In the words of Jen Leaman: “The human race is like a puzzle: Everyone fits in somewhere; it just takes a while to figure it out.”

College is a time of learning how to put all the pieces together. There are obviously many opportunities to learn in the classroom. But college is also a time to learn about yourself. It is a time of exciting exploration as you meet new people and get outside your comfort zone.

But sometimes this discovery and learning process creates anxiety as you begin to ask yourself some difficult questions.

Who am I?

What do I want to choose as a career?

What is my purpose?

These questions can leave you puzzled. You might feel as if your life is comprised of many pieces and you are trying to put them all together. Or maybe you already have your puzzle pieces in place.

Grappling with these issues was the focus of a recent campus event put on by TEDxUCIrvine. TEDxUCIrvine is run by passionate UCI students, founded on the belief that sharing knowledge on campus can inspire action throughout the community. With these events, they strive to ignite the curiosity, passion, and wonder in the interaction in the campus community. They kicked off their Fall 2017 event to help students who may be puzzled about personal branding and want help piecing it together. Their event, Puzzled: Piece Together Your Personal Brand, was a massive success with a full house of eager UCI students. Hosted by Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Michael Dennin, the event was bursting with high energy.

The free event held at the Student Center was designed to help attendees piece together their personal brand and featured two speakers — Valerie Sheppard and Jennifer Hite — and an interesting group activity to pull it all together.

Professor Sheppard has more than 30-years of experience in branding, business strategy development, and coaching. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate marketing courses at UCI’s Merage School of Business, including the very popular Living 101 and Living 102 classes.

Students describe Professor Sheppard as inspirational and a great listener, and as someone who challenges everyone to take control of their lives. Her talk focused on encouraging students to soar as they embark on their journey to discovering their personal brands. She spoke about being aware of your limiting beliefs, inviting students to increase their “possibility thinking.”

The second speaker was Professor Hite, who received a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior at UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business and has been an instructor at the Annenberg School of Communication at USC, the School of Business Administration at USC, and UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business. Professor Hite’s students regard her as hands-down the most passionate professor they’ve ever had. She shared the building blocks for discovering and building a personal brand through the three “C’s:” communication, competencies, and character. She shared practical tips on improving your non-verbal communication skills, which stressed the use of body language to emphasize your confidence.

The event was immersive and focused on the personal connections between the speakers and students. After the two talks, attendees engaged in building a large puzzle, after which they shared personal stories on the pieces. In the end, they formed a large puzzle that represented many student perspectives.

“I am honored to have hosted such an impactful event,” says Michael Dennin. “TEDxUCIrvine is a strong group on campus dedicated to connecting students with powerful messages from both on-campus and off-campus leaders.”

“Asking Michael Dennin to be the host was very exciting,” says Mina Nada, executive producer of TEDxUCIrvine. “Professor Dennin is someone who has a strong personal brand and has real enthusiasm for helping students.”

Stay connected with TEDxUCIrvine by visiting their website at Sign up for their newsletter for updates on future events as they continue to bring together Irvine community’s leading thinkers and doers to share ideas that matter.

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