Developing leaders from around the world


Contributor(s): Tam Nguyen

[My Perspective is a series of reflections and interviews meant to depict different JMU globally-minded individuals’ perspectives of their JMU experiences.]

Since 2013, I have been involved with the annual International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC): either as a host, facilitator, presenter, or a member of the organizing team. The themes and focuses have shifted back and forth in multiple directions over the years - with the intention of covering different aspects and angles of leadership while the conference highlight current real-life topics and events.

For ISLC 2018, the current heated social issues surrounding civil discourse, and discrimination were well-packaged with a keynote speaker and the overall theme of the conference. Ms. Megan Phelps-Roper, TEDx speaker, brought her unique story that ultimately highlighted how empathy can overcome hate and how tolerance can bridge ideology. Along with the theme of “Where Lines are Drawn”, needless to say, 2018 ISLC was an immediate hit for our participants. Our eager crowd had a hard time trying to slow down and limit their questions after the keynote speech. Through the different activities and workshops provided during the conference, the participants shared their ideas and perspectives, collaborated and engaged in in-depth conversations with little hesitation on relatable topics of disagreement, argument, and problem-solving challenges for student-leaders.

It was just a beautiful scene to witness throughout the course of one-and-a-half day: student leaders, coming from all different cultural and social backgrounds, growing up in various parts of the globe, pursuing a diverse array of academic journeys in different universities, all gathering together to create mutual respect, friendships, and long-lasting bonds. 36 hours have never passed so quickly.

By the time we were all enjoying our Saturday dinner, after shared experiences with individuals we had never met the morning before, we were passing our phones around to share our contact information to ensure that we stay connected with all of these great individuals. Underlying the variety of themes and highlighted subjects across 17 years, one factor remains the same: the leadership network grows stronger and broader every single year. Universities’ official staff members love bringing back their student leaders annually for this very same reason.

It is very empowering to see those current and future young leaders’ connections foster and develop into something much bigger than all of us combined. For me personally, I am just grateful that the conference takes place annually so I can relive and immerse myself into an unique environment that encourages me to become a better leader myself and learn from other leaders.

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Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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