Emerging Leaders Summit speaker energizes attendees to find their 'why'

February 14, 2017
Emerging Leaders Summit speaker energizes attendees to find their 'why'


When the keynote speaker at the leadership conference you’re attending dances his way on stage to a Bruno Mars song, encourages the audience to sing along and gets everyone singing and dancing in their seats, you know the presentation likely won’t be boring at all.

Justin Jones-Fosu visited Oxford College to speak to students participating in the Emerging Leaders Summit (ELS) on Saturday, February 11. He brought his high-energy and engaging presentation style along with relevant campus and life applications to address this year’s overall theme “More Action, Less Title.” He told the group to be ready for an afternoon of amazing energy combined with practical content that they could use right after they walked out of Williams Hall—and he certainly stayed true to his word. 

The conference was coordinated by Student Involvement and Leadership Director Rhiannon Hubert and Assistant Directors Dorothy Charles, Ricardo Horne, and Veronica Roman. These staff understand the current Oxford culture of student leadership and the challenges students face as they navigate leadership opportunities as an undergraduate at a liberal arts institution.

Now in its sixth year, this free conference for first- and second-year students offers leadership skills development in a familiar environment by bringing presenters and a keynote speaker to campus. After registration and a welcome from Dean Doug Hicks in the morning, participants attended two breakout sessions of their choice. They had a lunch break in the dining hall prior to gathering as a group for the keynote presentation from 1:15 p.m. until the conference wrapped up around 3 p.m.

“The theme ‘More Action, Less Title’ aims to reframe students' involvements to help them identify the ‘why’ of their motivations for engaging both in and out of the classroom,” Roman says. “Our office has aimed to promote the ‘depth, not breadth’ notion of involvement, encouraging students to get deeply, intentionally involved as opposed to spreading themselves thin throughout an abundance of co-curriculars.”

Organizers chose the perfect keynote presenter to align with their chosen theme. Jones-Fosu encouraged students to have what he called a confident humility in thinking about “what is your why?” when looking at their intent and motivation for leadership roles and participating in campus activities. He challenged them to go against the herd mentality to simply join in what is popular but rather to be mindful of choosing activities and leadership roles that are congruent with their personal values and intentions.

Part of making those types of decisions is putting some work ahead of time to have “clarity of your why, connection to your why, and consistency with your why,” says Jones-Fosu. He reminded students these skills wouldn’t just be used at Oxford, but would impact the journey for the rest of their life.

The breakout sessions, facilitated by staff from Oxford College and other institutions, featured topics including:

  • personal brand building—regarding social media platforms and integrating values into your online presence;
  • conflict styles;
  • leadership styles and effective strategies for working with people who have varied leadership styles;
  • leading with heart—the Leadership Challenges practice of Encourage the Heart;
  • decision making and values in situations with peers and other leaders who aren’t making good choices;
  • verbal microaggressions;
  • and a session based on leadership philosophies seen in characters from Harry Potter novels.

The conference is open to all students at no charge and participation is not tied to present level of involvement on campus. “That’s a point of pride for our office because it means we are able to provide leadership education opportunities for students that may not necessarily be in a ‘high profile’ leadership position,” Roman says.

Oxford College and the Emerging Leaders Summit extend a special thank you to Ian M. Gilbert 88Ox 90C. A generous gift from Gilbert allowed ELS organizers to host keynote speaker Justin Jones-Fosu for the conference. We are grateful for Gilbert’s continued support of the Oxford community and leadership initiatives on campus.

Visit here for more information about the Emerging Leaders Summit, breakout sessions, and keynote speaker Justin Jones-Fosu.