Inaugural winter leadership summit ‘sparks’ new leadership program model

FEATURED image for the Spark consult
FEATURED image for the Spark consult

The Office of Student Community & Leadership Development (SCLD) in the Division of Students hosted its inaugural Spark leadership summit on Friday, Feb. 7. The event took place in the Second Student Centre on York University’s Keele Campus.

Spark leadership summit participants
Spark Leadership Summit participants wait for the opening remarks

The summit marked the beginning of a renewed leadership development journey at York University. Participants in the summit included students, staff and faculty, all engaged in contributing to the future programming of central leadership offerings at the University.

The summit had two goals. The first was to support student success by providing participants with a series of learning sessions related to leadership development. The second sought to engage student leaders, faculty and staff in a consultation about how the Office of Student Community & Leadership Development should continue to build and support student leadership on campus. The summit program provide participants 13 unique sessions to choose from to best align with interests and learning objectives posed by more than 160 registered student leaders across campus.

Khalid delivers remarks at SPARK
Urshain Khalid, a York alumna and the current student leadership and development coordinator for SCLD, framed the day by speaking about the impact of great leadership on local and global communities

In their remarks to participants, Brendan Schulz, executive director, Student Success, and Urshian Khalid, a York alumna and the current student leadership and development coordinator for SCLD, framed the day by speaking about the impact of great leadership on local and global communities. Khalid outlined her own journey as a former student leader and highlighted the importance of self-efficacy and courage in the face of discomfort. She encouraged students to make a commitment to invest in what sparks experiential learning outside the classroom, and further invited attendees to invest in their own development through their contributions to the end-of-day consultation.

A participant writes down her ideas
A Spark participant writes down her ideas during one of the sessions

The 13 learning sessions, which were offered both at the beginner and advanced levels, focused on several leadership topics. Each Spark participant was able to select five sessions. Twelve student leaders served as session presenters. “It was refreshing to attend strong workshops, sessions facilitated and presented by either York alumni or current, experienced student leaders,” said one participant. Among the presenters were students from Stong and Calumet Colleges. Many were also leadership coaches working within the colleges. Their sessions focused on emotional intelligence, self-assessment, influential leadership, perfectionism and living meaningfully.

The opening keynote was delivered by Maseh Hadaf, a Global Health graduate from York University, who is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. He was a junior health governance consultant with the United Nations and provided medical services for refugees during his three-month placement in Jordan.

Maseh Hadaf delivering opening keynote
Maseh Hadaf delivering opening keynote

Hadaf is also the founder of the Ascend network, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping post-secondary students build relationships and realize their potential as community leaders. His session focused on various tools for self-awareness and the relationship and dialogue between anti-fragility and student leadership. When asked about the most useful discussion from the keynote, one participant said, “Exposing ourselves to experiences and people with starkly different opinions and understandings of the world will allow us to broaden our perspectives and think critically on a different level – we really need that with what’s been happening around the world lately.”

The day concluded with a community consultation session led by Ross McMillan, director of Student Leadership & Development and Khalid, who consulted with various stakeholders at the University. The discussions with Khalid covered how her unit within SCLD can support central leadership programming. Three desired community outcomes came out of the discussions –  a measurable increase in leadership capacity, community engagement, and social impact. Khalid used the feedback to create a renewed model for her unit.

Khalid said the unit’s renewed goals are to increase leadership capacity, engagement and impact by building and supporting student leadership by focusing on developing the six core leadership and career competencies outlined within the Becoming YU program. She said these competencies will be built and driven by three enablers: leadership training and skills development, community engagement, and co-curricular recognition and celebration.

The leadership program model coming out of Spark
The leadership program model coming out of Spark

Participants in the consultation had the opportunity to provide meaningful feedback and commentary on gathered data, based on a series of world café styled questions posed by Khalid and McMillan. Many participants commented that they felt their experiences as students were taken into account and as a result they felt invested in and excited about upcoming leadership programming and events.

To learn more about this event, future leadership events and programming, contact Urshian Khalid at or visit