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Sheridan inspires students to ignite their leadership

Newsroom authorby Jill ScarrowMar 18, 2021

Ignite ConferenceAt Sheridan, students are continuing to embrace new ways to enrich their learning, even in a world that’s gone remote. On March 4, more than 250 students gathered virtually for the Ignite Leadership conference, proudly supported by RBC Future Launch and the Sheridan Student Union. Students spent the day thinking about how they can play a central part in creating a better future, hearing from alumni and keynote speakers who encouraged them to tap into their leadership potential.

The need to focus on leadership at this year’s conference is underscored by the fact that resiliency, agility and leadership skills will be essential for students to rely on as they navigate a future marked by unpredictability.

Sheridan’s President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Janet Morrison opened the conference by reminding all students that they are leaders. She said it’s important for students to explore ways they can grow as leaders, and reiterated Sheridan’s commitment to helping them to develop their potential.

“I want to thank RBC Future Launch for the support to create this exceptional conference. Developing leadership is a process that requires understanding, practice and reflection. Conferences like Ignite give students the chance to realize that potential.”

“It’s clear that the future of work is changing, so students need the confidence and skills to navigate the current environment. The Ignite Leadership conference provided them with a distinctive opportunity to learn how to become career ready,” said Tom Parisi, Regional Vice President Mississauga, RBC. “At RBC, helping youth and students prosper is a commitment we take seriously, so we were thrilled to be a part of this inspirational conference.”

Keynote speaker Orlando Bowen emphasized the message that youth can harness their ability to lead to overcome adversity and find compassion. Ten years ago, Bowen was a CFL player who suffered an unprovoked attack by police. After lengthy court proceedings to clear his name, he told the students how he found forgiveness. He now devotes support to young people through his organization, One Voice, One Team Youth Leadership, and he speaks out to let youth know they can create change.

“It’s not easy to make a difference,” he said. “It’s easier to say on the sidelines than to get in the game. But if you get in the game, you can be exposed to new things.”

Students also had the chance to hear about the ways Sheridan alumni use their careers to create real, sustained change. Al Ramsay (Marketing ’97), is the Associate Vice President, Sales and Strategy and Head LGBTQ2+ Business Development at TD Wealth.

During a conversation with Dr. Cherie Werhun, Sheridan’s Strategic Lead for the S-Factor Framework, Ramsay described how Sheridan helped him shape his leadership skills. Originally from Jamaica, Ramsay moved to Canada in 1994 to start a new life and complete his education. He recalled arriving in a new country with an accent and worried that others would flag him as different. But he reflected on how Sheridan helped him overcome those challenges, saying: “my Sheridan experience helped me feel whole.”

He also encouraged students to be truly inclusive leaders who fully accept everyone’s path to success, and recognize not everyone’s path is a straightforward journey. And he reminded students to spend the time developing those soft skills in leadership, because those are what will fuel their future success.

Students also heard how they can harness their talents to give back to their communities. Keith Jones (Graphic Design ’01) described how he took his journey from the corporate world to create good.

After spending 15 years of his marketing career working with some of Canada’s biggest brands, including telecom companies and pro-sports teams, he began searching for a way to give back to his community. Along the way, he realized that what truly motivated his work was the ability to support non-profits who need support to build their brand and get their voice into the world, but who lack the resources to invest in widespread marketing and communications.

That’s why Jones created the &Good Company, which focuses exclusively on providing design services to non-profits, and he launched BrandVan – a converted delivery truck that has travelled nearly 20,000 kilometres across Canada, stopping in every province and territory where a charitable organization was looking for help to bolster their brand presence.

Breakout sessions later in the day gave students the chance to delve deeper into specific soft skills leaders need. That included emotional intelligence, mental health, the importance of kindness and empathy, and learning ways to effectively build their personal brand.

Students also had the chance to take part in virtual networking events, and heard from The LinkedIn Guys who provided tips on harnessing the power of the platform for job searching. The conference was also peppered with opportunities to network and have fun – including performances by RBCxMusic artists: Mississauga native Shanaaz and CZN – a trio of Sheridan Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance students.

“Having the chance to organize this conference and connect with so many alumni was an amazing learning experience,” says Gaby Moryoussef, the Sheridan Student Union Vice President for Hazel McCallion Campus and the host of the day’s events. “It was a great way to see how we can create change for the better, both as students and in our careers for years to come.”

Words of inspiration. Conference speakers left students with tokens of wisdom to get them inspired for their careers:

  • “When you shift your perspective, you see a different way. There are so many pathways forward, but if you just turn your head a little bit, you might find the right one for you.” – Keith Jones, Founder &Good Company, (Graphic Design ’01),
  • “While you’re going through school right now, do your best to get as much knowledge as possible. Do your homework, your technical expertise will get you in the door. What will get you into a leadership position are the soft skills. It’s you being an inclusive leader, it’s you understanding how to impact and influence people.” – Al Ramsay (Marketing ’97), Associate Vice President, Sales and Strategy and Head LGBTQ2+ Business Development at TD Wealth
  • “While you’re early in your journeys, trust, and know, that you’re not done. There’s opportunity to keep learning and growing.” -Lori Stephenson (Adult Education ’11), Speaker, Coach and Facilitator on Emotional Intelligence
  • “Your purpose in life is to add value to humanity. Your purpose is service. The question is what are you passionate about, what makes you come alive?... Whatever you choose, make sure that activity brings you joy. If you’re not feeling joy, whatever you’re doing is not something you’re meant to be doing.” -Aanchal Vash, (Digital Communications ’13) Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Reach out Together
  • “We have to create opportunities in life to be kind. When you can recognize that people need help, that people need kindness, that people need to know that they matter, that’s when your world will elevate to the next level.” -Gaby Mammone (Retail Management ’95), Founder, Kind Projects
  • “If you can share those vulnerable moments, where you stepped up and you shared those stories when you were brave … when there’s adversity and you persevered through it, that’s what’s going to inspire you and that’s what’s going to get you to the next level.” -Hayley Daniels, RBC Olympian, Canoe-Kayak
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