- Created on Saturday, 15 March 2014 19:31
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By JASLEEN KAUR KALRA
Listen twice as much as you state. Encourage people to take risks. Assess the details before making a decision. Demand responsibility of yourself and others. Expect individuals to do their best. Respect people. Solve problems with achievement. Honour your word. Include others in progression, and Praise them.
There are many words to describe leadership: leverage, energetic, administrative, dynamic, encouraging, responsive, skills, helping, informative, prefecture.
For providing opportunities, developing skills, and acquiring leadership, a three-day (March 6-March 8) conference was organized by students for students.
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., hosted the Canadian Conference on Student Leadership (CCSL) 2014, in which 250 peers from colleges and universities mingled for a conversation about the desires and dares that have drawn them to the conference.
The theme of the conference was “Change is the only constant”, challenging students to be active and approachable.
The students of Wilfred Laurier University first organized the CCSL in 2006.
The keynote speakers for the CCSL 2014 were Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman to fly in uter space, Adam Kuhn, assistant director, Office of Student Life at the University of Toronto, and Kirstine Stewart, managing director of Twitter Canada and former executive vice-president of CBC English Services.
“The Mindful Leadership session by Adrian Leckie from the University of Toronto was the session which I enjoyed the most,” says Alex Parappilly, 19, a second-year student in the Bachelor of Science: Major in Biochemistry program at the University of the British Columbia (UBC), Okanagan Campus.
“I learnt a lot of neat ideas such as the Buddhist concept of awareness, attention, and change.” He says a leader should always enjoy the moment and practice gratitude. In addition, one should be present minded, says Parappilly, who was also a presenter for the workshop Discover. Commit. Pursue.
CCSL was truly a memorable and unique experience, states Parappilly.
“After attending the workshops I learnt about new and innovative ideas which I never would have thought of. I was amazed to see the student leaders all around from Canada come together and discuss issues of which leaders in the present world face.”
“I had the opportunity to meet other peer mentors from Canada and learn from their ideas and was able to plan for the future together. After meeting with other student leaders I have been re-inspired to take the first step and be a role model to my community at UBC.”
There were 36 original sessions categorized into three types: Learning Lab, Idea Exchange, and Show and Tell. All focused on skills a leader should have,. how the program or conference gave students a comfort zone, and what would students take back to their own institution?
The most creative people in the world are those with multiple interests and experiences, says Bondar, who has four degrees: University of Guelph, University of Toronto, Western University and McMaster University, as well as 22 honorary degrees.
Seeing the world upside down from space puts it in another context, says Bondar. “I know you all were quite young when I flew in space. There are many stories to tell you.”
Sharing one of her experiences, she clicks her picture of the studio at NASA. “It was so hot. They always put the light on and it was about 90 degrees. I was so hot and I was not putting the suit on properly. I refused to have my photograph without a Canadian flag, and asked them to put the Maple Leaf anywhere but inside by name.”
She says the best leaders know when to follow; therefore, she says have a support system and be part of someone else's, adding, always be open to other people’s ideas and opinions, even if they may not be relevant or important to you right now.
Another inspiring speech, by Kuhn while speaking to the delegates, focused on what to follow and how to challenge yourself. He says reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.
“What is one thing you would do if you were not afraid? Challenge yourselves and take one small step towards that goal.” The little things add up to make a difference, says Kuhn.
“We all walk through life taking wisdom that we attribute as truths. Some fantastic words to help us get thinking are: opportunity, forward and try!”
He asked students to always consider the seven lessons in life:
- Be a Kommodo Dragon.
- 100 pennies makes a dollar. “We all walk around with pockets full of ‘pennies’, we just need to learn how to distribute them.”
- What would you do if you weren't afraid?
- Learning without reflecting is like eating without digestion.
- Remember the 555 rule: five minutes, five months, five years.
- Happy is most important.
- The best way to predict the future is to create it.
He notes most people are scared to share their views because of a lack of confidence. People can connect with a person or a topic through a tweet. It helps discovering people online and following their messages for as long as they are interested.
Stewart says, “We give away so much information now, that we don’t value our privacy as much. Twitter is only moving where people are taking it.”
She says there's no work-life balance, but there's work-life flow. “You have to be ready for that flexibility."
The person who made the right decision is the person who succeeds, says Stewart.
“It is most important to understand that you as a leader have embodied trust within your team, and great leaders do three things: set a vision, set the parametres of which you will reach these goals, and get out of the way.”
She came to attend the closing ceremony of Women’s Day and speaking on that she said, “The important thing to remember when you're a woman is that you are a woman and you don't need to think like a man.”
She says it is important to share power and technology is putting the power into the hands of people.
“The values of leadership are changing, and this is an opportunity for you guys to be out there in the world,” adding, the most radical change in the last 20 years is information; it has changed the way business works and that’s a good thing.”
“I found my inspiration in a bottle of wine from the cellars of Francis Ford Coppola,” says Stewart.
In addition to the sessions and keynote speakers, there were also discussions such as a leadership café and think tanks that helped students increase their communication skills, confidence and learn how to express themselves in a better way.
Niagara College participated for the first time with the students of the Leadership program.
Out of 40, four students with the best response were selected to go to the CCSL 2014.
The CCSL is an annual national conference on student leadership, says Carolyn Finlayson, co-ordinator of the Leadership program.
She explains it is a conference that fosters a leadership dialogue between young and emerging Canadian student leaders.
“I loved how students managed the conference from planning to implementation.”
She says she particularly loved the workshop titled "From I Wish to I Will", adding, “It gave so many great ideas on how to set and follow through on the goals. It gives the ability to make national connections with other students.”
“I think a leadership program is necessary at the college because so many students are unaware of their leadership potential and having a program where all those student leaders can discuss and engage together creates collaboration that will help spark new conversations, and initiatives on campus.”
Requiring a central space where students can grow or hone their leadership skills is vital in encouraging students to seek out leadership roles here, states Finlayson.
At the college, Lesley Calvin, manager, Student Engagement and Leadership, Welland campus, says, “I truly enjoyed all of the sessions, as they were presented by students, but the sessions I enjoyed the most were the think tanks as they gave the attendees the opportunity to discuss and reflect upon all of the sessions and learnings, in a small group setting.”
She adds the reflections and points that were made in these think tanks were really forward thinking and gave a lot of solid feedback and direction on how to shape the Co-Curricular Student Leadership program (LEAD) here.
When asked what forced you to attend CCSL, she says with the established and growing interest in leadership opportunities by Niagara College students, they should get chance to take part in the national conversation on leadership.
“I think it is a rich opportunity to see what students from across the country are a part of on their campuses, and reflect on the similarities and differences that exist.”
She says Niagara’s students are engaged and there is much student-led activity on the campuses that could be shared.
“I would really encourage students to consider applying. It is a fantastic forum to showcase leaders and leadership skills that the students at Niagara College exemplify.”
Student motivations echoed her comments.
“I decided to attend the conference because I felt that it would be a great opportunity to meet new people and learn how to enhance my leadership skills,” says Nimisha Sumathi, 28, a second-year student in the Bachelor of Applied Business: Internal Commerce and Global Development program, Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) campus.
She says the session she enjoyed was Poverty Reduction and Intercultural Competence. “I enjoyed it because it was related directly to what I am studying, and the presenter was talking about experiences [with pictures and videos] he had in Ghana while working for the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) organization, which is oriented to the national development work.
“I learned that we must look at poverty as a circle instead of as linear, meaning that poverty is not just black and white.”
Trying to find the root cause is almost impossible because there are so many underlying factors that can contribute, says Sumathi, who also works as pharmacy assistant and college expert at the NOTL campus Info Centre,.
She says she enjoyed the session as it was important, interactive, informative, and thought provoking.
“The session I liked the most was on breaking bad habits and creating new habits. I learnt that implementing small habits can have exponential outcomes,” says Paul Fishbach, 37, a student in the Pre-Community Services program at the Welland campus.
“Something I would like to share with everyone is the 555 rule - is it going to matter in five minutes? Five months? Five years? We often get caught up in the moment and we need to not worry about the little things, and see the big picture of our actions,” says Jamie Sterman, 21, a fourth-year student in the International Commerce and Global Development (ICOM) program at the NOTL campus.
Sterman also works as a director of social programming for the Student Administrative Council at the NOTL campus.
Finlayson notes, “I would love to see Niagara College students present at CCSL 2015 at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and to have a voice on a national level leadership conference only shows other schools how passionate and inspiring our student leaders are.”