March 2, 2017
On Saturday, Feb. 25, five student leaders from various organizations on campus attended the Mohawk Valley College Leadership Conference. Students from six local colleges spent the day exploring the idea of leadership, networking with other student leaders and discussing common leadership problems on college campuses. Students from Hamilton included Student Assembly members, leaders of clubs and organizations on campus, and participants in the Levitt Leadership Institute.
The day began with an engaging discussion led by keynote speaker Patrick Johnson, a local activist. Stemming from his anti-racism and other social justice work, Johnson encouraged students to think about leadership in terms of social justice. He urged them to reflect on what they want for themselves and others, and how far they are willing to go to get it. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of discussing these values and opinions with others in order to form individual opinions on issues that matter to them. He also encouraged students to become involved in social justice issues outside of their typical interests in order to gain experience leading and to learn techniques for fighting for justice. Johnson defined leadership as “being a servant, even to those who are lost.” To Johnson, the most important part of leadership is using your own skills to fight for something you believe will be fair for everybody. He emphasized the importance of this in his favorite quote: “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.” Leadership is not about having the top role in an organization, but rather about working to make sure everybody’s voice is heard.
After this speech, students broke into smaller groups to meet students from other schools. There were over 60 students from many schools including Utica College, PrattMWP, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Herkimer Community College, and Mohawk Valley Community College. After working in these small groups, students worked through a series of quizzes and activities to explore their personality type and its implications for their leadership style. By engaging in hands-on activities and discussions with people of different personality types, students were able to explore their own strengths and weaknesses and how to emphasize the strengths and weaknesses of others.
To conclude the day, students broke up into small groups once again to share advice and discuss issues they face as student leaders. The discussions were focused around career opportunities, networking, diversity and club organizations on campus. In these focus groups, students got to see firsthand the similarities between the experiences of leaders at different colleges and apply lessons they had learned to challenges faced by others.
David Rayudu ’19, who is organizing a speaker series called Hamilton Catalyst, described his experience of the event, saying, “I think it’s important for Hamilton students to break out of our bubble, and talk to others in our region and embrace our differences and diversity. I reached out to a lot of students from these colleges trying to find common ground around our Hamilton Catalyst speaker talks, and I was inspired by how excited they were about our speakers.” The leadership workshop allowed students to form real connections in small groups which these student leaders will be able to bring to their own campus events.
This conference not only taught students important skills, but also provided an invaluable experience to connect with other leaders seeking to run organizations and events on their campuses, and see common problems from a new perspective.