I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of personal growth — the idea that you can never be too good at something. Which is quite possibly the reason why I loved the Universal Leadership Conference (ULC) and everything it stood for. Four years ago, a student on campus wanted to create a space for students who knew there was more out there for them; a space where hundreds of like-minded people could brainstorm and share ideas. And, thus, ULC was born.
My previous experience with the conference has been slim -but life changing, nonetheless. Last year I attended because of encouragement from the Student Life Advisor (my current boss) during the hiring process; she explained that it would be a wonderful opportunity – boy was she right. The conference taught me self-care, – something I’m still practicing and hoping to master and prioritize one day – patience, public speaking, and collaboration between minds. Without a doubt, it’s my favorite event on campus…
In years past, the conference has run an entire Saturday, 8am-5pm. However, this year we experimented with condensing it into a weeknight. Would attendance peak? Plummet? Would the excitement dwindle? Would the week of school keep people focused? These were all questions we pondered when rearranging the event. Along with the time, we also changed the venue to the new student run building, the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) versus the conference center, Mobius Hall. This conference was developed by students, for students… Why wouldn’t it be held in a the new student center on campus? Regardless of any previous thoughts, we went on and scheduled ULC for Tuesday, April 26th in the ARC. The months leading up to the conference were touch and go with everyone zoned into finals and spring break right around the corner. The different planning committees tabled, posted, and marketed as best they could with the limited amount of time. Yet, as with any student run committee, things were forgotten, loose ends weren’t tied, and miscommunications happened, but you know what? I don’t think it could’ve gone any better than it did.
We met one last time before the BIG day to make sure we were all on the same page. During briefing the realization set in that we didn’t have an MC for the night. One of our advisors spoke up and asked if I would co-MC alongside Jaymar, a student from University of Washington, Bothell (UWB) for representation of both schools. The thought of pumping people up for something that touched me personally… That feeling can’t be recreated. I would be the one on the opposite side of the mic this time… Oh, what a year can do for you..
This year the question we focused our attention on radical community. What did it mean to have/be/form/etc. a radical community?
The evening kicked off with Alexa’s Café catering an assortment of boxed dinners for all attendees. Student sat at tables where different topics based on leadership (i.e. movement building, public speaking, networking) were set up. Ample time was given to chow down dinner and begin conversations before Jaymar and I announced the evening.
I remember the butterflies thinking about it all “it’s really happening” when changing into my branded t-shirt hours prior. Moments before holding up that microphone it was more like, “holy cow… this is it!”.
We introduced ourselves, our role on campus, and how the evening would play out. I remember receiving giggles, chuckles, and even laughter at times. It was then that I knew there was no need for nerves or worries — the evening was going to play out quite alright. We soon introduced an alumni from UWB who shared her story on leadership and diversity within the institution. After a heartwarming experience from a personal aspect we released students for two blocks of workshops. We gave an assortment to choose from (story sharing, journaling as a form of self-care, microagressions, pay and equity, etc.) where students were able to connect on specific topics of interest. After the blocks of time, we encouraged students to reassemble to debrief and receive an honorary shirt. All in all, it was a successful event. We hosted about 150 students — which is similar to previous years.
This planning/hosting experience definitely portrayed an integrated experience. I was able to pull in my previous exposure to the conference which definitely helped in holding an expectation of involvement. Wearing both hats as student and student leader I was able to connect with students who had the same vision as me, which I absolutely LOVE.
Yet, as always, I loved working alongside UWB and collaborating on something we were both passionate about. The entire process allowed me to lead, ponder, plan, and be at the helm of something truly life changing.
Until next year ULC…