18 William Jewell College first-year students ventured off of the Hill for the Emerging Leaders Conference (ELC) March 4. This conference is a weekend of presentations from various professors and students along with team-building activities centered around leadership.
The weekend started at Jewell with Tricia Hager, director of counseling services, talking about the Myers-Briggs test the students had just taken and the meaning of their results. Students then engaged in team activities with Dusty Gleason, interim director of the Tucker Leadership Lab. Simone Stewart, senior physics and spanish major, spoke with the students about passionate leadership prior to their departure from campus to a hotel in Kansas City, Mo. Upon arrival, Dr. Lori Wetmore, professor of chemistry, spoke to students about the just leader.
On Saturday, first-years heard presentations from Dr. Gary Armstrong, professor of political science, Dr. Brendon Benz, assistant professor of religion, Macy Tush, sophomore physics and mathematics major, Ben Shinogle, junior political science, English and ACT-In major and Cari Hill, senior political science, communication and ACT-In major.
“I enjoyed how engaging the sessions were. Dr. Armstrong’s presentation on ethical leadership kept me on my toes as we discussed Hitler’s merit as a leader,” said Megan Anderson, first-year physics and Oxbridge history of ideas major.
Anderson also mentioned the session in which students debated school policies as one of her favorites because she was able to include what she has learned this year, including a few arguments from “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill. Another favorite of the weekend was Wetmore’s session on “The Just Leader.”
“We discussed race, income disparity, poverty, unemployment and opportunity in the Kansas City area. We also had a role-playing activity that simulated daily life for underprivileged people and the people in power who could do something about it. I was a retired man with a lot of health problems in the simulation, and even though it was fake, I gained a bit of insight into the lives of people who live day by day trying to make ends meet. It was a valuable experience to be without power to change my circumstance and to observe the privilege of those with more means than me and what they did with their privilege,” said Haley Hart, first-year Oxbridge molecular biology major.
In addition to learning about leadership, the students also had to put together a service project to be completed as a group. This year’s group decided to volunteer at Hillcrest Hope Thrift Store. They organized and priced clothing donations.
“We split into a few groups and each group tackled a different area of the store. I worked with Zak [Carroll, first-year and Oxbridge Institutions and Policy major] and Jonathan [Daniel, first-year and Oxbridge Music, Philosophy and ACT-in major] to unload and sort hundreds of donated pillows from boxes. After that, we worked our way through various parts of the store and organized, then we tested out and priced products,” said Hart.
The conference typically has similar speakers from year to year, but how each group of first-years responds differs. Kristen Agar, accounting and business major and ELC director, noticed a distinct split between this year’s conference and the one she attended last year.
“I would just say the group dynamic was very interesting, how they all were able to work together especially considering over half of them were extroverted when they took the Myers Briggs, so you would expect them to be more conflicting with each other, but they were not. That was very different from how last year went with the group that I was in; we had a lot of arguing,” said Agar.
Agar mentioned the dynamic of the group, which surprised other students as well.
“The overall tone of the weekend surprised me. I expected to be engaged with the content, but the cohesiveness of the group as a whole was neat,” said Anderson.
Hart also mentioned the cohesiveness of the group.
“I was surprised at how many leadership styles there were in our group. It was cool to see how a group of people who want to be leaders could work together very cohesively and include everyone,” said Hart.
Overall, students said they enjoyed the weekend and learned a lot about themselves and their peers.
“I really enjoyed getting to know all of these people. I didn’t think I would really get along with all of them. They were really nice and we all hung out a lot of times and we got to know each other a lot better,” said Sam Sullivan, first-year communication and interactive digital media major.