On this past Saturday, Mississippi State University's Freshman Forum and Student Association hosted the Undecided Conference from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The conference was held in the Colvard Student Union and Old Main Academic Center.
In a typical year, Freshman Forum hosts the Donald Zacharias Leadership Conference (DZLC), a leadership conference for high school juniors and seniors. However, this year DZLC was canceled due to COVID-19. The Undecided Conference took its place, and the focus of the event was MSU freshmen and sophomores rather than high school students.
Ryan Harper, a freshman electrical engineering major and member of Freshman Forum, shed some light on the heart behind the event.
"We're out here to just give back to the freshman students. As well as not necessarily just freshmen, it's all undeclared. And people who are uncertain of what they want to do, even if you are certain of what you want to do, we still want to give you some skills in life or just some other ideas," Harper said.
According to Ellie Herndon, a freshman political science major and Freshman Forum member, the decision to target current MSU students helped to streamline the event.
"We'd rather focus on people that are already at this campus and professional development for them, you know. It's more organized and professional," Herndon said.
The members of Freshman Forum split into three main groups to plan the event: logistics, presentation and speakers and marketing. On Saturday, all members were present to help with check-in, as well as anywhere else they might be needed to ensure everything runs smoothly. Some of them, like Harper, were even able to attend a few sessions.
"The conference was terrific. I was able to sit down on some of the sessions and loved what the speakers had to say," Herndon said.
Eleven notable speakers showed at the conference, including Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill, Jackie Mullen, Camille Young, Regina Hyatt, Leah Gibson, Melissa Moore, Robert Green, Tyrel Jernigan, Tyler Packer, Laura Dunn and Eric Zacharias. Each one brought a unique topic to the conference and taught a short lecture on their specific subject. Many of these speakers came from within MSU or surrounding areas.
Each attendee listened to opening remarks by MSU Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt, went to three breakout sessions of their choice and ended with a speech from Eric Zacharias. The breakout sessions included career insights, interview tips and diversity training. Some of the fields represented were engineering, pre-med, government and public service and marketing.
Due to the diversity of topics and speakers, Herndon explained there was something for everyone in attendance.
"I think it went great. Although the turnout wasn't huge, I think people got a lot of insight out of it," Herndon said.
Chick-fil-A was provided for lunch, and there were drawings for two Bulldog Burger gift cards, Apple AirPods, an Apple Watch and a JBL speaker.
Savannah Fort, a freshman who is undecided on her major, said Leah Gibson's breakout session 'You are Your Brand!' on social media marketing gave her insight into a possible career. She also mentioned Camille Young's session 'Interview Skills and Etiquette' and her great advice on how to make a good impression in an interview.
Fort was one of over 70 students who participated in the Undecided Conference. After attending the conference, Fort was grateful she made the decision to go.
"I thought it was very helpful and organized well. In the end, I'm glad I decided to go," Fort said.