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How UofGH alum Brandon Vuong benefited from the Leadership Development Conference Fund

Brandon Vuong poses on campus

You should really take that extra step, invest your time, and put yourself out there."

When Brandon Vuong heard about the Project Management Institute’s annual Global Conference, he knew it presented a rare opportunity to learn more about a career that had started to hold significant appeal for him.

There was a problem, however: registration for the conference was expensive and it was being held in Chicago. As fortune would have it, Vuong – then a fourth-year student in the University of Guelph-Humber’s Business program – subsequently received an email from Student Life drawing attention to the application deadline for UofGH’s Leadership Development Conference Fund.

“I thought: Could this even be possible? Will Guelph-Humber actually support this, to help build leaders from the school?” Vuong recalled. “I thought I’d fill out the form and see what happened.

“It all came together so fast.”

Helping students find their voice

The Leadership Development Conference Fund awards funding for students to use toward a conference for costs including registration, accommodations, or travel.

The goal of the fund is to help students enhance their leadership skills. Certainly, attending the PMI’s Global Conference helped Vuong accomplish just that.

When he initially arrived at the event, he admits to feeling a little shy or awkward, but he soon overcame that. On his first night, he attended a networking event for young professionals, and he was surprised to find that almost everyone else there was more than a decade older than he was.

“But I thought: I’m coming out here, I’m representing my school, I’m going to give it my all,” he remembered. “I approached a few people and talked to them, and they were really inviting. From there, I picked up the pace, and I learned so much.”

Vuong met other professionals from all over the world, including Peru, India, Dubai, China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. When he returned home, his LinkedIn profile was teeming with new connections.

Highlights of the conference

Vuong was inspired by the event’s keynote speakers, who included Sir Tim Berners-Lee – credited with inventing the World Wide Web – as well as Nicholas Epley, an author and specialist in social cognition, and Mercedes Ramirez Johnson, the survivor of a tragic plane crash that killed 160 people.

Another highlight for Vuong came during a session focused on CliftonStrengths. He was already familiar with the program – which helps participants identify their top five strengths – after completing an assessment through UofGH. So he particularly enjoyed an ice-breaking event where participants compared strengths and worked with coaches. He got to ask other project managers what led them to their line of work, and what they enjoyed about their jobs. He even got to meet PMI’s founder.

The opportunities continued when Vuong returned to Toronto. As a result of his attendance at the conference, he was asked to give a presentation at Nancy’s Auditorium in downtown Toronto. There, he addressed an audience of nearly 200 project managers to discuss how to compel millennials to take an interest in the field.

Certainly, he’s glad he applied.

“I would recommend any student to take advantage of the Leadership Development Conference Fund,” he said. “Utilize it for something you’re passionate about.

“If there’s a big event out there and you think it’s not even possible at this age and time to go, you should really take that extra step, invest your time, and put yourself out there.”

How you can get involved

The University of Guelph-Humber offers many opportunities for students to get involved and develop their leadership skills. Students can choose the level of commitment they are prepared to make. They can jump right in as Brandon did, or they can get involved in clubs and societies, as executives or members at large.