Students offered opportunities to learn how to create positive change in leadership roles


Mason’s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Office hosted their annual, one-day leadership conference on Saturday, Oct. 23, offering students opportunities to enhance leadership skills through both large and small group formats. The theme for this year’s conference was “Leadership for Positive Change.”

 Shortly after the conference began, students were greeted by keynote speaker Dr. Al Fuertes, associate professor for Mason’s School of Integrative Studies. Fuertes outlined to conference attendees the importance of leadership, and asked students to define what a leader is.

“To me, a leader is someone you can look up to,” said junior Laura Yankoviak. “They are role models.”

 Senior Katherine Perkin said, “A leader is someone who actively listens.”

 Additional popular leadership characteristics, as defined by students, included accountability, confidence, empathy and integrity.

 Following the conversation on what qualities a leader should have, Fuertes began a discussion on leadership during challenging times and creating healing spaces. According to Fuertes, a leader that creates positive change takes time to care for themselves before caring for others.

 “The process of creating healing spaces highlights the dimensions of a healing environment: physical, social, natural and interior,” said Fuertes. “It also calls for the unpacking of the multi-layered and multi-faceted nature of healing that includes creative confrontations of our own challenges, limitations, including various healing processes. We envision ideal healing spaces (physical and symbolic) that reflect our felt realities.”

 Fuertes challenged students to speak with other conference attendees to share their ideal healing environment and then explain what challenges they have faced when trying to heal.

 For some students, healing environments involve close family and friends. The challenge? A global pandemic preventing physical social interaction. Students who prefer healing around others detailed the challenges of only being able to communicate with people in an online format.

 Students who prefer to heal in isolation explained that healing in solitude has not been easy lately, either. The pandemic has forced many to stay in one place for their education, social interactions and work, leaving people to feel that their healing environment is now filled with additional distractions.

 Following the conversation on creating healing spaces, attendees were provided with lunch and then given small group leadership workshop options to attend. The different session topics included student activism and civic engagement, well-being and community care, ethical leadership, identity development and career exploration.

 Students were encouraged to attend the entirety of the conference as well as three different educational sessions. After attending the various sessions, students had an opportunity to reflect on what they had gained from the small group workshops and how they had learned to promote positive change in a role of leadership.

Fourth Estate / Allison Alberty

The 2021 Leadership Mason Conference’s partners included those involved in Women and Gender Studies, Student Success Coaching, Social Action and Integrative Learning, Student Involvement, University Career Services and Mason Recreation.