My Experience at NCCWSL 2018: National Conference for College Women Student Leaders

Tarana Burke talking to a large crowd of women student leaders (via NCCWSL)

My trip to College Park, Maryland was the first time I have ever ventured out of state completely on my own. To be completely honest, my parents were fearful to let me go on my own. However, I felt almost liberated doing so as their reason for not allowing me to leave was because “I am a girl, and it could be unsafe without a male escort or group of friends.” This is the reasoning they tend to give me for a number of things I wish to go out and do on my own. This is the unfortunate “cultural standard for the amount of freedom a woman should have.” Call me a progressive, but this was one of the main reasons I was excited to attend this conference. To be surrounded by like-minded college women student leaders from all over the country and different socioeconomic backgrounds, to learn from successful women in their careers during workshops and panels, and to just get inspired. Long story short, this conference did so much more for me than just that, it completely succeeded all expectations I could have ever imagined.

Image via AAUW NCCWSL

Every single workshop and panel I attended was absolutely mind-blowing, I learned so much in such short periods of time. If I were to pick a favorite workshop, it would probably be “Pitch Perfect: Personal Branding, Body Language, and Executive Presence, presented by IE Business School and University” presented by Dr. Amber Wigmore Alvarez. It was an amazing interactive session where I learned how to effectively deliver an “elevator pitch” which is super important step to advancing in your career, networking, and personal branding. I learned how much of an effect simple things like the gestures you use and the tone of your voice has such an immense impact on the impression you give to the person you are speaking to, and how important it is to have a unique image to differentiate yourself from other candidates at a job fair, interview, or anywhere you are for upward mobility within any organization. When I attended the Graduate and Career Fair later that afternoon, I was able to implement these newly learned skills almost immediately with many of the representatives of Graduate Schools from all over the country. After watching Dr. Alvarez speak, I could not stop envisioning myself in her shoes one day. I want to someday achieve that level of success, confidence, and style (my goodness is she classy, I love it!) I saw a lot of myself in her. The passion for teaching, mentorship, bringing out the potential in students they may not realize they have. Hard work, determination, and dedication.

My reflection of this conference would not be complete without mentioning my favorite speaker, the 2018 NCCWSL keynote speaker, Ms. Tarana Burke and her #metoo movement. She spoke so eloquently without a written speech (because she “doesn’t do speeches,” can this conference get any more phenomenal?), describing everything from how the movement began from when she worked at a youth camp in Alabama for Just Be Inc., and how a young 13 year old girl began to open up to Burke about the sexual abuse she had survived. This is what started what would become a lasting movement for sexual harassment and assault among all women regardless of race, profession, or socioeconomic status. Burke inspired all of us young women in the audience by mentioning that we all have a way to contribute to not this important cause, but every and any kind of social movement.

There is obviously sooo much more I could talk about, but there are not enough pens and paper in the world to write and express how much I loved this conference and all the valuable lessons I have learned from it. If I am given the opportunity to be involved with this conference again, I would say YES without a second thought, no question about it. The environment and all of the women I met at NCCWSL were so friendly and inspiring, which truly made my overall conference experience so enlightening, and most of all, immensely empowering.

I am a huge fan of collecting quotes (I get this from my mother), so here are some of my favorite quotes I wrote down during the NCCWSL conference:

“Think of your life in chapters, not a full story” -Graduate School and Beyond

“There is power in knowing that you are not alone.” -Tarana Burke

“The best art is political and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.” -Toni Morrison

“Silence today, but bold action tomorrow.”

“We can change the world, but only if we organize.”

“You need the community, and we need you.”

“In whatever I do in my career, I always tend to go back to take care of the most vulnerable… Empathy helps you become your best self.” — Vlora Çitaku