Choose Well, Not All (Sixteen Lessons from the 2013 UBC SLC)

Festival at the Gedung Sate, Bandung

Festival at the Gedung Sate, Bandung (Indonesia)

One of my favourite conferences, the UBC Student Leadership Conference is an event that continues to grow and improve with every year. I’ve attended multiple times, and each time the conference has been an opening to an increased understanding of myself and the kind of work that I feel passionate about.  After two years in Toronto, this year I was blessed to attend once more, and this year was perhaps was my most meaningful SLC yet. From the rich lunchtime conversations, to the interesting case studies, and the palpable emotion in the room during the Closing Keynote, all of it left an imprint on my heart. This post has been in my draft folder since the conference, (apologies for the delay in posting!), but in no particular order, here are some of the lessons/quotes I took away this year.

1) Being exceptional is about overcoming complacency. It’s about doing the things that others are too busy, too important to do.~Alden Habacon, Featured Presenter

2) I took part in the SLC Case Studies session this year as an alumni participant, and the experience was a lesson that case studies facilitate deep learning. During the session we were given a description of a real project under development at UBC, a series of questions to guide our thinking and then a few hours later presented our findings/solutions to a panel of people involved in the actual project. They listened, gave feedback and asked us follow-up questions after we presented. Instead of simply consuming information about a topic, we were asked to think critically. The experience was a reminder that learning and transformation is about meaningful conversations. Instead of simply taking in information, for ideas to stick you have to interact with what you hear, digest it, reflect on it, and experiment with implementation. In the future, whether I find myself planning a conference, a course or a retreat, I want to embed a case study learning method into the design of the learning experience.

3) You are an ambassador for the causes that you represent.

Every time I’ve been at the SLC, the volunteers stand out. They are consistently professional, helpful, friendly and excited. They radiate energy and enthusiasm and are keen to serve. Without saying anything, but simply through their state, they tell you how getting involved in the conference has impacted them. Extrapolating that lesson, the volunteers were a reminder that whenever we get involved in something, if it is good, the traces of that goodness should be visible from us.

4)  I spent a magical lunchtime during the SLC this year with friends I hadn’t seen for several months (years in some cases!) speaking about learning goals, and the challenges of finding your way post graduation. Our rich conversation was a reminder that assistance and advice can only come when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and open up on what it is you find challenging. When you’re honest and authentic about being confused. Once you share, you give others permission to do the same, and in that mutual sharing, there is strength, hope and advice to be gained.

5) A great deal of karma, good luck and blessings required for success.~Alden Habacon, Featured Presenter

6) You remember the moments when you ask God to rescue you. ~Alden Habacon, Featured Presenter.

7) Never take advice from someone who doesn’t have what you want. ~Alden Habacon, Featured Presenter

8)Bureaucracies foster environment of scarcity. You need to foster an abundance mentality and see the world through a lens of abundance. ~Alden Habacon, Featured Presenter

9) Do work that would be meaningful to you if you had two years to live. ~Alden Habacon, Featured Presenter

10) I learnt to have patience with myself and world. Because there is hope, but it comes on a different schedule than yours. ~Closing Keynote

11) Each difficult moment has made me the person that I am today. If you can make it through the darkness, will be transformed. Will be closer to the person supposed to be, and closer to doing the work only you are supposed to do. We grow through struggles and pain. We all have gifts. We need to share our gifts. ~Closing Keynote

12) Please live. Life is amazing. When I was struggling with thoughts of suicide, what kept me going was the thought that nothing is forever. ~Audience Participant, Closing Keynote.

13) You are in not even the 1%, at this institution, you’re in the less than 1% of high achievers. You don’t feel like that because you’ve always surrounded yourself with the same sort of people, and so you think you’re just average. No. ~Closing Keynote.

14) Make the time to fulfill your dreams. Wake up at 5 and write every day to finish that novel. ~Closing Keynote.

15) Tolerating Diversity is Not Enough

Whenever I go to a conference, I am used to sadly going over to the table where the vegetarian options are laid out, and hoping that the sandwiches present are somewhat interesting. Not so at this year’s SLC. There were several vegetarian options available. It wasn’t a reluctant accommodation or tolerance of diversity, it was a celebration of different eating choices. It was a refreshing change to experience a conference where a recognition of diversity was embedded within its design and planning process. It’s rare for me to have that experience; whether it is food, finding prayer space, or finding social space that is not alcohol centric, most of the time, I’m used to having to explain and request accommodation.

16) Choose well, not all. ~Faces of SLC

There Has To Be More to Our Research Than A Helping Narrative

“Research reflexivity refers to researcher’s awareness of the self in the research process. But has to be more than that one line in your paper where you identify your identities. It is important to think about where you want to travel and what your trajectory will be. Your positionality. Ask yourself: why do you want to study that? What is it in your heart that brings you to that? There has to be more to our research than a helping narrative. This requires doing work on yourself, which can be scary, but ask yourself: what do I want as a person? What is the journey I want to be on? And don’t let your research end. Disseminate what you learn.”

~ Benita Benjun, Nov 1st 2012, Innovative Methodologies in Bridging Theory and Practice/Policy on Community-based Research UBC.

I have a serious crush on SCARP

It’s a snowy day, and I’m huddled in bed writing a term paper about planning education. As part of my research, I went to the website of the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC, and I think I’ve just developed a crush on the school. It seems like a place that takes social planning and policy seriously, and the courses look amazing. They have a specialization in social planning, another specialization in comparative planning (ie-planning in other cities and the Global South,  studio courses for social planners, multimedia courses, and their theory course is taught by Leonie Sandercock!

The question is, why isn’t social planning emphasized as strongly at planning schools/discussions in Ontario?  The Ontario Professional Planning Institute defines planning as the “scientific, aesthetic and orderly disposition of land resources, facilities and services within a view of securing the physical, economic and social efficiency and well being of urban and rural communities”, but planning, (at least in the way it’s approached at UBC and according to other practitioners I’ve met this year) seems to be a lot more than that.