The Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers student chapter at Virginia Tech hosted the ninth annual Torgersen Leadership Summit (TLS) on Saturday, February 2nd, drawing students and industry professionals to the Data and Decision Sciences Building for a day of workshops and discussions on leadership in the modern era. 

"Organizing this year's event was an exciting and new experience, especially given the caliber of guests and alumni we were able to host," said Sophia Yoon, junior in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) and event organizer for the Torgersen Leadership Summit. "We wanted students to be able to connect with our wonderful speakers and workshop facilitators firsthand, and that's exactly what happened. Everyone is walking away from the event inspired with some great insight, and energized about their futures."

The Torgersen Leadership Summit honors the legacy of the late Paul Torgersen, president emeritus of Virginia Tech and professor emeritus in ISE. 

“Having our alumni back on campus is always impactful for students, and this year’s Torgersen Leadership Summit was no different,” said department head Eileen Van Aken. “Dr. Paul Torgersen had such an impact on my career and development, and we are able to continue his legacy each year with this event. I am impressed with the growth of the summit over the past nine years, and we are already looking forward to what’s in store for 2025.” 

Keynote speaker Rhonda Vetere, a Global STEM Ambassador and former executive at major corporations like Herbalife Nutrition and Estée Lauder Companies, shared insights on managing people and corporations through change, taking risks, and the power of forming intentional relationships and mentorships. 

Rhonda Vetere
Keynote speaker Rhonda Vetere's talk focused on the importance of finding strong mentors, staying mentally tough, and practicing gratitude. Photo by Jordi Shelton for Virginia Tech.

“This event is an opportunity for students to invest in themselves and get them thinking differently and connected to people directly in industry,” Vetere said. “We’re sharing insights they can’t get in the classroom – real-life items they can apply in the business world.” 

This year’s Torgersen Leadership Summit featured interactive workshops on unlocking leadership potential with ISE industry expert Michael Foss, navigating conflict management with Virginia Tech’s Assistant Director for Student Experiences and Principal Engagement Engineer Trisha Durbin, and data visualization. Gordon Quach ‘20 hosted the Jumpstart with Tableau workshop, equipping students for data visualization in their future careers. 

Gordon Quach and Michael Foss
Gordon Quach (at left) connects with workshop host Michael Foss before the keynote session. Photo by Jordi Shelton for Virginia Tech.

"I loved every moment in teaching students Tableau + Data Visualization at this year’s Torgersen Leadership Summit. My workshops consisted of case studies and activities that kept the learning interactive and engaging,” Quach said. “It was so rewarding seeing their eyes light up when they learned a new design technique or Tableau capability! It brings me joy knowing that the students had fun learning and have shared that they’re already applying my lessons in personal projects or will be for their future careers.”

In addition to the keynote speaker and workshops, students were able to hear firsthand from department alumni during an interactive panel, featuring Quach and Dylan Burnettte ‘18,  Darell Davis ‘82, Rebecca Ovelgoenner ‘11, and  Jim Sowder ‘83, ‘88. 

“Overall, TLS is very unique in that it teaches students practical and diverse leadership lessons that are unparalleled to most classroom experiences. All the speakers have proven success in industry and give their time so that students can be empowered to do more. This is why I love getting involved with the VT ISE department,” Quach continued. “The students already have a bright future ahead of them, and as an alumni, I want to give back any way I can to enhance their experience in VT’s world class ISE program and prepare them for the exciting path ahead!”

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