Creighton Business Symposium ignites connections
Anthony Tolliver (left) with Luke Klahs, a CBS co-coordinator, at the 19th Creighton Business Symposium.
The Creighton Business Symposium (CBS) is 19 years strong. This autumn’s event, held at the CHI Health Center, drew attendees not only from campus and the metropolitan area but across the nation.
It’s no easy feat planning the nation’s largest student-run business conference. The planning team has been meeting almost a year to secure funding – $50K in corporate sponsorship – three keynote speakers and dozens of experts for 12 panel discussions tackling such timely topics as inflation and cyber security and such eclectic subjects as unique success routes, sports business and social entrepreneurship.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Ignite.” Morning keynote speakers were former Creighton and NBA player and entrepreneur Anthony Tolliver, BSBA’07, and Val Ackerman, BIG EAST commissioner and founding president of the WNBA. John Schlifske, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Northwestern Mutual, served as afternoon keynote speaker.
As with all conferences, the symposium’s planning team sought to inform participants about the current business climate and ignite excitement about their roles as future business leaders. But whenever driven, curious people who share a common interest gather, connections are made. And some, as you will see, can change the trajectory or speed of one’s career, help fill employment positions or reunite former students with professors and a new generation of HCB students.
Senior finance and economics double major Luke Klahs, one of the CBS co-coordinators, whose symposium attendance as a high school student cemented his decision to attend Creighton.
“My journey to serving as a co-coordinator for the Creighton Business Symposium started long before I applied to serve on the planning team. In October of my senior year of high school, I visited Omaha and attended the symposium. Conversations with students, faculty and alumni were engaging and inspiring, leading to my realization that I wanted to attend Creighton University. I even called my parents to tell them that I had made up my mind! Every step of my Creighton experience has directed my attention towards the event, from my RSP decurion Anna Lillis (2019 co-coordinator) to meeting the planning team in 2020. I fell in love with the process as I collaborated with such bright and involved students on the organization of last year’s conference when we returned to an in-person modality. This past year has been one of the most rewarding times of my life. So many moving parts aligned, materializing months worth of discussions, emails, meetings, long nights and early mornings into an event that benefitted the Creighton and Omaha communities. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to lead the Creighton Business Symposium, the capstone of my collegiate experience, but even greater is my appreciation for all those around me that made it possible.”
Or fellow planning team member Jaliya Nagahawatte, a senior financial technology and business intelligence and analytics double major from Omaha, whose attendance in 2021 greatly influenced his current career path.
“Last year I was sitting at the back of the symposium during a keynote when I started talking to the person next to me. He wasn’t a student, so I assumed that he was either a panelist or sponsor representative. Our polite chatter quickly became an intense conversation on his decision to create his own company that worked on government contracts for renewable technology. It was during this time that I was unsure of my career path and was looking for some insight on my next steps for the summer before my senior year. That five-minute conversation reminded me that there is no path that Creighton expects of its graduates. The business school gives us the tools, and we choose where we want to use them. His advice helped shape my decision to work in D.C. that summer in the House of Representatives. The beauty of the symposium isn’t just the networking or keynotes. It’s the facilitation of small moments that can shape the way we view our futures.”
Connections are a two-way street, though. Sometimes, attending business professionals meet dynamic college students who would be great fits for their companies.
Eddie Vonnahme, CFA, portfolio manager at Security Benefit. He attended with his daughter, a prospective student who was on campus for a college visit, and approached the Creighton Career Center to promote full-time analyst positions and internship roles throughout the company and its four locations in Kansas, Iowa, New York and Connecticut.
“I was impressed by the event, and it is one I would have benefited from as a student.”
Or alumnus Joe Lundy, BSBA’16, marketing project manager with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and symposium panelist with “Beyond the Locker Room: The Business of Sports.” Lundy recalls attending the Creighton Business Symposium as an undergrad and now as an alum.
“My biggest takeaway from the symposium as a student was that career paths are often not linear and that it’s very normal for professionals to switch companies, fields or even end up working in something entirely different from what they studied or majored in. Hearing this from many of the speakers at the symposium in my time during undergrad allowed me to explore the vastness of professional options upon graduation.
“For me the greatest value of contributing to the symposium as an alumni is giving back and being able to share how what I learned at Creighton has helped me to succeed in the business world. As an alumni, it is great to see that this event is still going strong and is still having an impact on the current students; and knowing how giving back is such a core part of the Creighton identity, I was more than happy to take time off to come speak at this year’s symposium.”