Emerging Leaders Conference focuses on helping students make a positive impact

To train a grasshopper, you must leave it in a shoebox. A grasshopper can jump ten times its body height but will only jump as high as the imagined barrier after the lid comes off the box. 

This is the metaphor Bert “The Mentor Guy” Gervais used when describing leadership as he reiterated the importance of not standing in your own way and “removing your lid” at this years Emerging Leaders Conference on Sunday at Sonoma State University. Gervais also used his stories of emigration from Haiti and struggles in college to inspire students.

A variety of students, ranging from freshmen to fifth-years, attended the Sept. 24 conference in the Ballrooms and Valley Rooms of the Student Center. Students received valuable leadership skills from guest speakers, round table discussions and “breakout session” workshops. 

Anthony Tucker, a third-year student in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies, said that being a leader means “being somebody that can be looked up [to].”

Tucker works for Sonoma State’s Student Involvement program, which plans campus events like Big Nite. He said he liked Bert’s talk about removing the “lid,” and the message of “breaking out of your lid to pursue things that you might not have.”

Those who attended the conference chose from two of the four workshops.

Cookie Garrett, the area coordinator for Residential Life, hosted a workshop entitled “The Road to Leadership is Paved with Service.” 

By working closely with student leaders, Garrett said she hopes to leave an impact. “[I want to be] that guiding voice and positive influence to help them make good decisions [and] to accomplish their goals and be what they set out to be,” Garrett said. “I believe in investing in people that will be our future leaders.” 

When asked why she has been working with Community Services Advisors for nine years she said, “I believe that collegiate students are a good pool of people that will develop into future leaders all over the world.”

Carina Buzo, the program coordinator for the HUB, presented a breakout session titled “Understanding Others.” 

Buzo is a first generation college student and the first woman of color to direct “The Vagina Monologues” at Sonoma State.

During her workshop, Buzo revisited her experience transitioning from the diverse town of Stockton to a predominately white institution. 

Using this experience, Buzo explained her three-step process for understanding others to the 27 students in the Sonoma Valley Room.

Buzo said in order to understand others, one must go through “oblivion, collision and response.”

“We don’t know where we’re from until we face something different,” Buzo said.

Alexis Lammawin, a third-year double major in liberal studies and studio art, said she connected to Buzo’s story about being a women of color in a leadership position and learned more about “transcending boundaries.”

“She showed incoming freshmen and other students a woman of color being a role model,” Lammawin said. “It further inspires me to be a good role model as well.”

Lammawin said her “favorite part about being a leader is leading with passion,” and if she is “leading with passion, then I know it’s going to be something I’m happy with.”

Lammawin is the outreach chair for the Filipino American Association of Sonoma State University, and deals with the organization’s external and internal relations. During her freshman year, Lammawin previously interned as the organization’s cultural chair.

“I want other women of color see me and say ‘Hey, I can do that too,’” Lammawin said.