By Megan Webster of the Grand Valley Lanthorn

Wheelhouse Talks speaker urges attendees to take advantage of their natural abilities

Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies hosted its latest installment of the Wheelhouse Talks, a program that features mentors who wish to share their leadership experiences and philosophy with the community.

Julie Metty Bennett, co-owner and senior vice president of Public Sector Consultants, a Michigan-based program management and research firm, was the featured speaker. She discussed her leadership journey in Michigan’s environmental and sustainability policies in the DeVos Center Loosemore Auditorium Friday, Jan. 20.

Through anecdotes, personal stories and childhood photos, Bennett captivated the audience through an illustration of her life. She spoke about her upbringing as an only child, her role in life as the middle-ground-finder between her parents, her experiences in school where her teachers called her outspoken and how she came to love the environment through realizing that ozone depletion was humans’ fault.

Although these stories were ones of humor and relatability, she was not afraid to be honest when it came to how she felt about her success.

“I run a small business; I own a small business,” Bennett said. “I don’t know anything about business. I don’t have an MBA. Nobody’s told me how to do this. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Bennett said before she was asked to give this presentation, she didn’t consider herself a leader. In fact, she was shocked by the invitation. But through a reflection on how she conducts her business, she found that not only is she successful, an indication from her growing business, but she has a superpower as well—the power of leadership, utilized through the research of information in order to bring people together.

With a picture of a female superhero up on the screen, Bennett explained that the skills people learn formally and through difficulty aren’t the ones that hold the most value. In fact, it’s the skills that come naturally to them that contain this value.

“Through this whole experience, I really value and recognize that things that come naturally can be your superpower,” she said.

Highlighting the fact that this leadership superpower allows her to connect with clients and grow an already successful business, Bennett said she has overcome her personal insecurities when it comes to running a business.

“You always have that feeling of discomfort,” she said. “You always feel like your confidence is shaken and that people are going to discover that you don’t know as much as you want them to know. But if you have that self-awareness of that superpower, it gives you that confidence to be able to push it aside and makes life a little bit easier on our journey.”

Bennett urged the crowd to take advantage of their natural abilities as they pursued different paths in life.

“Everybody has a superpower,” Bennett said. “The point is to reflect and really get to know what your superpower is. Marry it with your passion, use it and apply it in thoughtful, proactive and knowing ways.”

The Wheelhouse Talks program is an opportunity for the GVSU and surrounding communities to learn from leaders like Bennett in different fields. These talks are free to the public and allow the audience to engage in a personal forum with the speaker.

“Part of our mission here at Grand Valley is to provide an interlude of platforms for leaders to share their experiences to the community,” said Chadd Dowding, Cook Leadership Academy program manager.

For more information about upcoming Wheelhouse Talks, visit

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