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How UofGH's Leadership Development Conference Fund builds leaders

Danya Elsayed poses in the Humber Arboretum

Like most people, Danya Elsayed typically takes in TED Talks from afar, exploring new ideas and philosophies from behind a screen – that is, until the University of Guelph-Humber’s Leadership Development Conference Fund recently brought the thought-provoking discussions much closer to home.

Elsayed and fellow UofGH second-year Media Studies student Gloria Do recently used the program to fund a trip to TEDxToronto, the largest TEDx conference in Canada, after learning about the opportunity through Student Life. The Leadership Development Conference Fund is intended to support students’ desire to enhance their leadership skills by sponsoring them to attend professional conferences, and Elsayed and Do certainly made the most of the opportunity.

“I was really excited to go,” Elsayed recalled. “I watch TED talks all the time. I always wanted to be in the same room as those inspiring leaders, and I got the opportunity.”

The conference featured stimulating discussion on a range of topics from speakers including politician Jennifer Keesmaat, filmmaker Michelle Latimer, CBC star Catherine Reitman and Olympian Penny Oleksiak.

One highlight for Elsayed was listening to a speech from Canada’s Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugees Minister Ahmed Hussen, who grew up close to Elsayed’s own neighbourhood and whose experience resonated with her.

“I really related to what he was talking about,” she recalled. “Growing up, he was poor, he was a refugee, but he made himself into something. He became a lawyer and now he’s part of the federal government. That’s something I want to aspire to.

“It was pretty inspiring hearing what he had to go through.”

Both Elsayed and Do also took much away from a talk conducted by Jeremie Saunders, host of the Sickboy Podcast. Saunders, who lives with the genetic disease Cystic Fibrosis, gave an uplifting and positive talk about living with purpose.

Both Elsayed and Do found that it was easy to apply the conference’s lessons to their coursework in Media Studies.

“The big takeaway from me was to think outside of the box,” Do reflected. “Be courageous enough to try something that’s never been done before. As a Media Studies student, the conference encourages me to take risks and experiment with my projects.”

For students in any program interested in personal or professional development, Do and Elsayed agree that the Leadership Development Conference Fund is a resource worth looking into.

“I know as students we use the excuse of not having enough money to go out. With the fund, I had the freedom to seek out any opportunity to improve myself as a person and as a leader,” Do said.

“I highly recommend students to take a look at the Leadership Development Conference Fund. There is no limit to where you can go and what you can do.”

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