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(November 29, 2001, Gazette)

Leadership Forum first of its kind
Bringing out the best

Students who participated in the Leadership Forum.Students who participated in the Leadership Forum.

About 75 students, nominated by faculty and fellow students, attended Memorial’s Leadership Forum Nov. 3. The event, the first of its kind in Canada, recognizes the contributions of campus leaders and invests in their ongoing development. The Leader’s Forum also provides student leaders an opportunity to share their expertise with one another, according to coordinator Jennifer Manning, whose own involvement with campus activities began with a stint as a group leader during orientation week.

The forum is designed to encourage and promote leadership activity with the myriad of clubs, societies and volunteer organizations throughout Memorial University. As the global village expands, the number of special interest groups on campus increases as well, resulting in a greater need for students with leadership skills. MUN is well aware of this growing international trend and within the broader context of Celebrating Memorial’s November special events, Memorial is encouraging and educating a new generation of student leaders.

The forum boasted a full day’s roster of lectures and activities centring around the forum’s theme, The Leader Within. The students, clad in complimentary leadership t-shirts, participated in a personality test in order to determine their personal strengths and individual leadership styles, and broke a decent sweat playing a Survivor-type game designed to encourage both teamwork and strong organizational skills. Whispered strategic plans, laughter and cheers of triumph filled the old Thomson Centre cafeteria as the various teams competed to complete their assigned tasks correctly, in the fastest time possible.
Amanda Boone, a first-year nursing student at the Sir Wilfred Grenfell College campus in Corner Brook, admitted that she was “frightened to death” when told that she had been nominated to attend the fast-growing forum in St. John’s. Frightened or not, she took her first plane trip alone from the west coast of the province, and negotiated St. John’s – a city as unfamiliar to her as Memorial’s campus itself – entirely by herself. Although the experience was at first intimidating, Ms. Boone considers it invaluable. This year’s recipient of the David Kirkland award for student leaders, Ms. Boone never considered herself a candidate for student leadership, and was never involved in student activities prior to attending the Grenfell campus. Through a position as resident’s assistant, she gradually got to know other volunteers and became more deeply involved in university activities.

Many students wonder how they can get involved in opportunities such as these. Frank Durnford, a fourth year Memorial student also attending the weekend forum, spoke of an “almost unofficial network” existing in the volunteer community at MUN, a concept echoed by a number of other students. By getting involved in the smallest of ways, students open up themselves to numerous connections and a supportive community, eager to help out its members. Often, a single volunteer position can lead to a greater variety of experiences. The key concept appears to be “start small”, a reassuring notion to an uncertain first- or fourth-year student.

The 2001 Leader’s Forum concluded with a reception at the University Club. Elegant cello music played as participants, organizers and speakers helped themselves to food and drink. Through the windows, St. John’s at dusk was a sea of twinkling lights as each student was presented with a university pin and a certificate signifying completion of the Leader’s Forum.

The forum went off without a hitch and, by all accounts, is a valuable addition to the Celebrate Memorial events.

Also during the week, 628 first-year students were recognized at an entrance scholarship award ceremony, and a volunteer fair was held featuring community agencies. Students interested in student leadership opportunities can contact both the Student Life Centre and the Volunteer Centre for further information.