Students learn to embrace their authentic selves as student leaders

Students assembled at the Student Leadership Conference at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) to hear campus leaders discuss student engagement strategies with event host Dan Burfiend and guest speaker Rachel DeAlto, while enjoying Italian cuisine from Otter Kitchens on Sept. 17.

The event started by asking attendees what leadership means to them. Students defined the concept as guiding those with shared interests in achieving a common goal. 

Burfeind, Coordinator of Student Organizations, does not believe in a prescription for action and leadership. Burfiend believes leadership is about providing students with the necessary tools to lead their organizations towards success. 

Burfeind recognizes that returning to campus is different. It has been an emotional ride, grappling with a college experience, trapped by the pandemic.

Leaving the audience with more knowledge than they arrived with was the intent of the conference, as Burfiend spoke to students.

“This is an opportunity to grow your horizons,” Burfiend said. “To grow as a leader.”

Organization leaders face different challenges every day, and Burfiend approached this by presenting the S.W.A.T. method: strength, weakness, opportunity and threat. 

Weighing these variables provides students with an alternative approach for tackling obstacles. This process is honest but not brutal, allowing them to confront their problems by taking action.

The seminar prioritized a green light mindset, overcoming problems by looking for solutions instead of dwelling on impossibility. 

DeAlto, a television personality, relationship expert and keynote speaker, emphasized the importance of being genuine, and showing up to work with authenticity by embracing imperfections. 

DeAlto grappled with her identity as a young mother, hiding it from her co-workers in a place that had no respect for love and responsibility. Lawyers at the firm took pride in not seeing their children for long periods. Keeping that secret was inauthentic. She was hiding a part of herself. 

DeAlto described the connection between relatability and leadership.

“There’s strength in revealing who we are,” DeAlto said. “If people don’t know the real you, how can they like, love, and be led by you?” 

Showing up as the most authentic version of yourself is the ticket to effective leadership. Leaders don’t need perfection to attract members to organizations. Being human is acknowledging imperfections.

The Student Leadership Conference illustrated that organization representatives have what it takes to guide club communities through another year of uncertainty. 

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