Two weekends ago student leaders from across the Seattle University campus gathered for iLead, a yearly training program for students in leadership roles for the 2016-2017 academic year. For those who attended, this year’s conference sparked both support and criticism.
Gabriel Ferri, a women and gender studies and English double major, attended the conference as a leader in the Connections and Leadership Program, which focuses on welcoming incoming students of color. Ferri has attended the conference for the past three years, and every time they came out of the conference with critiques.
“It seems like iLead catered to a very specific type of student, and then it makes you think, ‘okay, do you think that students of color aren’t going to be leaders in the next year?’” Ferri said.
The students spent Friday and Saturday in the Administration Building attending workshops on how to be successful leaders on campus. According to students who attended, many of the sessions at the conference informed people about the role of a leader when confronting micro aggressions.
Ferri believes that iLead did not fit the needs of students coming from an array of different backgrounds; only addressing white students who don’t already deal with racial, ablest, or queer marginalization. They suggest that this failure to recognize those marginalized groups attending the conference causes them to feel distant and divided from the “standard” student leader in the sessions.
“I think it’s really important to dissect this idea that there’s one student experience or that something that applies to one student applies to all students, but actually we’re talking about different students and different experiences,” Ferri said. “It’s not harmful and not divisive, it can actually be very unitary.”
Although Ferri had feedback for the program, they appreciated the honesty the speakers had when it came to discussing the limited accessible programming on campus for students with disabilities.
Julian Morales also attended the iLead conference this past weekend for his role as a resident assistant next year, and felt that the conferences were a bit redundant, focusing on topics that student leaders who attended previous sessions already know how to handle, like inclusiveness and the importance of confidence. Apart from these few critiques, Morales took mostly positives away from iLead.
“The positive things I learned were that sometimes it’s okay to say no when it comes to joining groups and activities, taking care of yourself is important, especially when you’re juggling so many different tasks,” Morales said.
The leadership skills developed at the conference aim to provide students the knowledge to address situations they may be faced with in their influential roles as leaders.
Another participant in the program, sophomore English and creative writing major Brett Riley thought that the sessions on inclusivity enhanced his learning and supplemented the overall positive experience he had at iLead.
Riley enjoyed this year’s conference more than last year because he saw everything as running a lot smoother and being more fine-tuned. He also went into the conference with a more open mind, instead of dreading spending his weekend indoors.
“It really is the type of conference where you’re going to get out what you put in, so if you put in the right effort and you’re looking to go to things that you know you’re going to learn a lot from, you’re going to actually take a lot from it,” Riley said.
To combat the issues with centralizing white students over students of color, Ferri suggests that iLead reach out to the diversity of the Seattle U community for ideas for future sessions to cater to all students as much as the program caters for white students. Leadership Development did not respond to the criticisms by the time the Spectator went to press.
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