(Jeff Roberson ~ Associated Press)
This year, two Southeast Missouri students were invited to participate in the forum.
Cape Girardeau native Meg Goodman is a junior at Southwest Baptist University. As her university's student association president, Goodman was nominated as a representative because she is a campus leader.
"Our university president nominated students who were all leaders in different areas on campus," Goodman said. "They wanted us all to bring back what we learned and use it to lead our different groups."
At the forum, students heard from guest speakers who shared thoughts on leadership and the role of faith and values.
Among these speakers was Rod Jetton, the former Missouri Speaker of the House who pleaded guilty in 2011 to misdemeanor assault after admitting he choked and struck a woman in the face during a sexual encounter.
Goodman described Jetton's speech as surprisingly honest and candid.
"He told us that in school, people will be positive and give you a lot of encouragement, but you have to be realistic," Goodman said. "You have to realize being a leader won't always be easy, problems will come, so you shouldn't be prideful."
Students were also given the opportunity to tour the Capitol building and the governor's mansion, where Gov. Jay Nixon gave a speech and answered questions from the group.
"I liked that he took the time to talk with us," Goodman said. "The governor actually gets to choose whether or not he wants to continue the forum every year, and I think it's great that he realizes how important it is to continue this."
"I was one of the students nominated to help get our student government off the ground," said Cook. "We want to bring what we've learned about leadership back to campus and apply it."
Cook said the experiences that stand out to him took place during student group discussions. Between the speeches and tours, the students were split into small groups and allowed to share and discuss their own thoughts on leadership.
"I got to meet leaders from other campuses and discuss new ideas with them," Cook said. "We all got the chance to really think about the concept of servant leadership."
Like Goodman, Cook found the guest speakers not only informative, but sincere. From CEOs to sportscasters, Cook said listening to the experiences of leaders from "different walks of life" gave him a unique perspective.
Cook also said he learned not to overlook the importance of group work as a whole.
"It's important to find a group that compliments each other," Cook said. "You want to make sure that everyone in your group works together, not just a few."
After attending the forum, Cook said he is ready to better serve his campus as a stronger leader.
Two student leaders from Southeast Missouri State University, Kevin Magnan, student representative on the university's board of regents, and Jerrid Snyder, an officer in the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, were also nominated to attend the event.