On February 6, Student Life hosted the UTM Leadership Conference: Exploring the Power of Connections in the Innovation Complex rotunda. The conference featured workshops on social media, habits of successful people, crowdsourcing, a keynote speech by Hazel McCallion, and a panel, and ended with a networking session.

The Medium rounded up the highlights of the conference.

Social media

Kate McGartland, director of student support services at Pearson North America, gave a workshop on social media, and emphasized the importance of thinking of social media as a tool and social networking as an act of engagement useful in building and maintaining connections.

Using the example of photography, McGartland explained how Instagram and Facebook can act as a means to build a community of individuals with like interests, while also showcasing a photographer’s portfolio.

McGartland concluded the workshop by giving participants the acronym “THINK” to sum up her points: True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. She advised testing any potential social media content against the acronym before posting it.

Successful habits

Mira Max Sirotic opened her workshop by discussing how an individual’s personality is only the tip of the iceberg regarding their character. She explained that leadership is a ladder and the higher we climb, the worse our fall. In order for an individual to be successful as a leader, Sirotic explained they must build a solid foundation on their character.

Sirotic then shared some of the habits necessary for building a strong foundation, written by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

She explained that as individuals, we go from a state of dependence and enter a state of independence, where we are able to work on our own and become responsible for ourselves. In the interdependence state, individuals are able to work as a team.

Sirotic then shared the story of the farmer killing the goose that laid golden eggs to explain the importance of taking care of ourselves and our resources in order to accomplish our goals.

Sirotic also shared a story about a  high school science teacher who taught his class about time management. He brought a big bowl to class, and filled it with big rocks, then pebbles, gravel, sand, and finally water. Before adding each item, he asked the class, “Is my bowl full yet?”

The lesson of the demonstration was not that there’s always room for more in our schedule. It was that none of the other items would have fit if he hadn’t put the big rocks in first. In order to accomplish things as leaders, Sirotic explained that we needed to prioritize the big rocks.


Rahul Sethi, insights manager at Vividata and PWC lecturer at UTM, spoke about the importance of crowdsourcing as a means to create change and accomplish a goal. Sethi began by giving examples of crowdsourcing in history.

For example, in India today, scientists don’t have the resources to test water quality in all rural areas. They have since then provided people living in the rural areas with test kits and citizens in the towns can test the water themselves and then call in the results to labs.

Another example is how in 2015, Toni Morgan, a 32-year-old single mother, received an acceptance letter from Harvard. As she didn’t have the funds to pay for her graduate degree, she turned to crowdfunding to raise $71,000 to cover her tuition and housing costs.

Sethi explained that each successful use of crowdsourcing has a goal, a way of accomplishing that goal, a compelling story to create credibility and bring community in together, and a way to provide value to those contributing to goals.

Hazel McCallion

Hazel McCallion’s keynote speech at lunch reflected the themes explored in the workshops.

McCallion described her life growing up in the Depression and how she had to move away from home to finish her schooling.

“Adversity makes you a strong, independent person, but you need others to help you,” McCallion said, echoing Sirota’s workshop.

Her older sisters helped pay for her to finish school. When McCallion started working at a job that paid $12 a week, her landlady invited her to lunch with her so she could save buying one. McCallion said she made a point to save two dollars a week.

McCallion said that no one is born a leader and she herself had not dreamed of becoming mayor.  She had wanted to improve her community.

McCallion shared how failing is an important step on the path to success. In 1967, McCallion lost the election to be mayor. At the time, there were not many women in government. McCallion learned from her failure and for the next election, she crowdsourced and spoke to women about why having a woman for mayor would be good for the city.

At the end of her speech, McCallion signed copies of her book, Hurricane Hazel, which the first 100 participants had received.

After the book signing, the conference continued with a panel including Morgan Wyatt (CEO of Autom River Inc.), Zarqa Nawaz (filmmaker of Little Mosque on the Prairie), and Samer Yordi Souki (a current MscSM student at UTM who has previously worked in the British embassy in Venezuela). The panel was followed by a networking reception.

This article has been corrected.
  1. February 23, 2016 at 5 p.m.: The photo was incorrectly credited to Olivia Adamczyk.
    Notice to be printed on February 29, 2016 (Volume 42, Issue 19).

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