The Second Annual Synergy Leadership Conference took place this year on January 20, hosting a variety of keynote speakers and topics all designed to help SXU students develop their leadership skills.
Synergy, hosted by Student Affairs, is an all day conference in which current student leaders and prospective student leaders attended breakout sessions intended to provide tips, ideas, and different methods on improving one’s own leadership skills.
As part of their participation students also recieved a Synergy notebook and Synergy t-shirt at the end of the conference.
This year’s theme for Synergy was “Be the Leader You Would Follow.”
Each session provided a different topic or issue led by a different keynote speaker.
Students were encouraged to share their own personal stories and ideas during these breakout sessions.
Some of this year’s breakout sessions were led by Zaineb Abdulla, the Vice President of Deaf Planet Soul; John Bass, Associate Vice President for University Advancement; Dr. Kathleen McInerney, Professor of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Program; and many more.
Abdulla led “Unbreakable,” a session on self defense.
Many of the students said “Unbreakable” was one of their favorite sessions to attend.
Tori Wilson, a Junior Cougar Peer Educator and Resident Assistant said, “I went to the self-defense session and it was so much fun. I felt like I really learned how to defend myself. I will honestly feel so much safer walking by myself now.”
The “Leadership and Social Justice” session was held by McInerney; it delved into the ways social justice and leadership often intertwine.
“This is our moment,” McInerney said, reading from a piece she wrote, “As fires burn, floods wash away cities in both hemispheres, climate refugees wander, and hurricanes gather, it’s hard not to see ourselves in the last decade, the anthropocene, the apocalypse.
“And, indeed, our students feel little hope about the future. But despite despair, our students do feel a call to engage in civic action for the common good.”
McInerney encouraged student leaders to follow their desire for civic action by “seeking out opportunities that can build their [empathetic] capacity.”
But for the first time, this year’s Conference was not led solely by professors; this year, Synergy brought in students to lead some of the breakout sessions.
Monica Justice held a session called “Leadership Lessons from a Dog.”
Jose Tinajero and Mia Kahlon led the session “Born this Way,” a program they said “encourages self-love and acceptance.”
“Wellness Tune-up,” led by Eddie Chavez and Teddy Bjork, discussed the different ways students can cope with stress.
Katy Thompson, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life & Director of Residence Life and one of the many women who helped put Synergy together, said, “We were excited to include student-led sessions, they are a very welcome addition.” The student-led sessions were also very popular.
Each of the student-led sessions held classrooms that were completely filled; chairs had to be brought in from other classrooms, students sat on the floor, some sat on window sills, just to hear their peers’ encouragement.
Jessica Verner, a sophomore and member of University Housing Staff, reflected on her time at Synergy, “I went to Synergy last year, and it was good but I didn’t want to come back this year. I’m glad I did though.
“The message this year is to be the change you want to be and after being here today, I feel like it’s a message I’ll actually take away. I am the person who is going to step up, to change.
“Today really emphasized individuality and embracing your own individuality. I don’t cry in public, but I cried here today.”
Senior Mike Sennett, Quest and Senior Retreat Peer Minister, said, “It makes me really happy to see these empowering women who’ve put this conference together.
Alexa Zaharris, Jean Riordan, Katy Thompson, Sam Maher Sheehan…they’re the ones who’ve really pushed us to be leaders and this whole experience has been amazing because of them.”
Next year’s Synergy date is to be announced, but in the meantime, students can keep an eye out for more student leadership positions. Applications will be sent out soon.
Meanwhile, students can follow SXU Activites on Snapchat at sxuactivities.