Student leaders get motivated by chocolate

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- While many students were enjoying their final day of winter break, one group of students was back on campus and savoring something sweet. Student managers, trainers and culinary liaisons from Penn State Food Services were treated to an afternoon workshop and reception in Pollock Commons on Jan. 10 to jump-start the spring semester.

While Food Services has always provided leadership workshops for their students, this was the first year a guest speaker was brought in and a reception was included. The students didn’t know it, but they were in for a treat. A chocolate treat.

Denise Ryan, a Certified Speaking Professional, was the guest speaker for the day and won the students over immediately with her presentation, “Motivation by Chocolate.” Her presentation was fun and lively and she encouraged participation through handfuls of chocolates given to those who raised their hands. After covering her nine lessons that chocolate can teach us, Ryan had the students fill out an informal survey to determine which chocolate maker personality they were.

Once the students determined whether they were Forrest Mars, Mrs. Fields, Milton Hershey or Henri Nestle, Ryan broke them into the four groups to delve deeper into their characteristics. It turned out to be an interactive way for the students to discover what motivates them, their own leadership style and how to motivate others who may fit into groups different from their own.

Ryan concluded her portion of the workshop with everyone receiving one milk chocolate and one dark chocolate morsel. The students were instructed to first examine the pieces, smell them, break them and then taste them savoring their different flavors. The message she hoped the students would take away was simply to keep an open mind, use all of your senses and be in the moment.

The students spent the rest of the afternoon in small groups with assistant managers. It was an opportunity for returners to share advice and experiences, and for new students to ask questions. The workshop closed with a reception in Swirl with numerous chocolate desserts from the Penn State Bakery.

According to Lisa Wandel, director of residential dining, there was more to the workshop than just leadership training. “We wanted to make this really special to let the students know how much we value what they do for us day-to-day,” said Wandel. “We also want to make it our priority to spend more time on their professional development, which not only benefits them and leads to greater opportunities, but also helps in our recruitment of student employees.”

The workshop was well received by all in attendance. They were excited to be the recipients of a program and reception instead of being the ones doing the work, said Wandel. Many of the attendees asked for copies of the chocolate maker survey to give to their student co-workers and their friends.

In the end, Wandel and her staff hope the students took away a great deal from the workshop.

“I hope they not only realize how much we appreciate them, but also that they can now identify there are different styles of leadership,” said Wandel. “They have to work with all kinds of student employees. If they can recognize some are socializers while others are supporters or thinkers, they can learn to adjust to each person.”

And who doesn’t like chocolate?

Last Updated February 04, 2014