New conference pushes for diverse student leadership

A group of students is looking to expand their multicultural conference.

Keaton Schmitt

Forgoing its usual workout equipment, the University of Minnesota fitness center was briefly home to leadership conferences and a congressman.
A newly created conference, the Multicultural Student Leadership Conference, was intended to mirror similar events at other schools that bring students and professionals together to teach them how to lead student groups.
The event, held Saturday in the University Recreation and Wellness Center hosted speakers, including Congressman Keith Ellison, as well as a number of workshops and educational events on a variety of topics.
Some workshops focused on informing students about how to market a student group and attract members.
The initial goal of the conference was to build connections between in-state schools, said Rhema Dapaah, co-chair of the student-led committee that planned the conference.
While the conference was planned strictly as a Minnesotan event, it grew and received requests from other universities in other states to attend, Dapaah said.
Senior Doreen Nakigudde said while she was a member of the executive board of the Black Student Union, she attended a conference on black student government and said she wanted to bring a similar event to the University. 
Nakigudde approached Lamar Hylton, assistant vice provost for student life, about creating a multicultural conference.
“We’re very excited to see a completely student-led and driven conference,” said Hylton.
The topic of the conference is set to change year to year. This year, the focus was on leadership within a multicultural context.
Another purpose of the conference was to allow students to develop connections with other multicultural students and professionals, Hylton said.
“It used to be you could be a leader and focus on one group of people and still be a relatively good leader, [but] that is not the way the world works anymore,” said Chris Dixon, a University alumnus at the event.
Ahtasham Alvi, an attendee from Minnesota State University-Mankato, said the conference could give student leaders more confidence. 
Next year, the students who planned the event intend to reach out more to surrounding states to increase the scale and out-of-state participation.
In the future, Dapaah said the committee would like to expand the conference into a Big 10 event, with a different school hosting the event year to year.