Student conference aims to promote leadership and community

By in News

On Jan. 30, students are taking the lead at the University of Saskatchewan in an aim to bolster leadership skills and initiatives across campus, encouraging their peers to become more connected with the campus community and to better prepare for the world beyond the classroom.

The second annual USask Student Leadership Conference will take place between 8:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. in the Neatby-Timlin Theatre in the Arts Building. This year’s theme, It Starts With US, focuses on taking initiative.

USask Student Leadership is a group of U of S students from a variety of colleges and disciplines who believe in the power of the campus community.

Stephanie Pankiw, third-year marketing major, is the secretary of the USask Student Leadership Conference committee and speaks to the purpose of the initiative.

“There are a lot of really cool things going on around campus that are student-run … we want to bring students together who are doing these really amazing things on campus and help build a culture of leadership on our campus,” Pankiw said.

The conference is run entirely by students for students, with 19 undergraduate volunteers from various colleges sitting on the conference committee, as well as student-facilitated workshops. Renata Huyghebaert, a student in her final year of marketing at the Edwards School of Business, is one of the keynote speakers featured at the event. Other keynote speakers include a variety of professionals, graduates from the U of S and community leaders.

Jennifer Walker, first-year arts and science student, is a member of the logistics sub-committee and got involved with the initiative during fall orientation when she encountered the group at their outreach booth.

“I have a lot of leadership background from high school. I attended 10 conferences at the national and provincial level so this sounded perfect. I just signed up to volunteer, was interviewed and got placed on a committee and I have since been helping plan the conference since October,” Walker said.

Students have a choice between five workshops that they can attend in the morning and another five options in the afternoon portion of the program. Workshop themes included topics such as mental health as a student leader and Aboriginal art, which will address issues of colonialism and misconceptions about the culture.

“It’s smaller groups, maybe 30 students in each workshop and it is facilitated by one to six students who have applied and been accepted. We try to facilitate roundtable discussions, be really interactive [and include] lots of personal reflection exercises and writing things down, kind of a bit more active learning in leadership,” Pankiw said.

Registration, which is free, includes lunch and two nutrition breaks and there will also be an alumni students social at Louis’ Pub from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. where students can go to interact with different alumni.

According to Pankiw and Walker, some informal activities will be held during the nutrition breaks where they will be asking questions like, “What does leadership mean to you?” and different student groups will be set up in the Arts Tunnel, as the conference attendees will be moving between the Arts Building and the Global Connections Lounge.

“To me, leadership is about showing consideration for other people. I think that’s really important. Also, initiating the structure you need to get things done or else you just won’t get things done,” Pankiw said.

As a first-year student, Walker believes it is important to take chances and build confidence through leadership by getting to know more people.

“The connections part is huge. I see some students who are more shy like I was, but it’s just about coming out and finding out about what you can be doing on campus,” Walker said.

The pair encourage all students to attend the conference and Pankiw insists that students from any background or college are welcome and that this is a great opportunity to get to know the campus community.

“I love my university and I think the university experience is just amazing. I don’t see the point of going through the four years and just going through the motions and through class. You might as well get involved, you never know what’s going to come out of it.”