Safari Richardson (far right) and others at the Shelton Leadership Retreat at the Biltmore Estate.
“I had a wonderful time participating in this event. I made new friends, met some amazing people in the professional world, and got to explore parts of Biltmore I never go to before. I highly recommend this event others if they have the opportunity to attend!”
In this edition of Spotlight on Our Students, Safari Richardson tells us about her experience at the Shelton Leadership Retreat at the Biltmore Estate. Safari is a Junior from Greensboro, North Carolina and is also a Jefferson Scholar. She was selected to participate in an overnight leadership retreat that included etiquette, networking, and personal branding workshops. Let’s see what she had to say about the event.
USP: How did you find out about the Shelton Leadership Retreat at Biltmore Estate? What made you decide to attend?
SR: I found out about the Shelton Leadership Retreat through an email from the University Scholars Program. I decided to attend for multiple reasons: 1) I love to travel, so I like to jump on any opportunities that allow me to do so, 2) I haven’t visited Biltmore in years and I wanted to go back, 3) I liked the idea of strengthening my networking skills, and 4) I wanted to meet new people. This retreat also served as a mini vacation for me; it was a great way for me to get off campus and take my mind off of school for a bit.
USP: That’s awesome! That’s a good plug for everyone to read the News and Updates emails I send out weekly. So, what did you hope to learn from your time there?
SR: From my time there, I hoped to learn more about the history and facts of Biltmore, including its prominent role in agriculture (something I was unaware of before the retreat). I also wanted to meet professionals from various fields of studies, and what brought them to their current careers. Lastly, I wanted to learn how to make good first impressions when it comes to meeting new people, especially when participating in networking events.
USP: Who was the most interesting person you met there and why?
SR: The most interesting person I met was Dr. Ted Katsigianis. He is the Vice President of Agriculture and Environmental Science at Biltmore. Dr. Ted, as many people call him, received his Master’s and Ph.D. in animal science, which is one of my majors. Since we share similar interests, I obviously was intrigued by Dr. Ted and how he got to his current position at Biltmore. He also took us on a sustainability tour, in which we toured the farmland of Biltmore (which can only be accessed by the public via guided tours). It was amazing to see the Angus beef cattle, Berkshire pigs, sheep, vineyards, and hydroponic centers. Just about everything we learned on that tour is right up my alley, so I really enjoyed it. Dr. Ted is such an impactful, knowledgeable, and talented individual, and he is definitely someone that I am inspired by.
USP: Following Dr. Ted around was really neat! And learning about how the Estate tries to grow all it’s own food was super cool! What was a skill or habit you learned about this weekend that you plan to utilize in the future?
SR: One skill I learned that I plan to utilize in the future involves networking with others. When it comes to professionals I have never met before, I sometimes get intimidated by their presence and their accolades, making it hard for me to start conversations with them. The retreat taught me how to properly approach such individuals and how to get a conversation going. It is imperative to introduce oneself with a firm handshake to the individual, and then ask questions to get to know them, such as how they got into their field, something about their company, etc. That way, it is easier to make a conversation flow and show them that you are interested. This can also help form relationships with people that could be of assistance in the future, which is always beneficial. I will definitely employ these techniques in the future, and so should everyone else.
USP: Yes – making that first impression when meeting new people is so very important. Just like they said at the event, net”work”ing is definitely WORK! Is there anything else you’d like us to know about your participation in the event?
SR: I had a wonderful time participating in this event. I made new friends, met some amazing people in the professional world, and got to explore parts of Biltmore I never go to before. I highly recommend this event others if they have the opportunity to attend!
Safari (far right) and other students in a workshop at the Biltmore Estate.