the holistic scope of self-care, wellness, and community engagement; all facilitated by nationally-recognized experts, Carthage staff members, and prominent Carthage alumni.

On Oct. 13, The Aspire Conference kicked off with attendees coloring custom Carthage doodle pages while chatting about finding joy in times of uncertainty. Natalie Keller Pariano, a professional doodler, entrepreneur, and leadership development expert, led the session and helped participants explore the differences between happiness and being joyful.

In preparation of NatterDoodle’s conversation with the Carthage community, custom coloring pages were distributed to residence halls, in grab-and-go meals across campus, and in The Caf with individual packages of crayons on the night of Natalie’s presentation. Large screen televisions in The Caf were also streaming Natalie’s presentation during a socially-distanced coloring party.

One participant, Geovanni Virella-Torres ’22, stated “Natalie’s session was literally the best thing to happen to me this school year. I just have to say that was an amazing way to start off the conference, and I am so excited to tune into the upcoming sessions!”

Student Andrew Dorst ’20 took advantage of the Mid-Day Meet the Masters Concert while enjoying ...Student Andrew Dorst ’20 took advantage of the Mid-Day Meet the Masters Concert while enjoying the outdoors.Student Gracelyn Footit ’22 echoed Geovanni’s thoughts, “Leading up to The Aspire Conference, I was looking forward to having an opportunity to network and learn, which is something I haven’t had the opportunity to do since the beginning of COVID. [Natalie’s] energy was infectious and she shared some helpful tips of how to stay happy, even at this time.”

Thoughtfully fused within Carthage’s inaugural Reading Day on Oct. 14, the types of engagement during the span of this day provided opportunities to navigate moving forward through peer and alumni mentoring and goal-setting moments, and intentionally embedded well-being breaks, including a mid-day concert presented by our Masters of Music in Music Theatre Pedagogy students.

Thursday and Friday’s schedule included career development-focused and skill-building sessions throughout the day and evening with accomplished alumni, staff, and community partners. One such presenter was alumnus Matt Thome ’17 who spoke on “How To Be An Opportunity Chaser.”

Matt Thome ’17 shared a funny story about his road to success. While working with the Wisconsin...Matt Thome ’17 shared a funny story about his road to success. While working with the Wisconsin TimberRattlers, he dressed up like a cow to put a smile on guests' faces.Sydney Arbeiter ’21 was one of many students who attended his session. “’How to be an Opportunity Chaser’ helped me see that career paths often take a number of unexpected yet beneficial turns and that taking new opportunities, even when they are far outside my comfort zone or area of expertise, might be some of my greatest career decisions,” said Sydney. “He also challenged me to decide what my own idea of a successful career is and reminded me that it’s okay if my idea of success is different from other people’s idea of success.”

The conference ended mid-afternoon on Friday with former presidential advisor, Grant Harris. He candidly discussed his professional journey and what he learned along the way as he navigated successes and failures. Moderated by Professor Tony Barnhart. Mr. Harris answered questions “off the record” and gave attendees a rare chance to get an insider peek into life in the White House and around the world.

Prof. Barnhart reflected on Mr. Harris’ conversation. “Grant’s advice to our students independently echoed many of the missions of the Aspire Center,” he said. “He highlighted the importance of networking, the necessity of finding a voice and advocating for oneself in the workplace, and the value of gaining real-world experiences with diverse peoples and cultures. In many ways, Grant Harris demonstrated that a liberal arts education equips students to be effective players on the world’s stage.”

Alumni Nick Huff ’15 and Kaila Bingen ’15, M.M. ’20 discussed what it's like to start a non...Alumni Nick Huff ’15 and Kaila Bingen ’15, M.M. ’20 discussed what it's like to start a nonprofit in times of a pandemic.Sydney also believes that the annual Aspire Conference is a highly beneficial opportunity for students. “The Aspire Conference came at a time when I was very unsure about where I wanted my career to go after graduation or how to pursue a career path,” she said. “I left the conference with a better understanding of possible career paths and have actionable steps to take as I launch my career. I also learned new ways to ensure I am taking care of myself and not getting too burnt out with academics and career development, whether that be blocking off time to take a quick siesta or working on a fun side project. I cannot recommend attending next year enough. If you are looking for career advice and guidance, networking opportunities, or just a chance to learn something new, you need to attend at least a session or two next year. Even if you stop by a session for ten minutes here and there, you are bound to find something helpful.”

If you were not able to attend the conference this year, many of the sessions were recorded and are now available on our conference platform, Cadence. You will need to register for Cadence, if you have not done so already.

If you’ve already created your Cadence username and password and would like to directly access conference materials, please login in to your account.

The 2nd Annual Aspire Conference: Navigating a Changing World, Oct. 13-16, 2020

Featured alumni presenters included:

  • Psychotherapist and CEO, Dominique Pritchett ’07
  • Sacramento Kings membership services account manager, Matt Thome ’17
  • Chief technology officer and entrepreneur, Isaac Rothenbaum ’11
  • Associate director of Pipeline Marketing and Analytics (Hikma Pharma.), Raja Banarjee ’08
  • Vice president and co-founder of Kenosha Opera Festival, Kaila Bingen ’15, M.M. ’20
  • President and co-founder of Kenosha Opera Festival, Nick Huff ’15
  • Youth services programming librarian, Jake Bowen ’13
  • Content editor, Bloomberg Government, Michaela Ross ’08

Faculty and staff presenters included:

  • Dominique Pritchett ’07
  • Roger Moreano
  • Cicely Hunter
  • Prof. Tony Barnhart
  • Becky Windberg
  • Sarah Gorke ’04
  • Trevor Jung
  • Haley Perez
  • Tom Wood ’13

Other notable presenters included:

  • Natalie Keller Pariano (NatterDoodle)
  • Grant Harris (former presidential advisor)
  • Rose Halama (yoga instructor, Maverick Social Justice)
  • Michelle Mehlis (Talent acquisition development manager)
  • Heather Thompson (Kenosha Public Library)
  • Joe Poeschl (entrepreneur, The Commons)