By Brianna Kudisch | Echo
Taylor University is hosting the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) Friday and Saturday. Planned and led by students each year, the conference embraces a theme, Gather, to signal their goal for the event. This year's motto is: "Coming together to encourage thoughtfulness, foster conversation and inspire action."
Overseeing the event, the Leadership Programming cabinet chose the motto based on the desire to inspire students towards faithful and loving action, according to Kelly Sisson, president of leadership programming. They desire to bring different people together, sharing ideas and stories to provoke and challenge perspectives, ultimately encouraging growth as leaders and followers of Christ.
Sisson emphasized the last part of the motto-inspire action-because without action, the ideas and thoughts formed at the conference will lack impact.
"Simply thinking and talking about leadership isn't enough," Sara Bretz, graduate assistant to the cabinet, said. "We want students to use this opportunity to push them toward employing these principles of leadership in their daily lives."
The Leadership Programming cabinet stressed the impact of leadership on all students, not just those in positions with titles. The cabinet focused on leadership as an everyday concept, holding relevance in every area of life.
According to Sisson, people hold spheres of influence in multiple areas, from residence halls to athletic teams to official cabinet positions. They have the choice of being either a positive or negative influence.
"When we realize that leadership is not just about having a title or a nametag, hopefully we will be (able) to realize that we are each called to live into the gifts God has given us and to lead with those gifts," Sisson said.
Although the conference is an annual event, this year brought new changes. One major change is the addition of the Josh Garrels and John Mark McMillan Revelators Tour concert after the Friday night sessions. Combining the concert with the conference added logistical challenges but will positively contribute to attendees' experiences, according to Bretz.
The conference will be held almost entirely in the LaRita Boren Campus Center, which facilitates an ideal space for sessions and workshops, according to Sisson. Another change involves fewer speakers compared to previous years. Students felt overwhelmed with the number of speakers in the past, which led Sisson and other cabinet members to reduce the number of keynote sessions.
Starting in late spring of last year, the newly hired Leadership Programming cabinet began researching and brainstorming what the conference could look like-big picture ideas. Initially contacted in July and confirmed in December, speakers were chosen from a wide variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise to cover the themes explored in the conference, from imagination to power; from failure to culture.
Three of the speakers were included in the article "7 Leaders to Follow in 2017" by Relevant Magazine. One of the speakers, Amy Peeler, lived in Marion for many years and now teaches at Wheaton College. Another speaker, Josh Riebock, has previously spoken at NSLC.
Riebock, who will be sharing stories about honesty, darkness and introspection, believes people can always learn and evolve. He hopes people find something meaningful within his message, regardless of what it is.
"We wanted to dig a little deeper into these themes and choose speakers with insight on how to actually apply these themes practically," cabinet member Christine Urban said. "For instance, (speaker) Katelyn Beaty will be talking about gender identity, which digs deeper into the theme of power."
Sisson compared selecting the speakers from different backgrounds and expertise, all while working within the given budget, to a giant jigsaw puzzle with many moving pieces.
Founded in 1982 by Lowell Haines, when he worked for Taylor Student Organization (TSO), NSLC was the first leadership conference entirely run and led by students. Several hundred students will be attending the conference, including students from Asbury University, Messiah College, Grace College, Greenville College and other universities.
The conference enables students to personally interact with the speakers. Cabinet member Grason Poling compared the event to a baseball game with exceptional players.
"Let's pretend you're twice as much of a fan of baseball than you are right now," he said. "If you heard that a meet and greet exposition game with future hall-of-famers was taking place in your backyard for nearly no price at all, you would want to go right?"
He continued, "This is basically what's happening here. You'll be hearing from some especially exceptional thinkers of the day, and you'll have ample opportunity to pick their brains and interact with them."
Although online registration has closed, students still have the opportunity to attend the conference. Taylor students and faculty can buy tickets at the door for $20 from 2-4 p.m. on Friday.