Q&A: SOAR Student Leadership Conference
Kirsten is a fourth-year journalism student.
Fourth-year psychology student Dee Walker and fourth-year human rights student Nicole Parsons are team leaders of this year’s Alternative Spring Break trip to Honduras. On Saturday, January 17 they participated in the SOAR Student Leadership Conference, hosted by the Student Experience Office and the Department of Housing and Residence Life Services. We talked to them about why the conference was a success and how it impacted their ideas of leadership.
You were both involved in the SOAR conference. Can you tell me a little bit about what it is?
Dee: SOAR was a leadership conference held here at Carleton. It started off with a keynote speaker and then throughout the day you had the opportunity to choose different sessions that were put on by current Carleton students, grads and even faculty. And they were all based around leadership and strengths, and developing different qualities I guess. There was stuff about reflection, how to become a leader, different skill sets and things like that.
Nicole: Mainly presentations to help you figure out what a leader is and, as Dee said, how to develop those skills. But they also had multiple questions in there and as you were saying it was kind of like reflection so you can start to realize the kind of leader you are and the steps you need to take to become a better leader, either on campus or outside of it.
Can you tell me about some of the things you’ve been engaged in during your four years here?
Dee: I oversee a team of Res Fellows in Lennox and Addington House. And on top of that and being an ASB team leader I’m also the Vice-President Internal for the Psychology Society this year. Also this year, continuing from last year, I’m a chair for Students for Wishes, so we raise money on campus to grant the wishes of children that have life-threatening medical conditions.
Nicole: I’ve been involved with some societies like the Human Rights Society, War Child Society last year. I’m the Human Rights rep on CASG (Carleton Academic Student Government). I was it last year, so I am also this year. I was an Alternative Spring Break participant last year and I’m a leader this year. And right now, it’s technically part of my schooling because it’s a placement, but I’m volunteering at ACORN, an Ottawa organization.
Do you think the conference was successful?
Dee: Their keynote speaker was Neil Pasricha from The Book of Awesome, one of my favourite books of all time. And he just started the day off amazingly.
And then, because we had the choice of which sessions to go to, it really allowed students to choose what they felt they needed and what areas of growth they really wanted to address. And I think that just at the end of the day, just the feeling and the overall atmosphere was so positive, it just started out being awesome, that you walked away feeling a little bit stronger, but also in such a good mindset to grow and be, like, reflecting on your day, which was the whole purpose of it.
Nicole: A lot of it was professors or other student leaders on campus, and that allowed us to relate to them more and start to realize that if they’ve been that successful, so can we.
But yeah, I’ve got to say, I think probably my favourite was Neil in the sense just that, I think in the society we live in, where we’re constantly bombarded by magazine photos, and feeling like you’re inadequate, or the fact that you think you have a million projects on the go at school, and sometimes you get so bombarded with everything. And for me, I’m a human rights students, so after learning about all the injustices that are out there, it kind of weighs on you. But I think Neil’s idea of every little moment and that those little awesome moments are something you have to focus on, that really kind of touched home with me. So he was probably my favourite speaker.
Do you want to add anything else about the conference and what you learned from it, or why you think other students should get involved?
Dee: I think one of the moments that really struck me, I was in a presentation from a past Carleton student. Her name was Nicole Belanger and her message was to do what you love, and not what you like the idea of. And in my moment right now, where I’m looking ahead to grad school and things like that, it really impacted me in a way I never thought. I was like, “Okay great, leadership. But in that presentation she really brought it down to earth and shared her experiences, but that also really impacted where I am and where I want to go. So I think it’s more than just a leadership conference. It’s there to help you in whatever you need and to take what you need from it. It was very insightful, and I think everyone should have that opportunity to have those ideas and the reassurance of, you know what, school isn’t everything, it’s about doing what you love.