CSU Department of Design and Merchandising student, a Gold Award Girl Scout, chosen for prestigious leadership opportunity

Elizabeth Gumper stands and smiles in front of a green vine.
Elizabeth Gumper

Growing up in Colorado Springs, Colorado State University student Elizabeth Gumper knew that she enjoyed sewing. But she struggled with how to link her interests to a career. Her realization that this experience was likely common among high school students inspired her Girl Scout Gold Award project, a website featuring interviews from various professionals about their careers, My Career Connections.

This year, Gumper, a first-year CSU student double-majoring in apparel and merchandising and business, was nominated by the Girl Scouts of Colorado to attend the Denver Metro Chamber’s Leadership Exchange held in Atlanta, Georgia.

The exchange is an invitation-only trip during which more than 150 business and community leaders travel to a U.S. or international city to collectively learn about the inventive community leadership taking place there.

Interest in apparel

Gumper decided to attend CSU after visiting the campus and having the opportunity to explore the apparel and merchandising major in the Department of Design and Merchandising. Her interest in fashion and sewing began at a young age when her mother introduced her to the world of textiles.

“Since I was young, my mom has exposed me to sewing and design,” said Gumper. “To this day, one of our favorite activities is to find good deals at thrift stores and refresh designs and garment fit through sewing. The pandemic was my first opportunity to design and create a full outfit from fabric on the bolt to a finished, wearable product. I loved the process and creative opportunities and knew I wanted to learn more about the industry.”

Gold Award Girl Scout

Gumper was nominated to attend the Denver Metro Chamber’s Leadership Exchange due, in part, to her status as a Gold Award Girl Scout. The Gold Award is the most prestigious award one can win as a Girl Scout and involves several rigorous steps to achieve the end goal of creating real, sustainable change in one’s community. Gold Award aspirants must pinpoint an issue they care about, conduct in-depth research about the issue, put together a team of experts and others in the community who can help, carry out the plan with the team they’ve formed, and, finally, reflect on the impact they’ve had on the community.

The issue Gumper decided to tackle stemmed from a lack of understanding of how her interests could become a career and knowing that many of her peers struggled with the same thing. Through her Gold Award project, Gumper created My Career Connections, an intuitive website offering short video interviews with professionals in a wide range of fields. There are over 90 interviews on the website and that number is growing as new interviews are added. With Gumper’s website, students have the tools to find out exactly what their dream job entails, as well as what possible careers are out there for them. Gumper has also purchased the L.L.C. for My Career Connections, giving her the ability to expand the scope of her website and a structure to operate her small business.

Elizabeth Gumper speaks on stage at an event. She wears a green top and a Girl Scout sash.
Gumper speaking at an event.

Creating a website posed a challenge for Gumper, who previously had no video or website experience.

“The most challenging part of my project related to my electronic literacy,” Gumper said. “Before beginning my Gold Award, I had not recorded or edited a video, designed a website, or managed a YouTube channel. Everything was new, and it was only with the help of many online tutorials and advice from friends that I was able to figure out how to create this resource.”

Working towards the Gold Award allowed Gumper to cultivate skills that everyone uses, including communication and persistence.

“It was through Girl Scouts that I was able to develop the ability to communicate and collaborate with superiors while maintaining my vision and say in the matter,” said Gumper. “Intimidation was a familiar feeling as I met with adults who have been working in their careers longer than I have been alive and required me to work with an assistant to plan the interview. Often, I have had to remind myself that the project I’m working on is too important to simply accept an original ‘no.’ I recognized that my project is worthy of these professionals’ time and is a benefit to both the student and professional. It is through Girl Scouts that I learned every girl has a voice, and one that should be heard, not dismissed. Practicing this skill of respectful persistence has been extremely valuable.”

Youngest attendee at the Denver Metro Chamber’s Leadership Exchange

Not only was Gumper the youngest to attend the 2021 Leadership Exchange, but she was the youngest delegate to ever attend. With her fresh perspective, she was able to offer valuable insights to the other business leaders in attendance about the values, needs, and priorities of her generation.

“Throughout the conference, discussions relating to Gen Z were a reoccurring theme, and many individuals looked to me to share my perspective on the topic,” said Gumper. “At the closing town hall, I shared a few remarks explaining how refreshing it was to hear of the changes that the generation currently ‘in power’ is going to implement and how my generation will follow their impetus in the future.”

Takeaways from the Exchange

According to Gumper, the Denver Metro Chamber’s Leadership Exchange served as fuel for her passion for helping her peers through the growing pains of deciding on a career path. Being selected for this unique opportunity reaffirmed that she was addressing a problem that needed a solution: a hole in the student preparation process.

“I was extremely grateful for Leanna Clark, CEO of Girl Scouts of Colorado, and the entire program as it was through this organization, I not only received this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but had the skills to present myself and Girl Scouts of Colorado professionally,” said Gumper.

The most valuable moments for Gumper came from conversations and networking with seasoned professionals in a wide variety of specialties. She saw it as a rare opportunity to expand her communication, listening, and understanding skills to include those from all walks of life.

One of the speakers at the conference was Beverly Tatum, author of the bestselling book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” which examines the psychology of racism. The discussion between Tatum and the delegates was especially impactful to Gumper.

“Through her dialogue, she expressed impressive metaphors relating to racism and racial relationships,” said Gumper. “Tatum expressed the need for diversity and inclusion, not only in the workplace but also in education and neighborhoods. The discussion opened my eyes to my role at CSU and how the same principles can apply.”

Gumper expressed an appreciation and understanding of how valuable this real-world experience is to her future success and has some advice for her peers.

“The biggest takeaway I can summarize from the trip is to work hard but accept the flow of life and the unexpected turns that happen along the way,” Gumper said. “Never turn down an opportunity because you think it’s irrelevant; you will learn something from it. It’s in the most unexpected places we find our true calling, and as long as you keep your core values aligned, you will find the path you’re meant to be on.”

The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

Gretchen Gerding contributed to this story.