By: Bryan Fonville, External Vice President
WACO, Texas--On Friday, March 28, seven members of the Baylor student government traveled to Austin for a weekend leadership conference focusing on faith and values. The 2nd Annual Texas Student Leadership Forum brought together more than 50 student leaders from various universities across the state of Texas.
"This conference provided great opportunities to meet student leaders from around the state, to discuss common issues, and to build relationships based on common experiences and shared values," said EVP Chief of Staff Chelsea Saylors.
The weekend's events and activities focused on a myriad of leadership topics, most notably including the importance of service, relationships, and vision.
The conference opened with a dinner banquet at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Vaulted over the museum's lobby, former Texas Speaker of the House Pete Laney addressed the student leaders, challenging them to exercise their right to vote and to live lives characterized by service.
The conference then moved to the floor of the Texas House of Representatives chamber, where students heard from Texas Rep. John Davis and Rep. John Farabee. While representing different political parties, Davis and Farabee attributed much of their success to their friendship across the political aisle. The two representatives challenged the students to seek excellence in every endeavor.
"You lead in everything you do," said Farabee. "People are watching and they are listening. You lead by word, and you lead by deed."
After a series of question and answer, student leaders split into small groups. According to conference organizer Trent McKnight, the small group discussions are the heart and soul of the forum.
In small group sessions, student leaders discussed issues pertinent to leadership development and reflected on the various speakers and events.
"Through the small group, I was able to meet so many interesting people and learn from their perspectives," said Sophomore Class President Jordan Hannah. "It was a great reminder of how leadership is not about me, but about those I'm leading."
Conference attendees also participated in an afternoon service project that exposed student leaders to several areas of the Austin community. Groups divided resources among the selected projects, with one group clearing brush undergrowth on a public mountain-biking trail, one group gardening the outside flowerbeds of a homeless shelter, and yet another cleaning the inside of a church building.
"The afternoon of service showed me that I should do my best at a project or activity in order to help in the largest way possible, not for self-recognition," said Hannah, who helped with the gardening project.
Following the service project, small groups traveled to dinner. A unique aspect of the forum, students enjoy dinner inside the family home of Austin natives. Once there, group facilitators led a discussion that centered on establishing a vision and purpose for one's leadership.
Sunday morning opened with an inspiring address from Bobby Tucker, who serves as director of education for the Global Cold Chain Alliance. With extensive career experience ranging from business to ministry to education, Tucker recalled the Texas A&M bonfire accident, which happened during his tenure with the university.
Tucker encouraged students to live a life of service and to live lives that reflect their faith in Jesus Christ.
The conference concluded with a final small group discussion where student leaders reflected on the weekend's events and exchanged contact information.
According to Freshman Student Senator Michael Wright, the forum exceeded expectations.
"I didn't expect to learn nearly as much as I did," said Wright. "In our small groups, we discussed the leadership of Jesus Christ, who led by service, humility and reconciliation. It was almost opposite of what many people teach these days."
Wright plans to continue the relationships he developed at the weekend forum.
"I plan on staying in touch with my small group and facilitator, as we became close in the little time that we were together," Wright said. "I learned so much from the other members of the group, and we hope to remain in contact via e-mail."