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Millenium Leadership Conference

Clark University, Worcester, MA
November 5-7, 2010

This sparked conversation, new thoughts and ideas, and even began new friendships. The two-day conference consisted of guest speakers, engaging workshops, group discussions and networking opportunities. Luis Inoa, opened up the event sharing his inspiring life story over the sounds of the “soundtrack to his life”. His creative approach quickly grasped the attention of the audience. Afterwards, Mr. Inoa led the students in a unique team-building activity, where students had the opportunity to meet and become acquainted with each other through the use of pipe-cleaners. Students from Clark University, Anna Maria College, Vassar College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Holy Cross, were in attendance.

The conference continued the following morning with a session of workshops, followed by lunch, second session workshops, a stage play titled “The Meeting”, a banquet dinner in the evening and finally a farewell celebration for the attendees. The final day of the conference consisted of group discussions and team-building activities, focusing on collectively creating and adopting new ideas to bring back to our schools.

Noteworthy Workshops:

“Who Are You?” was a workshop led by Dr. Marianne Sarkis, which focused on the exploration of and societal approach to identity. Participants were asked to shake each other’s hands if they felt they had something in common without saying a word. This activity allowed us to see that we have so much more in common than we think and all it takes is a little similarity to spark commonality. The next activity was to connect with one other person and find out more about their name and then present the information to all members in the workshop. Through this activity we realized how important our names really are and discussed the impact and message it carries. The last activity was to form groups of four and have a discussion about 8 characteristics that signify each individual. It was surprising to see how much people had in common even though they were from all walks of life. This workshop was eye opening and very enjoyable. “It reminded me of the complexity of identity within myself and others and how you can learn so much more from someone when more sentences are shared past a ‘hello.’
By JenniferPearl Melifonwu & Nnenna Ikoro

“Behind the Veil” was presented by Gayatri Khosla and Trishna Sadhwani, who are undergraduate students at Clark University. Through interactive group discussions, the workshop informed students about Muslim women and their choice over wearing a veil. This workshop was truly enlightening. Initially, I thought that all Muslim women were required to wear it. However, it turns out that most, but not all, have a choice and choose to wear it for various reasons. Some women felt liberated, some felt mandated by the Koran, and others felt they were protecting themselves from the eyes of men.
By Sara Meressa

“Homosexuality in Africa and the Caribbean” was facilitated by the Caribbean and African Student Association Executive Board of Clark University. This was by far of one of my favorite aspects of the conference. Being of Nigerian descent and a first generation in America, I have been exposed to the opinions of Africans about homosexuality. The topic is a taboo so it was a nice surprise to see that there were students of African/Caribbean and even those who were not of that descent who wanted to sit down and have an intellectual conversation about a topic that is very controversial. The group of students presented us with various examples of how there is a great deal of adversity towards homosexuality in these countries. They showed a clip of a documentary about homosexuality in Kenya, popular Jamaican songs that spoke about homosexuality, as well as a clip of a high ranked pastor of Uganda speaking about homosexuality. I enjoyed this workshop because I had the opportunity to contribute to discussion. I even sent a text message to my fellow A.S.A E-Board members suggesting to hold a similar discussion during Black history month at the Malcolm X Cultural Center. While everyone did not agree with the points of view presented this workshop was amazing.
By Anita Abure

“A Cultural Collision: How Black Women and Latinas Experience Voice and Silence in the Collegiate Classroom” was presented by Shelly Perdomo, Director of Diversity Programs for Engineering Minority Programs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst based on her final PhD thesis. It targeted the educational system in terms of how women of color are silenced in speech and participation in a college setting. In her research she looked at experiences of college age women in order to gain insight on the literal and symbolic voice and silence within the University. One of the purposes of this research was to provide professors with adequate amount of knowledge pertaining to communication with Black and Latina women in the classroom. As for students, some strategies she gave were to make your presence known in the class room, and to forge relationships with your professors as well as other students who identify different from you in terms of race, socioeconomic background, etc. I can say for a fact this was definitely one of my most memorable experiences at the conference. Not only did the content pertain to issues that I could relate and learn from, but Shelly had such a unique way of captivating her audience which made it engaging and thought provoking. We are hoping to get her to do the same presentation sometime next semester in the Malcolm X Cultural Center and create more of a dialogue of the topics presented in her research.
By Clevanne Julce

"The Rhetoric of Dress” presented by Dr. Esther Jones (assistant professor of English at Clark University) delved into the importance of dress as it pertains to the image that you portray to the world. Rhetoric means persuasion, so she focused on the persuasion of one’s appearance. Does your outfit elicit feelings of power? Control? Or instead do you seem weak? Timid? Dr. Jones spoke about how clothing is a representation of you, whether good, or bad. She made it very clear that dress outside the work place should still coincide with the position you have professionally. It is important to always represent yourself positively, being mindful that we are always under constant survey from our peers, and even potential employers. In the workshop we spoke about the importance of internet appearance, and how one may be persuaded for or against someone because of pictures online. Pictures put on Facebook for a joke, or tagged may make the difference between employment, and the unemployment line. One interesting topic discussed was the recent controversy where Ines Sainz, a TV reporter from Mexico’s TV Azteca, was allegedly sexually harassed by the NY Jets team. The woman reporter, allegedly, entered the locker room after a game to conduct an interview, and upon entrance was made to feel very uncomfortable by the sexual advances by the team players and coach. We spoke about appearance and dress as it pertained to this incident. We analyzed her outfits for reporting, which some may say would incite cat calls from men, however ultimately no one has the right to be made uncomfortable regardless of their dress. However it is important to be mindful of surroundings and the feelings one may invoke.
By: Arianna Gray

“The Meeting” was a play structured as a dialogue between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The play illustrated what kind of conversation would have occurred between two political figures with different approaches to the Civil Rights Movement stressing the importance of unity and the force African Americans could make if we were to join together for equality. In the play, we saw the progression of the relationship between the two as they changed from acquaintances that were indifferent to each other’s standpoints towards a better life for blacks to friends who grew a level of respect for their differing points of view. In the closing scene Martin Luther King and Malcolm X departed with an embrace, symbolizing that even those with such different opinions can come together and be united. Afterwards, the actors opened the stage to questions from the audience. The students did not hesitate to ask a wide range of questions; not only addressing the noble positions of the actors, but also the history and complexity of the Civil Rights Movement. The actors responded with thoughtful answers. Many of the students left the play not only with a strengthened desire to learn about these influential historical figures, but also feeling empowered and inspired. With that being said, more students should take the opportunity to see the play.
By Jelani Clinton

Keynote speaker was Mr. Darrell Bennett. We listened to this captivating 24 year old speaker over a wonderful dinner. Darrell is a graduate of Morehouse College where he received his B.A in History as Valedictorian and also recently graduated from Harvard Law School, where was elected Class Marshal. He grew up in Baltimore and endured a lot of hardships including homeless at one point in his life. He is not pursuing a career as a lawyer even though he just earned a law degree. Instead he is traveling the world sharing his knowledge of how to become successful and chasing one’s dream. When he was 18 he wrote his first book “Daring to be Different: 25 Tips for a Life of Success. Everyone made fun of his book and didn’t take him seriously but that is what has to happen sometime for a person to be successful, one must dare to be different. By him taking a risk he can stand out in the crowd. He wrote this book during one summer when he did not have a job. He turned this negative situation into a positive one. The message he was trying to convey to us is that we need to be in charge. We have to let our imagination become our reality. If we can think it or dream it we can make it come true. People tend to let themselves get boxed into what society thinks is right or acceptable. We must think outside the box and go for what is in our hearts and stop worrying about what the world thinks. He demonstrated this by putting a twenty dollar bill in his hand, crumpling it, and throwing it on the floor. He proceeded to take out a crisp one dollar bill and ask which one is worth more. This proved that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your family background is, your worth is portrayed just by what is on the outside and how aesthetically appealing it is. We have self worth. After un-crumpling the twenty dollar bill he asked who wanted it. Of course the whole audience wanted the twenty dollar bill but no one was going to go over there and take it because they were afraid of embarrassment. “What if it’s a joke?” “What if he is going to take it back?” These are the things that people were thinking which hindered them from getting that twenty dollar bill. The money symbolized opportunities. You have to take risk, be willing to look crazy, and be embarrassed because no one is just going to give you opportunities you have to go for it! His speech was a great way to end the conference. We all left uplifted and motivated to do better for ourselves.
By Meron Makonnen

This conference brought a couple of opportunities to our attention for future use. One thing we were able to take advantage of was a workshop for summer graduate resource programs. Those of us trying to go on to graduate school could easily take advantage of these resource programs. With Darrell Benet’s speech the group was easily able to come back to UMass invigorated and motivated to pursue our goals. His speech gave a few the confidences needed to excel in school or even in life. He also fed us with knowledge proving that age does not matter and that anything can be achieved at any age. He was able to write and publish a book at the age of 18, so what can we do now?

UMass could easily host a conference for our campus is big enough and certainly has the resources. The engineering program at the school could host a conference where students would sit in on a couple of classes and maybe get involved in some of the science experiments that they conduct on the school pond. The business school could host a conference where students trying to get involved in tourism and hospitality could work directly with the campus hotel and learn more about the business and other businesses on campus. There are many things we could try and implement from this conference to use for our own benefit. Though the group had higher expectations for this conference the workshops provided us with more information on trying to succeed post graduation. This conference could be improved by providing more network opportunities to speak with the workshop leaders and keynote speaker. We did leave with a new insight on a few topics and got the chance to mingle with some intellectual students from different schools. Besides a few minor glitches the conference is an overall successful.
By Emily Ferjuste