Small blue cubes topped the tables of the HUB ballroom Thursday night.
On each side of the cube was a question. As students, faculty, and community members flooded the room, table captains greeted them. Throughout the night, these captains facilitated conversations about leadership using these cubes and other tools.
The “U Lead, We Lead” event drew approximately 300 people. In addition to the table groups, guests heard from key members of the community on what it means to be a leader.
“Who are you? Who are you becoming? Who do you want to be, and why is that what you want to become?” Rabbi Will Berkovitz, vice president for Repair the World, a Jewish organization advocating for global service, asked the audience.
The event was part of the Husky Leadership Initiative, which is an ongoing program to encourage leadership in the UW community. Lincoln Johnson, UW director of student activities and associate vice president for campus life, gathered a group of 28 community members last spring to spearhead the project.
Johnson said the goal is to bring the campus together to form conversations about leadership.
“A lot of good development is going on in terms of leadership but a lot of it is decentralized,” Johnson said.
Senior Evelyn Jensen, who helped organize and lead the event, said most of the leadership groups on campus have been a part of “U Lead, We Lead” and its creation. She said the wide range of people involved in the event helped add to the diversity of the conversations.
“We’re bringing in communities from all across UW. We have ASUW, we have RHSA, we have the Greek community, we have the [Ethnic Cultural Center] — just a lot of leadership groups,” Jensen said. “We have a really diverse group of people coming in and speaking about what their thoughts on leadership are.”
UW President Michael Young was one of many speakers at the event, telling students that one of the most important qualities of a leader is the ability to react to any situation. He said his life didn’t go exactly as he planned, but he learned a lot from his experiences.
“I know you all have your careers all planned out, but I can promise you that very little will go the way you planned it,” Young said. “And that’s going to be a wonderful thing. And what you learn, fundamentally, is how to deal with what life throws at you.”
He defined a good leader as someone who is able to take initiative and compel other people to do what is best for the community — and for the world. And he said that while academics are definitely a key part in becoming a good leader, other skills learned at the university level are more important.
“I realize you’re studying chemistry, political science, English, and dance and all these other things,” Young said. “But what’s important is the basic understanding that you’re going to get about how you can use those interpersonal skills that you develop to be thinking about how you can get people to do something that really matters in the world and make a difference.”
Sophomore Christina Xiao attended “U Lead, We Lead” as a volunteer, but she said she was still able to learn a lot from the conversations and the speakers.
“I think this was a really good idea; it’s a really interesting concept,” Xiao said. “I really liked what [Berkovitz] said about using your skills and your passions to meet the needs of society. I thought that was a really good message.”
Johnson said this is the first of many leadership events that will appear on campus this year.
“We want it to be an ongoing conversation,” Johnson said.