Excelling in leadership

Students flocked to the Price Center this weekend, waking up early to attend school on a day typically reserved for hanging out and procrastinating. No, there was no free food or concert. These students came to learn about how to be successful leaders.

Kenrick Leung

On March 1, UCSD hosted the 13th annual Excel Leadership Conference, a campuswide event that includes a variety of workshops on leadership, along with sessions by three nationally renowned keynote speakers. The event, sponsored by the Panhellenic/Interfraternity Council, Associated Students, Magnolia Composites, Kaplan and UCSD Order of Omega, attracted over 1,000 students; 850 were from UCSD and 450 came from surrounding universities, including USD, SDSU and Occidental College. All students, including those who registered at the door, experienced an entire day of leadership training for $10 or less.

This conference was also a part of the Passport to Leadership series, enabling participants to earn two stamps towards their leadership goals. (For more information about this program, visit http://solo.ucsd.edu.)

While last year’s conference included one keynote speaker and about six workshop options, the 2003 event more than doubled in size.

Karla DeVries

“”The conference gets bigger and bigger every year,”” said conference public relations representative Jacqueline Boccanfuso.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m., more than 20 workshops were offered that covered four basic areas: risk management, general leadership, career development and Greek education. Executives from various organizations conducted each of these workshops.

The risk management category consisted of sessions titled “”The Truth about Eating Disorders,”” “”Am I at Risk?”” and “”DUI: A Powerful Lesson.””

“”I learned that the rules for underage drinking are much stricter than anywhere else,”” said Mark Ruybal, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity member who attended the “”Am I at Risk?”” seminar. “”I also learned that these rules won’t stop any underage drinking.””

General leadership gatherings covered such topics as team building, public speaking, public relations, etiquette, relationships and event planning. In addition, career development encompassed groups to improve financial responsibility, performance on entrance exams and interview skills.

There were also several sessions on Greek education, incorporating presentations like “”Recruitment Issues”” and “”Fraternal Values: The Leader’s Guide.”” There is no denying that there is a strong Greek presence at this event. In fact, many fraternities and sororities make attendance mandatory, while others strongly encourage it. Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity reported to have 50 or 60 percent of its members in attendance. However, organizers are quick to say that this is not a Greek-only occasion.

“”It is not necessarily Greek oriented at all. This year, we tried to broaden the topics to cover everything,”” Boccanfuso said. She also emphasized the fact that students from all over California, not just UCSD students, attended the conference.

David Coleman, eight-time winner of the National Speaker of the Year honor, opened the day with a talk titled “”The Value of Leadership.”” Coleman works as a speaker, trainer and retreat facilitator. He has appeared on many television news programs and in publications such as Us Weekly, Glamour, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

In February of 2000, Coleman released his book, “”Date Smart! How to Stop Revolving and Start Evolving in Relationships,”” which has been ranked in the top 10 percent of books selling on Amazon.com since then. In light of this, Coleman also hosted an optional breakout session in the late morning called “”Dating Doctor: The Cure for the Common Relationship.””

The other option made available to attendees during this time period was the presentation “”Etiquette Making a Positive Impression”” by Nonnie Cameron Owens. Owens is a national authority on etiquette, traveling throughout the United States to host etiquette and interpersonal skills events. In addition to publishing a weekly column on etiquette in the Lafayette Journal and Lafayette Courier newspapers, she has written three books on entertainment etiquette. Owens is also active in the Greek system, serving on the Chi Omega Alumnae Association at Purdue University and formerly acting as housemother for Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The third keynote speaker, Mark Sterner, spoke during the afternoon about DUI convictions. An employee of Campuspeak, Sterner makes presentations on this subject throughout the country. As a senior at Johnson and Wales University, he chose to drink and drive during spring break. The car crashed, killing three friends that were his passengers. Sterner suffered serious injuries from the accident and spent three years in a Florida prison.

This experience inspired Sterner to become an educator about the dangers of drinking and driving. His presentation consisted of videotape of his friends and himself partying just moments before the accident. He hopes that this dose of reality will help students decide not to drive when placed in a similar situation.

Students report that the Excel Leadership Conference of 2003 was inspiring and worthwhile.

“”I like the whole general leadership aspect of it,”” said Ben Lawson, a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and former Interfraternity Council director of leadership. “”These skills are very applicable to real world situations, so it’s nice to come in at nine in the morning and take away tips to apply to real life.””