University Leadership Conference Planning Committee

University Leadership Conference Planning Committee: Wendy Nguyen, business administration major; Kristina Beverly, communications/marketing major; Karen Chao, pre-business major; Tamika Cosen, communications major; Heather Haddad, communications major; Christine Kha, business administration major; Jeffrey Mercado, business administration major; and Jeannette Ochoa, religious studies/communications major. Photo by Patrick O’Donnell

Students Making A Difference

University Leadership Conference Set March 10

March 5, 2007

By Debra Cano Ramos

With the leadership skills she is learning at Cal State Fullerton, business administration major Wendy Nguyen hopes to one day make a difference in her native Vietnam. Her dream is to develop a leadership program for Vietnamese youth.

As director of the student-led committee planning the 10th annual University Leadership Conference on March 10, she’s well on her way to gaining the skills she needs to be an effective leader.

This year’s daylong conference “You Can Make A Difference… Lead! Learn. Empower. Achieve. Do.” focuses on leadership education and training and is open to CSUF and other university students.

“I hope to take what I’ve learned and apply it in Vietnam,” said Nguyen, who served as workshop coordinator for the 2006 conference. “I just want to make a difference in my country and show teens that by taking action and getting involved, they can make a difference in the community. It’s my long-term goal.”

Serving on the eight-member planning committee has helped her to develop leadership skills that will prepare her for the future, said the CSUF senior from Ho Chi Minh City. She would like to work in Vietnam after graduation, and then in several years, return to the U.S. to earn a master’s degree.

 “I’ve learned from my peers and the experience has strengthened my skills and made me a well-rounded person.”

Over the last decade, the conference has grown from 40 participants to more than 300 students, said Juanita Razo, assistant dean of students who oversees the conference’s student committee.

“It’s an opportunity for students to come and learn about leadership, to learn about what kind of leaders they are and what kind of leaders they can become,” Razo said. “The conference is open to all students — whether or not they are involved in leadership activities.

 “Many people believe that to be a leader you must hold a leadership position. But leadership is not a position. Rather, leadership is about taking action; it’s about working with people to make a change for the greater good.”

The event will feature speakers, educational and motivational workshops and networking opportunities. Awards will be given to two CSUF students who have demonstrated exemplary leadership.

“We hope that after the conference, students will take the leadership skills they learned and apply them to their own lives and make changes that positively impact their communities,” Nguyen said.

The conference is a project of student affairs’ leadership and multicultural development programs and is funded by a U.S. Department of Education Title V Retention Initiative. Although all students are welcome to attend, special efforts are made to invite engineering, computer science, natural sciences and mathematics majors, as well as Latino students, since in the past, these populations have historically attended the conference in smaller numbers, Razo said.  

Keynote speakers are Vernon Wall, consultant and writer on social justice and leadership styles, and Hilda Pacheco-Taylor, founder of Corazon de Vida (Heart of Life), an Orange County nonprofit organization that supports orphanages in Baja California.

“Leadership opportunities complement a student’s academic life,” said Wall, who will address the assembly in the morning. “When an employer looks at a resume, what sets a student apart from the sea of others is his or her experiences working with, and, managing others.”

Leaders interact with different styles and personalities daily, Wall said, adding that “some we connect with, some we clash with.

“Typically, when we talk about leadership styles, the focus is on ‘How can I be my best?’ While this is important, it is just as important to know and understand what we can each do to assist in our team and organization members’ success. Learning from others is the best way to enhance your leadership style.”

As closing speaker, Pacheco-Taylor, vice president of operations at L5 Performance Systems in Irvine, will share her upbringing at a Mexican orphanage, her inspiration to establish the Corazon de Vida Foundation and her commitment to give back to the community.

This year, the conference is partnering with the Volunteer & Service Center to collect personal care products to benefit infants and youth who are victims of abuse. Items donated on the day of the event will be transferred to Crittenton Services for Children and Families in Fullerton.

“We’re asking conference participants to donate personal care products — from soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes to wash cloths and hairbrushes,” Razo said. “Hopefully this will help students to engage in other volunteer and leadership opportunities in their communities.”

Cost is $15 for CSUF students and $20 for non-Titans. For registration and more information about the conference, go to:
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