A One-Day Dose of Inspiration: SFU Leadership Summit 2012

A One-Day Dose of Inspiration: SFU Leadership Summit 2012

By: Christina Guan
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Like many of the first year students who are adjusting to the transition from high school, I am still quite daunted by the idea of getting involved in the larger university community. My fears were dispelled however, this past Saturday at the SFU Leadership Summit, which took place at the gorgeous Surrey campus. As one of over 200 participants, I got the chance to meet countless other students and found that passion and motivation is plentiful at SFU – I simply did not know where to look.

The Summit is an annual one-day event which encourages participation from all SFU students. With the theme this year being ‘Vision in Action’, the day began with registration, where we received icebreaker Bingo sheets that offered us a chance to mingle with other participants. Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the friendliness of all the participants and how eager they were to meet me and find out what I was passionate about. I met students from all faculties and all years and it really gave me a chance to learn about the different ways that people get involved around campus. As one of the few first years there (believe me, there were not a lot!), I was fortunate to have found this opportunity early in my SFU career. Countless others told me that they wished they had gotten involved right away and regretted not doing so earlier – I suppose that’s a lesson for all of us!

After some mingling, we settled into our chairs for a few opening statements and the introduction of keynote speaker, Sharka Stuyt. A former SFU graduate and now a professor at Capilano University, Sharka’s experience and achievements are numerous. She has been named one of the top 20 most influential women in BC and is the founder of BC Social Venture Partners, which aims to “connect the power of business with the passion for giving”. In her speech, she commended the large audience for being leaders of their own lives and spoke about the value of being fearless. Drawing examples from her own life, she recounted landing a high marketing position at the age of only 24, and breaking the age barrier by not only excelling at her job, but later launching her own company. Sharka’s success was truly inspirational and put a good start to the day.

We then proceeded to the first of two workshops. With seven choices to choose from, I, like many others, was torn as to which to attend. I chose ‘Communicating with Impact’ (see the full listing of workshops) and I definitely did not regret it. Led by Shauna Sylvester, a Fellow at the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue and Executive Director of the SFU Public Square, Shauna led us through the development of a communication plan and taught us effective techniques on how to convey the messages we wish to convey to the proper audiences. She encouraged us to all create a plan for a project we wish to do and hearing the ideas from the peers which sat next to me, I was truly inspired. Their ideas ranged from refugee-oriented non-profits to business ventures aimed at selling goods crafted by those in poorer countries. Prior to the Summit, I had never heard of these projects or knew they existed, let alone within the SFU community, but hearing that they did was quite astounding.

During lunch, we got the chance to eat (of course!) and mingle a bit more. Strategically set next to the dessert table, there was a resource booth set up for us to learn about opportunities around campus. After more bingo-sheet filling and a chance to meet some more friends, we attended our second workshops. This time around I attended “Leadership as a Journey”, presented by Sam Thiara, who works for SFU’s Faculty of Business. Sam’s story was inspiring. He opened the workshop by showing us a large stack of rejection letters (easily over a foot thick) that he had received while job-hunting after graduation. He told us about the failures in his life, but also the successes which have all contributed to the creation of his life story. The final part of this session really stuck with me, as he explained that “everyone’s life is an autobiography, but you have to make yours worth reading”. It truly seems that we are constantly working towards new goals – gaining a degree, getting a job, getting that promotion, but what really matters is making the most of the journey towards those goals. As cheesy as it sounds, Sam’s presentation resonated with the audience, who he implored to “see the extraordinary in the ordinary” and make the most out of life.

After the last workshop of the day, we were sorted into discussion groups. Together, we watched a speech by a much adored idol of our generation, J.K. Rowling (watch the speech here). In her speech, which was given at a Harvard commencement ceremony in 2008, she spoke about the importance of imagination and decided to focus on a lesser known portion of her life – her work with Amnesty International. She emphasized the importance of empathy, which we all agreed was a cornerstone of leadership. I highly recommend listening to this speech – it is uplifting in the sense that she built her life pursuing her passion and did so in the darkest of times (in case you did not know, she wrote Harry Potter as a broke, single mother). After watching the speech, we engaged in a dialogue about why we watched this video and spoke about how we can be leaders in our everyday lives. I thought the discussion was incredibly engaging and the student facilitator asked many thoughtful questions.

The day ended with a room full of buzzing and inspired students, all united in their sense of commitment to action. I can definitely say that the Summit far exceeded my expectations, but even though it’s over, it is important to keep in mind the plethora of opportunities available on campus year round. This Summit has reminded me that we all have the potential and the creativity to do something brilliant, and so why not? I suppose that’s a challenge to all of you! Get involved and I assure you that you will not regret it.

For details on next year’s Summit, check back on their website.

Posted on January 31, 2012