Wilfrid Laurier University’s sixth annual Leadership Summit took place this past weekend and was hosted at Laurier’s Waterloo campus.
With a turnout of over 300 students, individuals from all Laurier campuses and the Waterloo community came to take part in the one-day leadership conference.
This year’s summit’s theme was “Agents of Change,” which reflected the organizational committee’s belief that all Laurier students have the capacity and potential to lead positive social change in all aspects of their lives, explained Jason Verhoeve, director of student experience at Students’ Union.
“It aims to support and enhance the culture of student leadership and engagement, provide meaningful and quality leadership training and development to students and try to strengthen the identity of what it means to be a Laurier leader,” Verhoeve said.
Students attending the summit were engaged in leadership learning and development through keynote speakers, workshops and seminars, all of which exposed them to a range of concepts and skills.
“We looked to help identify what their purpose at Laurier and beyond Laurier would be through some of the sessions they attend,” Verhoeve said.
Aside from the two main keynote speakers, Orlando Bowen and Zach Ingrasci, the conference and its seminars were hosted by staff, faculty and students who spoke about leadership and the importance of self-understanding.
As well, alumni had returned to speak about their experiences in the workforce and their connection to Laurier. Orlando Bowen, founder and executive director at One Voice One Team Youth Leadership Organization, was the opening speaker for the summit.
“At the summit I spoke about being an agent of change. And in that, understanding that there are certain elements that assist on that journey of being and becoming an agent of change. One, being that people only know what they know,” Bowen said.
Bowen focused on conveying the importance of understanding the perspectives of other individuals.
He also touched on the significance of connecting with something that is fulfilling or that instills passion in order to make change and be an advocate on any level.
“Oftentimes, it’s the little things that we can do that have transformative impacts on the lives of others and even on our own lives.” Bowen said.
“So it’s focusing on those little things, the small interactions like the words that you share with someone such as words of encouragement.”
Bowen also explained that he feels sharing various perspectives with student leaders is essential, as it helps students understand how they can be a successful leader using their own skill set.
“You often have ideas of what a leader looks like, sounds like, walks like and talks like. But it’s those things that we want to fufill that is reflective of our ideal of a leader, and it’s not always an alignment of who [we] are and who we stand for.”
The closing keynote speaker, Zach Ingrasci, shared another perspective on how individuals can be positive leaders.
Ingrasci co-produced, directed and starred in the film Living on One Dollar which became number one on iTunes for Documentaries, received multiple awards at international film festivals and reached the top banner on Netflix.
Ingrasci’s film stemmed from his experiences living in a Guatemalan village.
He and his friends lived off of a single dollar a day.
His story focused on the importance of working with people and finding out what they need before creating change in the lives of others is possible.
“[He taught] the idea that everybody’s the expert of their own life,” Veroheve said.
“To not go in and create change with understanding and talking to people about what it is that they need, which was a different approach to being a change agent,”
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for students … it speaks volumes to the work that the steering committee put in and the passionate student leaders we have here and their ability to engage in that type of environment.”