SLG Meeting 2016

The third annual Student Leaders Network meeting was held at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) in April this year. Over the course of three days, representatives from 21 different Universitas 21 institutions had the opportunity to meet, share experiences and discuss the challenges in student leadership across the globe. Coming immediately off of the back of the UCONN’s women’s basketball team winning their fourth consecutive national championship, our host university was buzzing with pride and excitement which spread amongst us all.

The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘Inclusion and Diversity’, something exemplified by the international nature of Universitas 21 as a whole. We were rewarded with a fascinating discussion led by Daniel Weiner, Vice President for Global Affairs, and Dana Wilder, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, both from UCONN. The theme was particularly apt given the numerous liberation centres that were housed in the Students’ Union building that we were convened in. This included the Women’s Center, the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center, the African American Cultural Center, the Rainbow Center and many, many more. To be hosted in an institution steeped in such rich diversity was as inspiring as it was encouraging particularly given recent international events.

One of the most notable sessions of the meeting was viewing the fascinating array of posters designed by each institution to showcase their different student leadership models. A simple exercise placing coloured dots on interesting aspects of each poster provided a lengthy discussion and explanation highlighting the differences between all of us as well as sharing best practice. Honing in on the theme of inclusion and diversity, this task did much to highlight how varied all of our experiences are and also how beneficial groups like Universitas 21 are in sharing and supporting each other.

A fair amount of time was devoted to reviewing and finalising our Network’s Constitution. Given the infancy of this particular Network under the wider Universitas 21 umbrella, this year’s meeting committed themselves to agreeing on what the vision and future for the Student Leaders Network should be. Our thanks goes to the members of the Network who then devoted their evenings to ensuring the entirety of the Constitution was fit for purpose. This foundation will in turn ensure that future meetings can run more smoothly and our future members can tackle the many issues and tough discussion points that lie in student leadership across the globe.

Overall the three days spent at UCONN were an incredible experience for all involved. From discussions to tours and dinners to dancing, we enjoyed fascinating discussions with new friends from across the globe, we engaged with key issues facing our universities at a student level and we hope to have laid the foundations for an ongoing successful Student Leaders Network that fits well with the overall Universitas 21 vision and goals.