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27 January 2014

LEAD Conference showcases diversity, opportunity

Jackson Bowser, a freshman, and Arlisia Ables, a junior, go fist-to-fist in a game of rock, paper, scissors during 'Canes Lead. The game was used as an icebreaker during the leadership conference, to help students feel more comfortable around each other. Ashley McBride // Contributing Photographer

Jackson Bowser, a freshman, and Arlisia Ables, a junior, go fist-to-fist in a game of rock, paper, scissors during ‘Canes Lead. The game was used as an icebreaker during the leadership conference, to help students feel more comfortable around each other. Ashley McBride // Contributing Photographer

On Saturday, students began their day with a rock, paper, scissors tournament, touching elbows with each other, and acting out Sebastian at a football game, all in the name of leadership.

The Canes LEAD (Learn, Empower, Aspire and Discover) Conference aimed to equip students with skills for communicating and thriving in diverse groups. The event was co-hosted by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership and Multicultural Student Affairs.

Tiffany Ford, one of two co-chairs of the event thought the collaboration between the two departments was ideal. She is also chair of the Unity Roundtable, a group of student leaders on campus who organize diverse programming that goes beyond the reach of any student organization.

“The goal was to bring together two offices and to give students a fun but also very empowering day where we can all work on building our leadership skills, but also understand how important it is to be able to lead in a diverse situation,” Ford said.

The first half of the day featured business leaders from the university and community. They discussed topics such as networking, gender and orientation, diversity in the workplace, women in the workplace, and more.

Junior Arlisia Ables left with a good takeaway from each speaker.

“Everything is empowerment,” she said. “I left both of my sessions feeling like I’m about to change the world.”

The keynote speaker was Vernon Wall, the current Director of Business Development for LeaderShape, Inc., an organization that strives to enhance leadership skills for college students. The main topic of his talk was privileges and identities, and how being aware of them can help everyone to succeed.

“Sing for freedom, and sing for justice,” he said to the audience of about 100 students.

With a focus on social justice, Wall’s talk included personal experiences from his own life where he was made aware of his own privileges and biases.

During the second half of the day, sessions covered topics of identity and inequality, including an activity designed to simulate the social and political stratifications of real life, and how a simple solution isn’t always so simple.

“I gained an understanding that your goal needs to be equitable, and you need to be aware of everyone’s situation,” said freshman Ibk Awodele, who attended the conference.

Co-Chair Connor Adam was satisfied with Canes LEAD, especially for as the first conference for the event.

“No matter your race, your color, your ethnicity, your background, your gender, your sexual orientation or whatever, I just wanted people to feel welcome and come to an event where they could be themselves,” he said.