Skip to content

2015 Denver Regional Summit

March 31, 2015

—This post was written by Billy Gurr, the Golden Key Council of Student Members representative for US Region 6 and a chapter president at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and Kellie Rollins, the Golden Key Council of Student Members representative for US Region 8 and officer at the University of California, Los Angeles chapter—

Denver5Golden Key’s Regional Summit in Denver, Colorado got underway on March 6, 2015, for members in US Regions 6 & 8 and attendees from other regions joined as well. Delegates arrived at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Denver and walked the short distance to Metropolitan State University Denver on the Auraria Campus. Regional Summit got off to a great start with the officer and advisor round tables. Officers brainstormed issues regarding chapter performance and discussed tactics to resolve them. At these meetings, officers and advisors got to interact with one another sharing ideas with themselves and their region’s leadership. After the round tables, students went over to the Tivoli student union to play games and enjoy snacks while getting to know one another.

Saturday morning started bright and early with a headquarters update led by Executive Director Brad Rainey, Region 6 Associate Director John Dingfelder, and Region 8 Associate Director Melissa Decell. Next students and advisors enjoyed the first common session of the day led by MSU Denver CFO Steve Kreidler. During this workshop, Golden Key leaders learned about the four frames of an organization. The session brought to light the necessity of making sure you address the various frames in order to ensure our chapters are positioned for success within our university systems.

Denver4After lunch, the Summit delegates broke off and attended a workshop of their choosing. Workshops included communication ideas, crowd funding, time management skills, adaptive leadership theory, and finding your color.

Coming back together for the next common session, students got to learn about emotional intelligence from Matt Steinkamp. During this session, students took a test and learned about the strong and weak parts of their emotional intelligence. Matt then taught everyone skills to help them be better aware of their own and others’ emotions.

The last event during the afternoon was the service project for SPARK a Change. This year attendees worked with Courageous Creativity to put together craft kits. These kits are going to be distributed to youth in the Denver Metro area via after school programs and weekend meal programs. Courageous Creativity wants to provide these students will an outlet to express themselves when our world is inundated with inputs. For the founders of this organization, creativity does not come with a price tag and they want to share the world.

Denver3    Denver1

Later that night, everyone reconvened at St. Cajetan’s for dinner and a special guest speaker, Jonathon Stalls, who talked about his journey across the United States on foot and the lessons he learned from this. The dinner provided a nice time to hear an inspirational story and reflect on how we all should try to reach for what we want, even if it seems impossible.

Sunday morning everyone gathered one last time for the closing session with Harriet Watkins,  the International Leadership Council President, who charged attendees to strive for our own greatness, and to spread awareness of Golden Key in our communities.



2015 New Orleans Regional Summit

March 27, 2015

—This post was written by Bradley Mason, the Golden Key Council of Student Members representative for US Region 7 and a chapter officer at Mississippi State University —

NOLA1Golden Key paraded into New Orleans, LA for the Regional Summit (US Regions 3 and 7) on Friday, February 27th. Members stayed in the heart of the Big Easy at the Hilton Garden Inn, within walking distance of all the main attractions. Students from the participating regions were able to network with other leaders, serve the community, and learn effective personal development and chapter advancement skills.

NOLA2The Golden Key Regional Summit started with a high-energy opening session featuring Dr. Mari Ann Callais. Dr. Callais has held a variety of leadership roles, including program coordinator for Student Affairs at Mississippi State University and the Past National President of her sorority Theta Phi Alpha. She now works for Campus Speak, talking to college leaders across the country about the benefits of social leadership and serving others. It was not all business, however, as Dr. Callais brought her guitar and gave attendees the chance to sing along to classic songs with New Orleans roots. The night ended with samples of king cake and Zapp’s Chips, as well as the Advisor Reception and city exploration.

NOLA3Saturday started bright and early at a buffet breakfast and the Opening Session, where everyone was introduced to the SPARK a Change initiative for the day. Breakfast featured William Stoudt, Executive Director of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, as a special guest. William discussed his life experiences as well as shared the hardships being faced in the New Orleans community. Everyone was able to leave the breakfast feeling inspired to help others and “spark a change.” From there everyone chose a service project and broke off to complete one of the tasks: creating anti-bullying posters, making creative bookmarks or creating vocabulary flash cards. Those participating in the service project helped to change the lives of youth in New Orleans, and the impact will be incredible.

Development workshops throughout the day covered topics from Interview Etiquette to Organizational Leadership to Chapter Event Strategies. Both advisors and students led these and the content was useful for everyone who attended. This provided students with a great opportunity to connect and learn from each other and even hear some innovative ideas for their home chapters.


Closing Session proved to be an unforgettable experience as we left the hotel and headed to the House of Blues. A great dinner was prepared and Sareena Helton, the Region 7 Associate Director, took on the role of DJ for the night. After eating, laughing and connecting with all of our new friends, the music began and attendees danced to modern hits and classics.  At the end of dinner and dancing, people went to explore the Big Easy under the stars, and Regional Summit came to a close.

NOLA6The 2015 Golden Key Regional Summit in New Orleans provided attendees with the opportunity to learn, serve and network. The lessons, impacts and friendships that we experienced will change our lives and affect our chapters forever. We are excited to finish this semester strong and rejuvenated thanks to Regional Summit, and we are glad to have had the opportunity to learn in New Orleans!


New Associate Director Spotlight: Britt Kastner

March 25, 2015

brittWe are excited to welcome a new Associate Director to the Golden Key team! Our Associate Directors are the liason between headquarters and the chapters on campus. Britt Kastner is the new Associate Director for US Region 3. Get to know her better with this Q&A.

Where are you from/ where did you grow up? I have moved all over the US, about every 2-3 years. I “claim” St. Louis, Missouri as my hometown because that’s where my parents and extended family were born and raised and still reside. I’ve lived in multiple towns/cities in Illinois, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Denver, Atlanta, and Nashville, and have been back in Atlanta for two years now.

Where did you go to college? I went to college at Eastern Illinois University, and graduated from Kennesaw State.

What did you study in school/ major in? I have a Bachelor of Science in Communication, with a minor in Professional Writing.

What are some of the things you were involved in, in college? I was involved with Delta Zeta sorority at Eastern Illinois.

What are your hobbies? I have a lot of hobbies. I try to stay active with working out, hiking, and pretty much anything that gets me outside when it’s nice! I like to be creative- I love to paint. I like to refinish/distress furniture and dabble in designing and constructing swimwear and apparel. I blog. I write. I love to read. I try to travel as much as possible (not enough!).

What is your favorite sport? My favorite sport is volleyball. I’ve played on school and club teams since 5th grade.

What excites you the most about working at Golden Key? What excites me the most about working with Golden Key is getting to build relationships with people all over the country and work together to make a positive impact. Everyone at GK is friendly, excited, and proud to be here, and it certainly rubs off on you as a new addition to the team.

Fun Fact?  I have a background working on global guerilla marketing teams for Red Bull North America and Muscle Milk. I spent most of my college work life driving around in a Mini Cooper or a Jeep Wrangler meeting new people and spreading the love. It was an awesome experience that I was lucky to have, and so much fun!

You can also connect with Britt on Facebook.

Scholarship Winner Highlight: Sharon Drye

March 23, 2015

Sharon Head ShotSharon Drye, a graduate student member from the University of South Alabama, got a big surprise when she found out she was one of the recipients of Golden Key’s 2014 Education Debt Reduction Award for $5,000. Last month, she got an even bigger surprise… GEICO was doubling her scholarship amount and she was getting an extra $5,000 toward the repayment of her student loans!

Let’s go back to 2010, when Sharon decided to make a big change in her life.

After working for twenty-six years in the architecture industry, Sharon lost her job. This instance combined with some personal obstacles during the same time, led Sharon to make a change. Having never earned her bachelor’s degree, she decided to go back to school to further her interest in the health field and have better job security in the future. She enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with minors in behavioral neuroscience and communication disorders.

Next Sharon enrolled in graduate school at the University of South Alabama where she is currently pursuing a degree in audiology. Sharon has a passion for helping people and found a field that she can make a difference in. With her excellent grades, Sharon was invited to join Golden Key last summer. She was excited to join as she strongly relates to Golden Key’s three pillars of academics, leadership and service, and she was very excited for professional development opportunities through Golden Key. “My membership in this organization has empowered me to remain actively committed and further shaped my professional future,” Sharon told us.

While working to obtain her education, Sharon was met with financial struggles. In addition to taking out her own student loans for her undergraduate degree at Middle Tennessee, she had to defer a loan previously taken to pay for her daughter’s first year of college. As a full time student, she had drawn from her retirement to meet her living expenses and after a few years, it was completely exhausted. When she started at the University of South Alabama, she again had to take out money—this time for out-of-state tuition. She worked nights and weekends to hold her over, but her financial situation remained difficult. Through it all, however, Sharon remained determined to finish her degree and to become involved on campus and in the community.

Sharon has a part time job working between two hospitals where she tests babies for hearing loss. She is also a member of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Student Academy of Audiology, where she serves her community with several events, such as volunteering in preparation for the 2012 NSSLHA Conference, the Special Kids Race and Christmas Tree Decorating at the Community Care of Rutherford County. As an undergraduate at Middle Tennessee State University, she was also involved in local community hearing screenings for children and educating others about hearing loss at university health fairs. Through her course work and clinical experiences at graduate school, she is conducting diagnostic hearing and vestibular assessments and learning how to manage those impairments.

Once she found out that she was a Golden Key scholarship winner, Sharon was thrilled! “I didn’t know how I was going to finish what I started,” she said. “This scholarship blessed me so much.” Sharon plans to finish her degree in audiology and her externship by May of 2017 and hopes to work for an ENT where she can serve adults with hearing and balance disorders. It is important to Sharon to one-day give back to others who are hoping to do what she is doing—going back to school to further their dreams.

“Words cannot express the depth of gratitude I have to Golden Key International Honour Society and GEICO for recognizing my academic achievement and investing in my education by awarding me with a 2014 Education Debt Reduction Scholarship,” Sharon said. “The decision to return to school as a non-traditional student has certainly come with its share of sacrifices and financial struggles as there are so many other obligations acquired by this point in life. Higher education can be one of life’s long and costly journeys, but this monetary award has greatly alleviated the financial burden associated therein.”

Congratulations, Sharon from all of us at Golden Key HQ!


2015 Canadian Regional Summit

March 18, 2015

—This post was written by Jordan Yeo, co-president of the Simon Fraser University chapter—

This year, Golden Key’s Canadian Regional Summit (or CANCON) was held from February 27 to March 1 at the Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel in the heart of beautiful downtown Vancouver, BC. Nearly 100 students, advisors and alumni members from throughout the country gathered for a weekend of networking and professional development.

View More:

Friday kicked off as delegates arrived with a photo scavenger hunt activity throughout the downtown area. We were extremely fortunate to have one of the most beautiful weekends the city had seen all year – many students commented on how warm and sunny the weather was, especially compared to the snowstorms in the East Coast! This led to some great photo opportunities and adventures exploring nearby attractions. In the evening, we headed to the nearby pub, Mahony and Sons, for delicious food and drinks, and mixing and mingling among attendees.

View More: opening session began on Saturday morning, with an official welcome from the co-presidents of the host chapters, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. Ian Sankey, Director of Golden Key in Canada, provided updates from headquarters and recognized the scholarship winners who were in attendance. He also introduced Council of Student Members representative Azin Zanganeh and Council of Advisors representative Dr. Bruce Shore. For our opening keynote speech, we were very fortunate to have Dr. Art Hister, a local news personality and medical doctor. The title of Dr. Hister’s presentation, “Simple Steps to Living a Longer, Healthier Life”, was a hilarious yet inspiring presentation which took everyone by surprise and brought about some much-needed laughs for an early morning.

View More: the morning and afternoon, breakout sessions were held on a variety of topics, featuring a diverse group of presenters with backgrounds in everything from marketing to astronomy and humanitarianism. Among our notable presenters were Kevin Vallely, an architect and world-record holder for the fastest unsupported trek to the South Pole, who spoke about the importance of resiliency in achieving one’s goals; Michelle Harper, the National Marketing Manager of Purdy’s Chocolatier, who provided real-word advice on career-building opportunities in addition to some delicious chocolate samples; Nisha Khare, a registered clinical counselor and actress, who led a facilitated discussion on following your dreams; and Marjan Jamsaz, an international relations consultant who spoke on the importance of “living from the end”.

View More: View More:

Saturday evening began with our closing keynote address from Ryan Steele, a participant onseason 2 of The Amazing Race Canada, who spoke about overcoming cancer, launching his comedy career, and his experiences competing in a race around the world. Delegates then participated in a chapter sharing session, where representatives from each chapter provided updates on events and initiatives they had participated in over the past year. It was a great opportunity for Golden Key members to learn from one another and bring ideas back to their chapters. After the sharing session, we headed up to the revolving restaurant on the top floor of the hotel for a beautiful three-course dinner overlooking Coal Harbour. Many of our speakers joined us for the dinner, making it a great opportunity for networking in a more casual setting. We also created a slideshow that played throughout the dinner, featuring all of the photos that our attendees had taken throughout the weekend and uploaded to our Guidebook mobile app, and gave out numerous door prizes. With all the formalities done and hard work completed, we ended Saturday night by heading to Joseph Richard Nightclub and celebrating late into the night with new friends from every province!

The fun didn’t stop there, though. Those who were able to stick around on Sunday participated in additional activities organized by the host chapters, including a bike ride around the seawall in Stanley Park.

On behalf of the entire CANCON 2015 team, we would like to thank all of our attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers who helped to make the weekend a success. It was inspiring to see so many bright minds gathered in one place and to make so many new connections. We hope everyone who attended CANCON 2015 was inspired to “make your future now”, and we look forward to seeing many familiar faces at next year’s summit!

View more photos from the event at


Alumni Story – Linny Kimly Phuong

March 15, 2015

linny phuongWe’re all influenced by our parents to some degree, but Golden Key member from Monash University, Linny Kimly Phuong, has been inspired by her parents more than most. Her Vietnamese parents came to Australia in the 70’s as part of the United Nations Humanitarian Entry Program.

Having grown up in a refugee family and witnessed her parent’s bravery, Linny founded The Water Well Project in 2010, which aims to empower migrant, refugee and asylum seeker community groups by improving their health literacy. The organisation has grown to 280 volunteers – all trained healthcare professionals.

The Water Well Project was recognised for its impact on healthcare in the community as a finalist in the City of Melbourne Awards for Community Contribution and with the development of the Victorian Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Action Plan.

As well as these significant contributions to Victoria Health, Linny is a trained Pharmacist, a Paediatric Doctor and is currently completing her Masters. She was named a 2013 Victorian State Finalist for Young Australian of the Year, an Australia Day Ambassador (2014-2015) and has won numerous scholarships for her academics, leadership and service. We had the chance to speak with Linny and find out a little bit more about her.

  1. Where did you grow up? Where do you currently live?

Melbourne and Melbourne.

  1. What university did you go to and what did you study?

Monash University for my first degree and I studies pharmacy. Melbourne University for my second and current degrees- Medicine; and currently doing a part-time Masters of Public Health.

  1. When did you join Golden Key and for what reasons?

I was awarded membership after finishing my Pharmacy degree. I then was inducted as an Honorary Member after being a finalist for Young Australian of the Year in 2013.

  1. How has Golden Key influenced your career path?

It has been interesting to read about other individuals’ career journeys, whether in or out of the medical field.

  1. What are you doing now? What is your job title?

Paediatric Registrar at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

  1. What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

In life… the most exciting thing I’ve ever done is married my best friend. He is my adviser and my confidant. I would be lost without him.

  1. What is your proudest achievement?

Watching the success of The Water Well Project. It never meant to be anything big, but the momentum brought by our dedicated volunteers has carried our organisation from strength to strength. We were finalists in the Melbourne Awards in the category of Community Contribution last year, next to amazing organisations such as Melbourne City Mission (who have been around for 150 years)- so we were so honoured. We were also recognised in the Victorian Department of Health Refugee & Asylum Seeker Health Action Plan last year, which was also pretty exciting.

  1. What motivates you? What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?

My parents’ story of arriving in Australia as refugees, reminds me constantly to be grateful for the many opportunities we are afforded. I feel lucky to be born into this world, met the people I have and done what I have to this point. I think this drives me to work hard and aim to succeed in everything I do.

Also, as a Paediatric doctor, I feel privileged to work in a field where I get to reach out and help people. Sick kids generally bounce back- and give great snotty cuddles and smiles.

I think the best advice I ever received was to be true to yourself.
People value honesty and integrity. If you do what you believe in, or are passionate about, you are nine tenths of the way there.

  1. What activities and hobbies do you take part in?

I spend a lot of time outside of work, working on The Water Well Project. Like most doctors… I could definitely do with more exercise!

  1. Do you have a defining moment/incident/day that stands out?

Getting my letter of acceptance into medical school. I wanted to have a career in medicine since high school, but things turned out differently. I wouldn’t change this for the world though. I wouldn’t have otherwise have met my husband and many friends along the way.

  1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?

Melbourne… because it’s the best city in the world. I love the multiculturalism. The culture, the food… I guess question 1 isn’t going to change much.

  1. What is a fun fact about you?

My guilty pleasure is lots and lots of TV… Suits, Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men, Modern Family… most popular TV shows are on my list. Again, not the “doctor” lifestyle a doctor should provide. :)

2015 Washington D.C. Regional Summit

March 12, 2015

—This post was written by Amanda Wilson, Stephanie Matro and Krystle Gladu, the chapter advisors at American Public University System —

Attendees from Region 1

Attendees from Region 1

Golden Key kicked off its Washington, D.C. Summit on Friday, February 20th at the Embassy Suites, bringing together members from US Regions 1, 2, and 4. Regional Summit attendees enjoyed meeting new people, sharing ideas through engaging conference sessions, listening to motivational speakers, working on a creative and crafty service project, and exploring the nation’s capital.

The Golden Key Summit kicked off with the opening session. The keynote speaker was Anita Miller who’s a Golden Key Board Member and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Anita gave a motivational and uplifting speech. Golden Key Executive Director Brad Rainey shared updates from headquarters and recapped 2014 with the accomplishments of each region. The first night ended with tours of downtown D.C. and the Advisor Reception.

Attendees from Region 2

Attendees from Region 2

Saturday began with lots of snowfall and the Morning Session, which prepared attendees for the day’s events. We were also introduced to the members present from the Council of Advisors and Council of Student Members. Scholarship recipients in 2014 were also recognized.

The daily session line-up included student- and advisor-led presentations, as well as business sessions with Golden Key Headquarters. Chapter members buzzed around, talking with others and learning new methods for supporting the mission of the organization.

Service Event 1The SPARK a Change service event Saturday afternoon provided an opportunity for Summit attendees to donate magazines to Magazines for Literacy. Magazines were bundled for donation to homeless shelters, domestic violence victims and youth in early education, after school programs and mentoring programs. Members also created anti-bullying posters and bookmarks for local D.C. elementary schools.

Saturday evening’s formal dinner and closing session included guest speaker Jen Croneberger, author of These Five Words Are Mine. Jen enthusiastically spoke about overcoming obstacles, and using determination to propel you forward in life. Jen’s story was inspiring and full of laughs!

Attendees from Region 4

Attendees from Region 4

Brad Rainey, Golden Key’s Executive Director, concluded dinner with special recognition and a certificate presented to American Public University System, who hosted and volunteered at the Summit.

Saturday ended in style with dancing and music, provided by local DJ Floyd Minor.

Throughout the weekend, chapters met with their Headquarters representative, the Associate Director or AD (Hamiyda Scipio, Tricia Forbes or Melissa Decell were present) and discussed their progress and goals.

Melissa Decell, Tricia Forbes, Brad Rainey and Hamiyda Scipio

Melissa Decell, Tricia Forbes, Brad Rainey and Hamiyda Scipio

Sunday’s sendoff included a hearty breakfast and final farewells to friends made. Overall, the weekend was not only a lot of fun, but also a huge success and great experience!







Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 213 other followers