On-Campus Conference Expands, Full of Opportunities

On Friday, April 9, this year's Inclusive Leadership Conference hosted over 100 students from Stockton and area high schools and colleges.

Galloway, N.J. – “You see, the reality is that for as long as I can remember, I believed and thought that I was born to lose.”

As the keynote speaker for the April 5 Inclusive Leadership Conference walked across the stage, students in the Campus Center Theatre gazed at the man and the photo of his family projected on the screen behind him. The man – Ismail Amir – talked about how he was orphaned at age 11 and how the tragedies he experienced made him take life as it came and strive only for the family behind him.

However, Amir knew that his purpose included more, and he founded iAM Legend, LLC, where he conducts workshops and trainings that encourage students to take life by the reins and become active participants in their life journeys. According to Amir, taking control of his life meant first taking control of his mind. 

He compared his mind to a bucket of water and negative thoughts to drops of black food coloring. Even a drop of the dye “corrupted” the bucket, turning translucent water into a murky brown – demonstrating the impact of negative thoughts.

The conference included a keynote speech by Ismail Amir of iAM Legend, LLC

A faculty panel on social justice in higher education

Students attending a breakout session

Students attending a breakout session

Students attending a breakout session

Students attending a breakout session

Mo Keane won the Inclusive Student of the Year Award

Dr. Christopher Catching won the Inclusive Staff/Faculty Award

“I never in a million years would have imagined or dreamed that I would have the opportunity to be a CEO or to run my own business,” Amir said, picking up a full pitcher of water. “You see, what has to happen in our lives in order for us to become CEOs is we have to find a way to begin to wash out these negative thoughts.”

As he poured the entire pitcher into the bucket, students were shocked to see how much water it took for the bucket to become translucent again. He encouraged students to consider ways to flush out negativity in their thoughts and reach their fullest potential.

“You were not born to be average. You were born to be different. You were born… to be legendary,” Amir told the audience of about 170 students.

Amir’s advice resonated with students Jasmine Burdett and Darshana Choksi. 

Inclusive Leadership Conference Awards Ceremony

  • Yolanda “JoJo” Pacheco Award – Yesenia Pacheco, coordinator for Student Transition, Access and Retention
  • Inclusive Staff/Faculty Leader of the Year – Christopher Catching, vice president of Student Affairs
  • Inclusive Organization of the Year – Queer/Trans People of Color Society
  • Inclusive Student of the Year – Mo Keane

“My favorite piece of advice was understanding that I am my own CEO and that I can control my own life and trajectory,” Burdett, from Cherry Hill, said. “A lot of negativity and boulders get thrown at you, so it was nice to learn that I can change my perspective and that that can actually change the trajectory of my life, especially by going to college. I had never seen myself as going to college like this was never my end goal, but here I am.”

“I like the part where he said to operate in your giftings because they're really pretty much placed inside of you, and you just need to talk to other people to find yours,” Choksi of Galloway said. “Really finding your own voice, motivating yourself and really getting involved that way is important, and it can be hard, obviously, so it's great that he brought the confidence out of everybody and really opened up that inner voice for us.” 

The conference – created, organized and run by interns in the Cultural Engagement Ospreys program – featured a packed schedule of events and programs centered on diversity, equity and inclusion.

This included musical performances, a panel discussion on social justice in higher education with faculty, breakout sessions on topics such as mindfulness, communication and career readiness led by students and staff, and an interactive lunch where student organizations and offices encouraged students to get involved on campus. The conference concluded with an awards ceremony that honored students, faculty and staff committed to creating inclusive environments on campus. 

Students from area high schools and colleges also attended the event. Tyler Parliament, a Psychology major from Middlesex Community College, was pleasantly surprised at the size and scope of the conference. 

External Institutions

  • Middlesex Community College
  • Rutgers University - Camden's Future Scholars
  • Rowan University's CHAMP Program
  • Deptford High School
  • Eastern Regional High School
  • Atlantic City High School
  • Cedar Creek High School
  • Princeton High School

“My favorite part would have to be just how diverse it is here today and how everyone has been included. It's really empowering, and I'm really excited to actually learn more as a first-generation college student,” Parliament said.

Stockton students said they hope to see more events like this in the future. Luckily for them, it has been confirmed that the next Inclusive Leadership Conference has been scheduled for Friday, April 4, 2025, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

“I came last year and really enjoyed it, so this year, I just wanted to volunteer,” My'Air Henry, a Mathematics major from Walden, said. “My favorite part has been just interacting with the staff, getting to know people and seeing how they set up this wonderful event.”

“It's been very fun and it’s nice to see how many people are interested in this and in learning from the CEOs who have been working all year to make this conference. I'm also really excited about the different breakout sessions that they have, like ‘The Power of Delegating’ and the ‘International and Abroad Leadership,’” Carlos Barralaga of Galloway said.

Ana Edmondson, assistant vice president for Student Transition, Access and Retention (STAR) and visionary behind the CEO program, said that she was “overjoyed” by the work that the interns and Yesenia Pacheco, coordinator of STAR, executed in creating this experience for attendees. She also acknowledged her gratefulness for the program’s new partnerships with the Political Science program (which offered credits for the internship for selected students) and with the Dean of Students office and their Residential Scholars program.

“One major takeaway that I hope participants gained after attending the conference is that we are a community that cares about fostering inclusion and a sense of belonging while preparing students to be agents of change in their professional spaces,” Edmondson said.

CEO interns cheering
The Cultural Engagement Osprey interns celebrated the success of the conference with each other.

Inaugural Conference Demonstrates Strength of Student Leaders

April 18, 2023 

The CEO interns surrounding Ana Edmondson, interim assistant vice president for Student Transition Access and Retention, during the inaugural Inclusive Leadership Conference on April 14.
The CEO interns surrounding Ana Edmondson, interim assistant vice president for Student Transition Access and Retention, during the inaugural Inclusive Leadership Conference on April 14.

Galloway, N.J. — The first cohort of the Cultural Engagement Ospreys (CEO) interns held the inaugural Inclusive Leadership Conference on April 14 in the Campus Center.

The conference included live music, free sessions on thrifting and headshots, an interactive fair about the art of origami, henna and gaming, and other educational sessions throughout the day. In addition, the conference included two keynote speakers who are also Educational Opportunity Fund alumni — Anyelis Cordero, CEO of Propel on Purpose Coaching, and Akeem Lloyd, CEO of A Leadership Journey. 

The conference also provided students from Ocean County College, Rowan College of Burlington County and Hudson Community College an opportunity to check out Stockton University and the programs/initiatives that are offered here on campus. 

Ana Edmondson, interim assistant vice president of Student Transition Access and Retention, supported the students in organizing the conference, which she said has prepared them for the world after graduation by developing their National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) career competencies.

“The conference schedule has been organized in such a way to be dynamic, immersive, interactive and entertaining to excite students to learn more about this crucial topic on diversity and inclusion and educate the attendees on the value of becoming inclusive leaders,” Edmondson said. “The CEO Interns are strengthening their skills in communication, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, leadership, professionalism, teamwork and technology.” 

– Story by Loukaia Taylor

– Photos by Susan Allen