By Astride Adrien
Every year, Barry’s National Leadership and Inclusion Conference - formerly known as the Ethical Leadership Conference – provides a chance for students to explore their leadership potential by networking with peers and community partners.
This time around, the conference on Sept. 24 featured scholar and social impact leader Dr. Marcus Bright as the keynote speaker. Other speakers included Coordinator of Spiritual Life Programming Reverend Deborah Montoya, Graduate Administration and Adjunct Instructor Alyssa Persaud, Director of Graduate Admission of Social Work Michael Woodward Jr., Associate Professor of Counseling George Vera, and Academic Success Coach and Adjunct Instructor Bernard Reeves.
Over 300 Barry students attended the conference and absorbed Bright’s expertise in building partnerships as a way to generate access, opportunities, and resources for diverse populations of people. Focusing on the character development of young leaders, he spoke about the importance of developing self-worth and from it figuring out a positive contribution to the world.
“You are enough, and don’t let anyone tell you differently,” he said.
There was a positive camaraderie present during the introductions to Bright’s conference themes: inspiration, imagination, and impact. These themes can be used by you to help build on top of your passions and become a local leader in your profession.
He described the first important pillar in becoming a leader as drawing inspiration from the icons and models you look up to, to evaluate what they do that you connect with.
“It can be your parents, friends, Beyoncé, teacher – anyone in the world,” Bright said.
Using the second pillar, imagination, he said having creativity, passion, and big dreams were tickets to becoming a successful leader.
The final pillar, impact, provoked the audience to reflect on those who have made a difference in their life and question how to use that impression to in turn, make a difference in someone else’s life.
“What does legacy mean to you? How do you plan on leaving an imprint on someone?” Bright said.
His speech forced viewers into a reality check and promoted a critical, yet positive approach to finding their position in the big picture of society.
Many students, like junior psychology student Biechka Gabriel, found the conference very helpful and appreciated its overall positive aura. During the conference, Bright asked her and other students onstage to question them about their career aspirations, hopes for the future, and current personal goals.
“The conference was fun and interactive. I had a good time,” Gabriel said. “It was well organized and informative.”
After Bright’s opening, conference attendees were divided into five breakout sessions they chose beforehand while reserving their spot: First Generation Development, LGBTQI+ & Allyship, Building Community as Young Leaders, Leading as A Barry Man: Mind Body and Spirit, and How Involvement Makes You a Better Leader.
The engaging model of the conference was crucial for creating an interactive and safe learning environment. Attendees of the conference felt free to speak their minds and take part in open discussions about, sometimes, sensitive topics.
The ‘First Generation Development’ session was led by Rev. Deborah Montoya and Alyssa Persaud who spoke on their personal experiences as first-generation students and identifying leading-edge skills and discovering your life purpose.
“The worst thing you can do is isolate and not reach out,” said Rev. Montoya.
The ‘Leading as a Barry Man: Mind, Body, and Spirit’ segment led by Reeves and Woodward, specifically addressed the need for more unity, self-awareness, and self-advocating amongst young, collegiate men, especially at Barry.
“We wanted to model and talk through the importance of the power of one's mind and also the perception that our young men put off on campus,” said Woodward.
Another notable presentation was ‘How Involvement Makes You a Better Leader.’ In this presentation, attendees learned the benefits of getting involved in clubs and organizations and being active in campus life.
Gabriel said the whole experience both motivated her to now work harder for her goals and inspired her to dream bigger.
“Nothing will stop me from reaching my dreams,” she said.