By Natalie Jones
University of Maryland campus leaders gathered for a conference Nov. 5 to discuss moral and ethical aspects of millennial leadership in the twenty-first century.
The conference, titled “Are Millennials Killing Leadership?” was hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA), Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) and Maryland Discourse.
The event was inspired by similar leadership conferences held by a student political group at Yale, according to Georgie Jones, a senior government and politics major and the president of Maryland Discourse.
Maryland Discourse, a non-partisan platform for the discussion and debate of politics, received money from the Pepsi Enhancement Fund last spring to form a conference, and SGA and ODK expressed interest in combining forces to hold a leadership event.
“Given [the last few years] in terms of the climate for leadership … we were trying to think of something that was relevant and we could also take into the future,” Jones said.
Jones explained that the group intended for the event to focus on moral and ethical leadership within different disciplines.
James Bond, the Assistant Director of Student Conduct in Academic Integrity at the university, engaged students in a discussion of what it means to be a millennial and a leader.
Bond discussed both sides of the question on whether or not millennials are killing leadership, saying that while millennials are more likely to attribute negative traits to themselves, they’re also changing the world and how it’s seen.
“You can’t paint the whole generation with a broad brush,” he said, speaking about how many of the defined millennial traits are not inclusive of people of color, people of lower socioeconomic status and immigrants.
However, Bond said he doesn’t think that millennials are killing leadership.
“It’s a crappy Sunday afternoon and you all are here talking about this,” he said. “I’ve got hope. I’m optimistic.”
Dr. Nina Harris, the associate dean of undergraduate studies at the university’s school of public policy, led an interactive session to help students determine their leadership styles and improve their communication.
Jason Campanella, a freshman physics major and president of the Origami Club, said Dr. Harris’ presentation simplified the reactions to different kinds of communication.
“I personally like to communicate well as a leader, and that really opened my eyes to the different ways to do it, and that one way is not going to work for everyone,” he said.
A panel of three instructors discussed insights on millennials and leadership. Dr. Jason Nichols, a lecturer in African American studies, Dr. Jordan Goodman, a professor and former chair of the physics department and Dr. Karol Soltan, a professor in government and politics, sat on the panel.
The panelists agreed that millennials are obligated to stand up for their future as leaders, citing past social movements led by young people as proof.
“The time to stand up is when you have the opportunity to do it,” said Dr. Goodman, referencing his experience with standing up to poor presidential leadership during the Vietnam War.
Dr. Soltan agreed and said millennials should reach across divided generational gaps to lead.
“Every generation should stand up,” he said.