York hosts its 10th and best-ever student leadership conference

Incoming York students enjoyed a two-day, action-packed event featuring interactive learning, skills building, capacity building for student organizations and leadership training as York hosted its 10th annual student leadership conference at the Keele campus May 2-3.

Right: Ross McMillan (left), manager, policy, projects and reporting in the Office of the Vice-President Students, presents the Deborah Hobson Award for Student Leadership to Matt Fisico

The conference included social activities and networking opportunities – there was something for everybody. Students attended to connect with great people, sharpen skills and become better York student leaders.

Organized jointly by the York University Student Centre (YUSC) and Student Community & Leadership Development (SC&LD), this year’s conference was the largest in recent history. Student demand was so high, conference organizers had to institute an application process. Close to 300 students applied and 200 of those were accepted. Student leaders in attendance were from student governments, clubs, teams, peer helper organizations, student residences, levy funded groups and other interested students.

Left: Eri Sakunaga, winner of the Student Centre Award for Community Leadership

“It was a great way to set up and plan for future endeavors”, said Dharam Sangha, a fourth-year psychology major and president of Bethune College Council.

Students enjoyed 35 sessions over two busy days. This was by far the largest number of sessions offered in conference history and students loved the variety and choice it offered them, said Jeremy Greenberg, coordinator, SC&LD student leadership programs. Most time slots allowed students to choose between four concurrent sessions.

The closing keynote address by two-time York alumna Jennifer Corriero (BA ’03, MES ’06) entitled "Helping Young People Change the World", received a standing ovation. Three other external speakers who delighted York students were: Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence; Adam Spence, executive director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks; and Carole Holmes of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Left: Jennifer Corriero receives a standing ovation after her keynote speech

The 10th annual conference had more firsts. Most sessions took place in large open spaces with round tables which fostered more open dialogue and interaction than ever before. There was also York’s first student leadership world café, which gave attendees the opportunity to discuss questions that matter about student life at York.

The York Debating Society, York is U and the York Federation of Students hosted student-run sessions. The York Debating Society performed the conference’s first interactive debate. And for the finale, the annual awards reception on Friday evening, was expanded to include a new Merit Award presented to conference and leadership awards founder Jeff Zoeller, a former Winters College Council member and YFS president.

The other award winners included:

  • Martha Rogers (staff) – Deborah Hobson Staff Award for York Citizenship
  • Matt Fisico (student) – Deborah Hobson Award for Student Leadership
  • Shelley Park (student) – Student Centre Honorable Mention Award
  • Orlando Lopez (student) – Student Centre Award for Local Leadership
  • Eri Sakunaga (student) – Student Centre Award for Community Leadership

“It was an awesome experience and I hope to do it again next year,” said Bernard Park, a third-year kinesiology major.

With the great success of the conference, students and staff alike are optimistic that the year ahead will also be a great success for student leadership at York University.