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Over 100 students attended this year’s Lafayette Leadership Institute, a conference for student leaders held Feb. 5 in Marquis Hall. The award-winning, one-day conference educates student leaders through a keynote address, numerous learning sessions, a distinguished alumni panel, alumni roundtables, and a leadership resource area. Invitations to the annual event alternate between experienced and emerging leaders; juniors and seniors registered this year for “Leadership In Motion: From Action to Interaction.”

Last year a record-breaking number of first-year students and sophomores attended “Step, Up, Stand Out: Discover the Leader in You” after being nominated by faculty members based on their participation in their First-Year Seminar class.

Marcia S. Bernicat ’75, a Foreign Service officer, minister counselor, U.S. Department of State, shared her experiences Sunday representing the American people on four continents as a U.S. diplomat in the keynote address “In the Middle of It: Leadership in Service.”

A discussion with Bernicat followed the address, then workshops were held to help students learn how to use their leadership skills at Lafayette and after graduation.

The first block of workshops, “Moving Toward Multi-Contextual Leadership,” presented by Michael Benitez Jr., dean of intercultural development and director of the David A. Portlock Black Cultural Center, showed student leaders how to make their roles more effective within their organizations by considering social patterns, self-assessment, and human relations across cultures. Lauren Ackermann, assistant director of student life programs, incorporated National Geographic photographs by Dewitt Jones in her workshop, “Leading and Living with Creativity.” In a third workshop entitled “Real World 101: A Syllabus for Life,” Rachel Moeller ’88, assistant director, and Colby McCarthy, career counselor, Career Services, provided guidance for the transition from college to the working world with an emphasis on goal-setting techniques.

The next block of workshops included “Lafayette Leadership for Life,” led by George Beres ’00, operational excellence manager of GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, and Beth Nelson ’96, major gifts director of College Relations and Development. This workshop informed students how to stay involved with the Lafayette community after graduation. Julia A. Goldberg, associate dean of scholars programs, and June A. Thompson, coordinator of pre-professional and scholars programs, hosted “Facilitating and Funding Your Academic and Professional Future,” showing students how to apply for scholarship or fellowship awards, while Jadrien Ellison ’02, coordinator of intercultural development, explained the “True Colors” approach to leadership and how it appreciates the differences of individuals, encourages potential, and motivates success.

After lunch, a panel of distinguished alumni discussed the transition from Lafayette student leader to successful graduate student or professional. Ellison served as moderator.

Panel members included:

Stephen Chiger ’01, who graduated with an English major before obtaining a master’s degree in new media journalism at Northwestern University. Chiger founded and operates the journalism program and teaches English at University Academy Charter High School in Jersey City, N.J. He is also a vice president of Garden State Scholastic Press Association and program director for the Hugh N. Boyd Minorities Journalism Workshop; both are statewide programs that seek to advance youth participation in journalism.

Jenna Menard ’03, a psychology graduate who minored in Africana studies. Based in New York City, she is pursuing a career as a makeup artist and has been involved with Fashion Week in New York, Milan, and Paris. Her work appears in magazines such as Vogue, Philadelphia Style, Oprah, Town and Country, and Elle.

Joseph Rachinsky ’96,co-founder of Catalyst Group, a fundraising and political-strategy consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., that serves Republican members of Congress and candidates. Prior to forming Catalyst, he worked as a consultant to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), focusing on the GOP convention in New York, and as NRCC finance director. During the 2002 election cycle he oversaw the committee’s record-breaking fundraising operation and helped the committee make history by gaining seats for a House Republican majority for the first time since 1928. Before becoming finance director, Rachinksy served as deputy finance director, director of special events, and director of corporate and PAC fundraising programs. He is a government and law graduate.

Kimberly Sica ’04, an editorial assistant at Quick & Simple weekly magazine, who contributes to articles on travel, health, relationships and finance. Previously, she was an editorial intern at Playboy magazine, where she conducted interviews with contributing editors and was assistant to the editor-in-chief. Sica is a government and law graduate.

The third block of workshops following the panel was a roundtable discussion where students were given an opportunity to meet members of the alumni panel in small groups to ask questions and converse on a more personal level. Other workshops included “Leadership, Humor, and the Workplace” with President Daniel H. Weiss and “Money In Motion: Your Finances After Graduation,” led by Susan Averett, professor and head of economics and business, and Sheila Handy, assistant professor of economics and business.

The conference concluded with a recognition reception.

Pam Brewer, associate dean of students, credits the success of this year’s Lafayette Leadership Institute to the hard work of the Lafayette Leadership Education committee, which includes: Ackerman; Ellison; Moeller; Chris Fairchild, assistant director of Recreation Services; Kim Spang, associate director for Development & College Relations; American studies major Kelly Barrows ’06 (Clarks Green, Pa.); double major in government & law and economics & business Brandon Benjamin ’06(Towanda, Pa.); chemistry and international studies double major Rufaro Mukogo ’07 (Harare, Zimbabwe); English and French double major Maggie Oberrender ’07 (Bridgewater, N.J.); international affairs and Africana studies double major Nangula Shejavali ’06 (Windhoek, Namibia); and Marquis Scholars Colleen Walsh ’06 (Manasquan, N.J.), a biology major; and Megan Zaroda ’07 (Easton, Pa.), an international affairs major.

Walsh served as this year’s student leadership intern and helped Brewer, chair of the committee, prepare the institute during the January interim session.

As human resources senior level division chief, Bernicat manages the ambassadorial and other senior staffing selection processes at the State Department. A native of New Jersey and history graduate, she earned a certificate to teach social science at the secondary school level in 1975.

Instead of teaching, however, Bernicat took advantage of a unique opportunity and joined Procter & Gamble as a manager in the liquid cleaners department at its manufacturing plant in Staten Island, N.Y. She helped plan and execute several chemical formula advances and modernization of the mechanical packing line. After gaining two years of private sector managerial experience, she earned a master’s degree at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1980.

While still a graduate student, Bernicat served as an intern in the U.S. Foreign Service Economic Section at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. Entering the service in 1981, her first tour was in Bamako, Mali, also in West Africa. In addition to her consular and political reporting responsibilities, Bernicat directed a military training program and a discretionary assistance fund, which helped villagers complete small-scale development projects.

During her second tour in Marseille, France, she reported on political developments, served as the post’s administrative officer, and oversaw a security construction project, in addition to providing consular services. She returned to Washington, D.C., in 1986 to serve in the State Department Operations Center, and subsequently as special assistant to former Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead.

In August 1988, Bernicat joined the India Desk in the Department of State as the Nepal desk officer and political-military officer for India. Following a year of graduate studies in south Asian affairs at University of California-Berkeley and a year of Hindi language training, she served a three-year tour in New Delhi, India as deputy political counselor following Indian domestic politics. Bernicat advanced U.S. commercial interests during her tour as consul general in Casablanca, Morocco from 1995-1998.

Serving as deputy chief of mission in Malawi, she helped direct the post’s efforts to put in place HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programs for both Malawian citizens and embassy staff, and coordinated peacekeeping training and security assistance for the Malawi Army. Bernicat arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados on Sept. 5, 2001, also as the post’s deputy chief of mission. Days later she helped increase interagency efforts to curb money laundering and put into place stronger counter terrorism efforts throughout the Eastern Caribbean to protect the U.S. “third border.”

Bernicat is the mother of two 12-year-old sons. She enjoys teaching adult literacy, traveling, and sewing. Her languages include French, Hindi, and Russian.

Sponsored by the Office of Student Life Programs, Lafayette Leadership Institute is made possible by the Class of ’68 Leadership Fund. For more information, contact the Office of Student Life Programs at x5337.

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