Conference Aims to Improve Leadership Skills Among Students

The Office of the Dean of Students will be sponsoring its 21st All-University Leadership Conference at the Doral Desert Princess Resort in Palm Springs on Oct. 2 and 3.
Over 210 students from all different departments and clubs on campus will be attending the conference to learn how to confront issues that face them as student leaders. These student leaders include peer academic advisors, members of various sororities and fraternities, club officers and even students who work for UCI’s undergraduate housing communities.
Executive Associate Dean of Students Randy Lewis spearheaded the organization of the conference. He described the importance of bringing students together to share ideas, students who might not otherwise meet each other on campus.
‘It’s a leadership conference designed to bring student leaders from throughout the campus together for a retreat, conference and an encounter, at an off-campus site,’ Lewis said. ‘Often times, we assume that because a student is a leader in his or her group or organization, they know other student leaders in their organization, but that’s not the case.’
Not only will student leaders be attending, but over 40 administrators and faculty will also be attending, including Chancellor Ralph Cicerone, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez, Executive Vice Chancellor Michael Gottfredson and Dean of Students Sally Peterson.
To date, UCI is the only UC that offers such a conference. Since the program started in 1984, each chancellor has attended the annual conference. According to Lewis, this consistent support has been beneficial for students.
‘Every year, the chancellor, regardless of who he or she is, has made this commitment. Students don’t take that lightly. It serves to reaffirm their value in the eyes of the administration and their value in campus life, student concerns and student issues,’ Lewis explained.
The two-day conference will feature workshops, case studies and seminars with speakers who specialize in particular topics. Topics include balancing time and responsibilities, combating apathy in an organization, community outreach and freedom of speech.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Mingo Lee, who graduated from UCI in 1990 and is now the CEO of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. Lee, with the help of his two brothers, created the first Wahoo’s Fish Tacos in Costa Mesa. Now the restaurant has become a regional chain with over 30 locations in California and Colorado. Lee will be speaking about his UCI experience and his path to success.
Of course, an event of such magnitude and distinguished faculty and guests required extensive planning. A committee of about 25 students are helping to put together the two-day conference.
Geoffrey Enriquez, a fifth-year aerospace engineering major and ASUCI vice president of academic affairs, is also on the planning committee for the first time.
Enriquez decided to get involved with the conference because he thought it would help ASUCI better serve the students.
‘One problem that we do face is that clubs don’t always bring their concerns to us,’ Enriquez said. ‘They really underestimate the power of ASUCI and how much we can do. This is a chance for us to go out and see what’s happening on campus and in our community.’
Because the conference emphasizes communication and dialogue between student leaders, one question that remains is whether the conference will help to prevent conflicts between clubs.
‘I think it would definitely help [prevent conflicts between clubs] because of the way it works. We put together a group of people who are radically different and it gets them talking and thinking and debating about things,’ said Paulina Valdez, a fourth-year environmental analysis and design major and conference attendee. ‘We do it constructively so it’s good and positive.’
Lewis believes that open dialogue between people in general helps prevent conflict.
‘Conflicts can result from the fact that there isn’t a better understanding of where the other person is coming from,’ Lewis said. ‘Anytime you can get people together and engage in sincere discussion and dialogue and get to know one another as people, it tends to lessen the clash points that inevitably occur in a higher-ed setting like UCI, when we’re dealing with issues of such controversy and of higher sensitivity.’