By Frank Festa
How you spend the time between the fall and spring semesters is completely up to you. Most students at the College probably did one of three things: gained some experience interning, caught up on credits with a winter class or binge-watched Netflix’s new series, “Making a Murder.” A group of 59 students, however, chose to spend some of their time in a different way — at the College’s second annual LeaderShape Conference, held at The Golden Inn located in Avalon, N.J.
LeaderShape, which ran from Sunday, Jan. 10, to Friday, Jan. 15, is a national program intended to help college students reflect on their own experiences and refine their leadership abilities. Despite garnering national acclaim, LeaderShape has successfully kept the conference shrouded in mystery.
“I knew very little going in. They’re pretty secretive about major details,” junior English major Natessa Mallalieu said. Students are encouraged to apply for the program in the fall semester, but are deprived of any real disclosure on what the conference will actually entail until they are accepted.
The conference was organized by the College’s Director of Leadership, Avani Rana, who stuck to her guns and refused to say much about the application process and selectivity. But Rana did say the basis of candidacy evaluations revolved around students’ answers to three questions.
“I can’t say exactly what we ask students in their applications. But, generally, I can say that they’re intended to show us how the student would change the world if they could,” Rana said.
Over the course of six chilly days spent in the wrong time of the year to be at the Jersey Shore, the 59 students at LeaderShape bonded over their shared vision of creating a better tomorrow. Days built upon one another, with each one carrying a different theme than the last. The various exercises and challenges presented had the same end goal in mind: illustrating the importance of leadership and instilling its key attributes.
Being a leader of integrity, according to LeaderShape’s teachings, doesn’t necessarily mean impersonating successful leaders. What works for some may not work for others. The conference has prided itself on promoting a “healthy disregard of the impossible.” Through this experience, many of those involved are jumping out of their seats to sing its praises.
Freshman philosophy major Eashwayne Haughton explained that “Leadershape means going against the grain. It opened the participants’ eyes. We left with a clear and concise vision of our role in creating the future.”
The students return to the College this semester prepared and eager to make a difference, with most encouraging those on the fence to get involved in the program, which will return next winter break. While it may not be clear what exactly occurred in Avalon, N.J., earlier this month, what is clear is that the secret is part of the fun and the mysterious conference left a lasting mark on all who attended.
“I walked away knowing that I gained not only new details about myself and my leadership style, but an insight into the incredibly passionate, community-minded and driven student leaders that make up (the College),” Mallalieu said.