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Lessons in leadership series brings advice to campus

Wedding photographer Lara Woolfson, alumna of ‘05, made a decision shortly after walking into the MUB Theater I on Thursday evening. Rather than tell students censored information about her life during and after college, she went the raw and honest route. As part of an informal interview, Woolfson explained that she picked up win-worthy beer pong skills at UNH, and earned a MFA from Lesley University. Her thesis topic? Fetish.

The audience of about 40 students laughed and gasped at Woolfson’s answers during the event.

Woolfson’s talk was the latest of the Lessons in Leadership presentations. According to the MUB Office of Student Involvement and Leadership website, the program brings alums or community members to speak to students about how leadership affects them. The series is part of the leadership program offered by the Memorial Union & Student Activities. The University Advising & Career Center also sponsors these events. Woolfson was interviewed by Nate Hastings, the MUB Coordinator of Leadership & Student Organization Services, with intermittent opportunities for audience questioning.

Though Woolfson was self-admittedly an irresponsible student at times, she is now the owner of Studio Nouveau, a photography business in Waltham, Massachusetts. The portraiture featured in her studio ranges from engagement photos to actor headshots. Woolfson’s work has been featured in numerous galleries and outlets, including 808 Gallery at BU, Boston Magazine, the Huffington Post and Seacoast Weddings Magazine. She has also done editorial collaborations with brands like Life is Good and Free People.

Woolfson’s authentic persona carried over into other elements of the event. Woolfson detailed how she applied her experiences at UNH to her professional and personal life.  She majored in communications with a focus in rhetoric, and spent time honing her persuasive writing, speaking, and fine art interests throughout her undergraduate career. She was also a member of MUSO, and participated in the National Student Exchange Program. She studied art for a year at California State University, San Bernardino. These classes “ignited [her] passion” for photography, she mused. She explained that UNH changed her and made her appreciate hard work and working for something.

“A lot of the opportunities here like the National Student Exchange got me out of complacency…and took away a little bit of the fear of trying something new,” Woolfson said.

Travel has been constant in Woolfson’s life. It is “a big photo adventure” for her.  She has traveled to Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Texas, California, Costa Rica and Scotland. To Woolfson, shooting weddings is work, so she thinks it is important to “have other creative ventures” to decrease her chances of feeling burnt out.

Declan Sheil, a junior and MUSO member, thinks that Lessons in Leadership is “definitely something others would be interested in” and advises that they come to these events to get “words of wisdom.”

Teresa Scalley, a freshman business administration major, would also recommend the series to others. “I really took away her personality. She understood herself and what she wanted, and I resonate with her with the travel angle. I realize that it is definitely possible to incorporate travel into any job that you do, even if it’s photography or business-related. If you want to do it, then you’ll make it happen,” Scalley said.

From Hastings’ understanding, Lessons in Leadership began about eight or nine years ago as a series of breakfast events with notable alums. He wanted to expand its reach when he took over the program, so the early morning time was changed. While speakers used to give structured presentations, the series has since evolved into an informal interview format.

No specific funding goes into Lessons in Leadership, but speakers get small tokens of appreciation for their time.

“I think having alums coming back and talking to students about very real things is important,” Hastings said.

Thursday marked the first time that podcast equipment was used to record Lessons in Leadership event. Hastings plans to host the podcast on the Memorial Union & Student Activities’ SoundCloud page. The two remaining events are expected to be recorded as well.

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