Largest Student-Run Conference in Nation Shows How Confidence Stems From Curiosity

Creighton Business Symposium
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

For many attendees at the recent Creighton Business Symposium, the one-day conference was their first foray into the professional world of learning, networking, vendors and career growth.

For others, it was an opportunity to start building connections into the workforce as they transition from Creighton’s Heider College of Business into the Omaha business community.

And for a few, the 16th annual event represented the culmination of a student-run group project that has fostered the largest student-run conference in the nation.

“It’s the largest student-run business conference in the nation,” said co-coordinator Anna Lillis. “The team is made up of both juniors and seniors. We put it on for people of all ages.”

The 16 student organizers are all involved in the Anna Tyler Waite Leadership Program. The conference invites back alumni and brings session topics that are relevant for 18-year-olds through working professionals.

The conference is geared toward freshman and sophomores, to help get their names in front of recruiters, said John Faur, marketing team member.

“For seniors, it’s really just to culminate your experience at Creighton, get those last-minute connections with jobs and hear the speakers, because they’re fantastic and they’re giving real life experience,” Faur said.

This year saw a record number of sponsors – 29 – and drew more than 1,000 registered attendees at the downtown Omaha CHI Health Center conference center.

Sponsors are approached by the organizers, said Elizabeth Rowen, a sponsorship team member.

“Not only do they get a chance to get their name out there and known more, but they get a chance to a have networking table,” Rowen said. “This will help with their recruiting. They get to talk to Creighton students in hopes of getting to know people before they intern or get hired full time.”

Everyone has someone to look up to, said co-

coordinator Kendra Lavallee. The scale of the event is also unique – it’s got the features of a large conference with the intimacy of a smaller gathering.

“It is familiar – we have the basketball team that plays on the other side of this venue,” Lavallee said. “So that’s kind of cool that it all comes back to this, and you can even walk from campus.”

The conference added a third keynote presenter this year, with remarks around the theme of “Curiosity Inspires Confidence.”

Judy Ricketts, managing director of investor services at TD Ameritrade, spoke about the importance of curiosity and how, with a dash of courage and some confidence, it can create change.

She encouraged the attendees to ask why and other challenging questions. The enemies of curiosity include fear, ego, comfort and unconscious biases. 

“These enemies are things that will stifle diversity of thought,” Ricketts said. “We get busy and we stop asking questions because it takes time and we certainly don’t want to dig a little to understand things a little bit better.”

Most of us take a great deal at face values and make judgments about people and situations without seeking to understand first – at the cost of missing opportunities and not making meaningful change in the world around us.

“Albert Einstein once said, ‘You cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them,’” Ricketts said. “We tend to repeat things, don’t we? You don’t know where things will lead if you do not get curious and dig a little.”

Other keynote remarks included Jane Miller, president and chief operating officer at Gallup, and Ron Carson, founder and CEO of Carson Group.

For more information on the conference, visit

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