Last Saturday over 60 Williams students and several students from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts converged on the Williams Faculty Club to participate in the first annual Williams College Student Leadership Conference.
The conference consisted of a series of workshops and lectures given by both Williams College professionals and outside leadership facilitators.
Assistant Dean of the College Wanda Lee, whose office sponsored the event, described the goal of the conference.
“(The goal) was to allow students who currently hold senior level leadership positions the opportunity to gain valuable leadership skills that will further enhance their college experiences and increase their marketability for future employment opportunities,” she said.
She was pleased with the broad range of student clubs and organiztions which were represented at the conference.
“This conference is really representative of the entire Williams community,” Lee said “We have virtually across the board participation by campus groups.”
The conference began with a welcome and introduction by Lee. The introduction was followed up by two lectures focusing on the topic of leadership on such subjects as creative programming, money management and motivating groups.
A workshop entitled “How to Work the Williams Machine” attempted to de-mystify the process of organizing campus events and organizations.
At the workshop students were given mock scenarios (they were, for instance, told to organize an all-campus concert with a cookout and bonfire) which they then planned with the help of Lee, Dean’s Office Secretary Lynn Chick and Director of Security Jean Thorndike Wilson.
Students responded to the conference with enthusiasm.
”The best part about the conference was that student leaders got the opportunity to meet with one another to share common problems and work with each other to find solutions to those problems,” said Tami Thompson ’01.
“A nice aspect of the conference was the way it brought many leaders from different campus organizations together,” said Brendan Kinnell ’00. “As a result, I think there will be more effective leadership within the groups themselves, and also increased efficiency in the relations between organizations.”
The plans for the Student Leadership Conference were finalized last August, but the process of organizing began long before that time.
Lee said she first envisioned holding a student leadership conference when she arrived at Williams a few years ago.
“I am thrilled that we are able to have a conference like this,” Lee said. “I think the students will get a lot out of it. I believe that it is important that it is being held in the Faculty Club, the best facility on campus, and that we have brought in outside leadership facilitators who are experts in working with college students. These considerations have helped to give the conference an impression of importance, which it deserves.”
But Lee said the impetus for the conference came from the students themselves.
She explained that in the past many students have found the task of planning campus events and organizing students clubs to be difficult.
Anita Doddi ’98, who now works at the Multicultural Center, said one of the driving forces of the conference was the work of the Student Leadership Advisory Council (SLAC), a group of campus student leaders.
“SLAC proposed the idea of a student leadership conference as a way of addressing the difficulties that many student leaders were facing,” Doddi said.
Organizers of the conference are hoping that it will spur a variety of other activities looking at issues of leadership at Williams.
“I am looking forward to exploring issues of leadership in a variety of ways in the coming year,” Lee said.
Lee said she is in the process of organizing Leadership Summits for both the fall and spring semesters with the help of some students.
These summits, like the leadership conference, would provide a forum in which student leaders could come together to share ideas, network and address questions of leadership, she said.
Recently the College also created a cluster of leadership courses in the curriculum under the direction of George Goethals, a psychology professor at the College.In addition to Dean Lee’s Leadership Summit, Professor of Psychology George Goethals has helped to create a Leadership cluster in the Williams curriculum. The courses in the cluster all deal with and focus on different aspects of leadership.