Corvias Foundation Alumni Summit 2019

Somehow another Corvias Foundation Alumni Summit has come to an end! This weekend, alongside the NASPA conference, a large group of Corvias Foundation alumni were able to come together for a week of personal, professional, and philanthropic development. Sometimes it is difficult to explain exactly what Foundation summit’s are all about, but I think that it does boil down to our three P’s of relating to each other on a personal level, addressing a topic related to professional development, and doing something that aligns with our philanthropic goals. When it comes down to these three pillars, this year was definitely a success!

Our alumni flew in throughout the day on Friday to Las Vegas and all explored the city in their desired ways! Some went to events while others spent time in their rooms getting ready for the busy weekend, but we ALL took advantage of the delicious food that Las Vegas has to offer. The actual events of our trip started on Saturday when we brought our group of 39 alumni to Three Square to do our service project. The mission of Three Square is to provide food to those who are food insecure in the southern Nevada area, meaning that they are not assured three filling meals a day. They emphasized the idea that many assume that most of these people are homeless and elderly, but we learned that 62% of children are food insecure; I think this resonated well as many of us work with, or for, children in our alumni group. We took multiple different positions with some people doing “cardio” (aka lifting bags into a giant box to be distributed), those who packed different food items into the bags, some called “straighteners” who made sure that the bags stayed in line so that 72 bags could fit in each distribution box, and a few more. Our group, along with a few other volunteer groups, ended up preparing 573 bags for the over 271,000 food insecure people in the greater Las Vegas area!



Later that day we had our session with Selena Walckner, the HR specialist and “Talent Strategist” at Corvias. As always, she tailored our conversation to make sure that she told us the main points that were important to her but also addressed the questions we had and made sure we got what we wanted out of the session. She talked about a few large topics when it comes to HR and the professional world: what companies look for in a resume and how we can tailor ours to stand out, interview tips and tricks, and how important feedback can be, both negative and positive. I think that as our alumni group increases in maturity (aka age!), we are more receptive and appreciative of professional advice and opportunities for development. While many alumni are in steady jobs that they enjoy, many of us are on the hunt for a new job, trying to navigate laterally or upward in our current jobs, or searching for ways to improve their daily job performance and inspire coworkers to do the same.

In regards to resumes, Selena said point blank – be authentic, do not make your resume frivolous and difficult to read, and even if a past experience doesn’t seem relevant to the job you’re applying for, use the skills you’ve learned and show how they can be transferred to this opportunity. She also emphasized two concepts: one, refine and adjust your LinkedIn to be the best reflection of yourself and your accomplishments, and two, start making a list of your accomplishments whether they are things you have tangibly accomplished or things that other people have relayed to you. When you look back at your list, you can reflect on the things you did well, highlight them in your job hunt, and hopefully gain insight into things you can relay in an interview.

Interviewing was an area of interest of our group as many of us are joining the working world and you can’t really get a job without nailing an interview! It is important to remember that you are interviewing the place of employment just as they are interviewing you, and you want to make sure it is a good fit. It is important to learn of the culture and expectations while putting your best foot forward. She had a lot of experience with being an interviewer, and said that while tactical skills are important, the interviewer is really listening for your ability to engage, problem solve, demonstrate how you learned from your past experiences, your level of motivation, and your communication skills. She also acknowledged that in terms of salary requirements or expectations, many people refer to Glassdoor to see what a reasonable number would be for compensation, but suggested using instead based on their business model differences.

Lastly, we talked about how to interpret feedback, whether it be positive or negative. First, it is important that you ask for feedback when you are ready to receive it and from someone from whom you will be able to constructively receive it. Sometimes feedback can hurt, especially if you are expecting something positive and instead receive something negative, but if you are seeking it out and ask someone that you respect or truly want to receive advice from, it will be handled in a better manner. In addition, if you seek out feedback instead of waiting for it to come to you, you are being proactive and acknowledging your areas of strength and weakness and come off as looking to better yourself. One great piece of advice she expressed was to carry around a notebook and take note of the feedback people give you; if you look back at your notes and ultimately see a trend, you could attempt to work on that on your own.

One quote that really stood out to me that she said was “You’re in the job you’re in – connect to that position until you’re not”. As someone who is undergoing a career change, I think this is very important. It is great to have a good resume and interviewing skills, but you have to also accept where you are at this point in time and allow yourself to live in the moment. If you are unable to accept your current place, you won’t appreciate what you went through once you get to where you want to be.

Saturday night we all enjoyed a night at the Rosina Bar where we were able to eat, drink, and socialize with each other. We had great conversation, were able to meet and hang out with the significant others who came to Vegas with their alumni, and enjoy our time together as alumni who are all in different places in life. It was a beautiful setting and we are all so thankful to the Foundation for allowing us to spend that time together!

Sunday morning we had our session that focused on the future of our alumni network. While we all agree that we enjoy getting together for alumni summits and spending time together in amazing locations, we have to look towards the future and adapt to a group that was once only a handful of people but is now growing by 10-12 people each year. We broke out into smaller groups and talked about how we can put our goals into action as alumni and then how we can better serve the scholars in our group. I won’t go into too much detail as those ideas and the information we gathered will be put into action and relayed to all Foundation scholars and alumni as things come together. As always, it was a time of brainstorming, being grateful for what the foundation has provided, and looking forward to what we can give back in return.

This event was a little unlike the others as we did not leave with a tangible idea of when we will all see each other again. Until then, this event was successful in filling our cups and connecting with one another until our next meeting. We are so grateful to John Picerne and the whole Corvias Foundation for their instruction, generosity, and guidance both over the years and into the future.

Grit and Gratitude

20181013_112133Last September, the Corvias Alumni Network gathered in Raleigh, NC.  In addition to our regularly scheduled networking and think-tanking, we were treated to a delightfully honest presentation called “Gettin’ Gritty with Goal Setting,” by Dr. Jermaine Davis.  

With a wide grin and a whirlwind of good vibes, Dr. Davis introduced us to his trademark style of ‘edutainment.’  He asked us what it felt like when we accomplished goals, and he taught us the “good job rap” (Good Job, Good Job.  Good Job, Good Job. G – double O – D- J – O – B. Good Job, Good Job). Grit, tenacity, explained Dr. Davis, the ability to work through adversity, that is what helps us reach success, not natural born talent or perfectionism or reinventing the wheel.  He pointed out that the line between success and everything else is really fine, photofinish type fine, and that we don’t need to barrel across the line to success, we only need to cross it by a hair.

What I appreciated most about Dr. Davis is that he didn’t tell us to go work our fingers raw, hoping and praying to be noticed and promoted.  Instead he gave us real tools, tangible and realistic examples of what we can do to get gritty so we can find success. He began by asking us what was on our plate each week.  Each person, he said, no matter who you are or where you from, only has 168 hours in a week. We spend those hours doing things we must and doing things we want. Between sleep, work, and all of our other basic obligations, there’s not a lot of hours left over to do the things that we love.  Dr. Davis asked us to think about that: does the way that you spend your weekly hours match up with your core values? Are your priorities in order? Are you neglecting something you ought not to?

We talked about emotion management.  Emotions happen, they just do (see: Inside Out), and depending on how you approach those emotions they can be helpful (facilitative) or less helpful (debilitative).  Facilitative emotions help propel you, they push you into new things. Debilitative emotions get us stuck, often in our own heads, unable to make decisive action out of fear or shame.  Jealousy of a colleague’s work can be used to invigorate your own work, or it can make you bitter and resentful. Bad emotions are not always debilitative, often they are just a response to negative stimuli.  Debilitative emotions are notable for their intensity (bitterness) and duration (bitterness over a long period of time). If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of debilitative emotions, Dr. Davis suggests gratitude practices.  Gratitude, he says, is the antidote to negative thoughts. While we often try to bury bad thoughts in positive thoughts, what we ought to do is focus on the things that we already have that we are grateful for.

At times in our lives, each of us will experience debilitative emotions.  The grittiest of us know how to identify those negative reactions and use that energy instead of succumbing to it.  It takes practice to know how to do this, the kind of practice that only comes with having failed enough times to learn to be gritty.  Paradoxically, failure is the only way to succeed. When we fail, it’s hard not to take it personally, especially when we’ve tried with everything we’ve got.   Even though rationally, we often know that circumstances are out of our hands, judges have their own interests, everything is politics, companies hire based on the dollar not on the best qualifications — even though we know that a setback isn’t our own creation, we can still feel like giving up, especially when we get in our own heads.  

But gratitude brings us back down.  It takes us out of our anxious headspace and back into the present moment, whatever that is.  Usually, the present moment isn’t the worst case scenario we’ve imagined. Gratitude helps remind us of the job that still pays, the friends and family that still love us in their own imperfect ways, of good health and of new opportunities — gratitude reminds us of the simple things that make our foundation.  A healthy social network, stressed Dr. Davis, is vital for both gratitude practice and recovering after a setback. Friends and family help us back up — nobody got where they are alone, don’t try to be the first.

There are four types of people, Dr. Davis, explained: Adders, Subtractors, Multipliers, and Dividers.  The Adders are your friends and peers, people who push you forward. The Subtractors are your bullies and adversaries, the people who push you backward.  Multipliers are your mentors, they push you way up. And the Dividers rip your life apart, tear you to pieces, break your heart. Most of us, those of us in school especially, struggle with Subtractors.  They’re everywhere and until you’re really comfortable asserting yourself, their influence can add up quickly. Lord help you if you know you have a Divider in your life; some people, you’ve got to love from a safe distance, but you never stop loving.  For me, I realized I was short on Multipliers and my life felt, subsequently, stagnant. Had I skipped this discussion, who knows how long it would have taken me to identify this easily addressed problem.

It was a pleasure to meet Dr. Davis.  I hardly encapsulated his speech and I definitely lack his eloquence.  I find that wisdom is not something new that I’ve learned, but something old that’s been put in its place.  That’s what “Gettin’ Gritty” felt like: lots of things I already knew being arranged in a way that made sense.  Perhaps you need that in your life; I encourage you to come to the next of these annual summits. If any of these points resonated with you, please leave a comment and let’s talk.  

Corvias Regional Alumni Summit 2018

Somehow it has already been three weeks since our first regional Corvias Alumni Summit! Over the weekend of October 13-14, a small group of Corvias Alumni were able to come together for a weekend of networking and personal, professional, and philanthropic development. It is amazing to think that we could accomplish so much in only 2 days…but I mean, come on – we are Corvias scholars!

Our sessions started on Saturday morning with a group breakfast and our first session with Dr. Jermaine Davis. Our first task was to settle into our seats and get our bag of Grits to inspire us for the session entitled, “Gettin’ Gritty: Finish What You Start”. Prior to our gathering, Melissa sent out a packet for us to fill out that focused on our goals, whether they be personal or professional. Upon starting our conversation, we all went around and explained what goal setting looks like for each of us – and we had a mixture of people who love goal setting and marking things off of their list and people who do not like to set goals (though they ultimately came up with some!). Although all of our goals were different and personal, we were able to recognize similarities in effort, tasks to complete to get us to our end goal, and ways that we could utilize each other to ultimately achieve them.

While it is impossible to give a complete recap of Dr. Davis’ talk with us, I hope to include his main points and a few key quotations that he used to inspire our group. Our first session was focused on goal setting and setting yourself up in the best way possible to achieve your goals. After learning the “Good Job” song (ask a local Corvias member that attended the summit to teach it to you – you won’t regret it), we went straight to work. He stressed three points when setting and achieving your goals – the principle of slight edge, complimenting the effort, and practicing the knowing àdoing gap. In summary, it is important to do what you can to give yourself a competitive advantage, always celebrate reaching the small steps that make up your journey as they are happening, and making sure that we understand the difference between knowing what to do and actually doing what we know. All of these are essential to actually reaching the goals that we set in our lives both short and long term.

One piece of information that Dr. Davis stunned us with was the statistic that we have the majority of our conversations with ourselves, and that 77% of all internal dialogue is negative. This seemed to surprise every one of us – and gave us a realization that we need to change our mindset in order to change our lives. In order to view our goals as realistic and through a positive lens, we must have a greater percentage of positive internal dialogue.

We finished our first session with conversations about things that interfere with our goals and our fears. We have internal and external interferences and we identified some as money, negative relationships, imposter syndrome, and self-sabotage. We continued to talk about imposter syndrome as many of us had felt that in our lives – the feeling that you are where you are by mistake or that it is a fluke, and that you are unworthy of successes or accomplishments in your life. It was amazing to see a group of accomplished individuals identify so strongly at some point or another with this idea. Lastly, we talked about our fears; Dr. Davis put fears into four categories – fear of the unknown, fear of success, fear of rejection, and fear of failure. We all identified where our fears lie and how irrational they can sound when we verbalize them.

Our second session focused on debilitative vs. facilitative emotions, plate management, and the role of other people in your life. Debilitative emotions prevent effective performance and facilitative emotions contribute to effective performance. While debilitative emotions can be helpful in the short term, they become dangerous when they increase in duration and intensity. While we were speaking about this, Dr. Davis asked us to name as many of these emotions as possible – it was amazing how many debilitative emotions we could come up with in comparison to facilitative. When thinking of debilitative emotions, we talked about fear, doubt, disappointment, frustration, anger, etc. When we named facilitative emotions, the only one that came quickly was gratefulness. I guess that shows a little bit of proof for how 77% of our thoughts are negative!

Another topic was plate management – or rather, what do you put on your “plate” and how well do you manage all of your responsibilities. We found that many of us overload our plate to the point where we actually don’t end up doing the things that are actually important, while others don’t place enough on their plates. He asked us to identify 5 core values in life that we would like in order to live a values based life; from there, we identified that we have 168 hours in a week and subtracted our hours of sleep and work from that total. From the amount of hours that we had left, we were able to analyze our own lives and determine if we actually put proper weight on, and allotted appropriate time for, our core values and goals. If we looked at these hours and realized we didn’t place our time in those categories or used our time to reach our goals, we were able to reevaluate how we spend our time. I challenge each of you to do this – it can truly open your eyes to areas of personal improvement and illuminate areas of your life that you can take some hours from to better use for achieving your goals.

Lastly, we talked about how people in our lives can be adders, subtracters, multipliers or dividers. Adders push you forward, subtracters push you down, multipliers push you up, and dividers move you away from your goals. It is extremely important to identify the people in your life who fit in each of these categories. Once you identify who is who, you can re-evaluate your relationships with those who do not push you towards your goals.

Quotes from Dr. Jermaine Davis

  • A goal is a target where you aim your efforts and energy.
  • Information + Application = Transformation!
  • We don’t ask for help because we are weak, we ask because we want to remain strong!
  • Goals – Interferences = Success
  • When you know your why, you can withstand any how.
  • The opposite of motivation is not laziness, it’s complacency.
  • You can live a life by design or default.
  • The antidote to negative thinking is an attitude of gratitude.
  • All dreams and goals have a price tag.

For the rest of the day on Saturday, we spent time creating an agenda to reiterate what we had learned with the current scholars that would be joining us on Sunday, spent time “connecting or disconnecting”, and eating dinner at The Raleigh Times.

Sunday we were able to join together and learn from one of our favorite women, Maria! She led us in a conversation on financial identity and how to determine who we are from a financial standpoint. She stressed that though money isn’t everything, it is important and it is something that we need to think about. We came together and had a great conversation that we always wish could be longer!

One of our favorite events of our time together was our connect time with the current scholars in the Raleigh area. We were able to reiterate the information we learned from Dr. Davis in small groups where we could incorporate the scholars and learn from them while they learned from us. It was a great way for us to continue connecting with each other and show the current scholars what they will be joining when they eventually become alumni. They were inspirational to us and we learned a great deal from their perspective as current students, as many of us have been out of school for a number of years.

Our last group event of the weekend was a conversation about mindfulness and meditation led by our very own Kris Brooks. She led us through a guided meditation, taught us information about mindfulness including tips and tricks and how we could start, and sparked a conversation about how each of us interpreted the provided meditation. We all realized that we could use meditation and mindfulness as a way to center ourselves throughout every experience in our lives that may be stressful or difficult, or simply just to ground ourselves throughout our day.

Overall, our trip to Raleigh, NC and our first regional gathering was a huge success. We were able to chat and network with each other, learn from people who are professionals in their field, and realize just how achievable our goals can be if we continue to appropriately pursue them!