June 17, 2009 | General
You might not think that a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ fits in at an educational conference. But the CUNY New Leadership Challenge Conference held recently at Brooklyn College was no ordinary educational conference. It was more like a pep rally rolled up in a political convention, complete with balloons, cheers, T-shirts, and even a mascot or two.
The daylong New Leadership Challenge Conference was held Friday, June 12, in the Brooklyn College Student Center. It was an enthusiastic, full-throated gathering of more than 200 newly elected student government leaders and their faculty mentors representing nearly all eleven four-year and six two-year campuses that make up the City University of New York system. They all came to Midwood to air their ideas for governing their individual campuses, to listen to the ideas of other campus teams, and to hear experts on leadership expound on how the new student government leaders can best serve their constituencies.
“This is the fourth year we’ve held this conference and it was the biggest one yet,” said Christina Waszak, coordinator of campus activity programs with the Brooklyn College Center for Student Development and Leadership Programs. “Everyone left feeling really energized by the workshops and the exchanges of ideas.”
“This conference is the kickoff event for the year,” added Waszak. “We found that the students who attend take the skills that they’ve learned back to their own campuses and apply them. They also keep in touch with other students that they’ve networked with while at the conference.”
This year’s event marked the first time that the conference was held at the Brooklyn College campus, Waszak said. “We try to schedule these conferences at different schools so that students can see other campuses,” she remarked.
Sonia Patrice, a senior psychology major at Brooklyn College and member of the CLAS student government team for 2009–2010, thought this was a wonderful idea. She said, “Students from other schools came up to me and said, “What a great student center. All this is devoted to student activities?”
Brooklyn College President Christoph M. Kimmich and Dean of Student Affairs Milga Morales welcomed the students and their advisers to the campus on Friday morning. Dr. Joe-Joe McManus, executive director of the CUNY Leadership Academy, and CUNY Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs Garrie Moore also spoke.
McManus advised the students to remain connected with their fellows from other campuses, and Moore told his audience, “This is one of the best conferences on world-class leadership; use it.”
In his address to the students, Kevin Adams, the conference’s master of ceremonies and director of student life and development at Medgar Evers College, warned his audience that, as student leaders, they will likely feel a mixture of pride and fear. “You are going to be afraid of making mistakes,” he said. “But everyone makes mistakes.”
The solution, he said, is “Persevere!”
Between general sessions, the participants chose from a series of twelve break-out workshops with subjects as diverse as “Strategic Planning,” “Teamwork,” “A Matter of Finance,” “Event Planning,” “Advocating for Your CUNY” and “Combating College Burnout.”
“The workshops were really valuable,” enthused Patrice. “They provided us with the chance to express our views and share the opinions of others. And they taught us to be persistent, to keep trying.”
At the midday lunch session, Jamari Robinson, president of the CLAS government team for 2009–2010, advised his fellow leaders that they “have to work hard when nobody else shows up.” Community activist Kevin Powell then delivered the keynote address on the theme “Responsible Service for a New Era.”
Yevgeniy (Eugene) Sosnovski, a junior political science major at Brooklyn College, said, “This has been an excellent chance to meet and collaborate with other student governments. I think we can achieve something long-lasting and meaningful. Something that will meet the needs of most students at our college.
“That’s why we have student government,” Sosnovski concluded.