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CSUnity: A Quest for Student Leaders With Candy Noriega

Being in the U-SU Board of Directors at CSULA, it was a pleasure to attend CSUnity hosted by California State University, San Marcos. The purpose of CSUnity, “is to connect student leaders from across 23 California State University campuses and provide training that allows them to set and achieve their goals for the coming year”. Although many students went for business and enrichment for their respective positions there were also fun times present at the event, many connections and friendships were made over these few days.

Candy Noriega(on the right) with a friend

Thursday, August 11 – Arriving on the 11th, we headed to the Welcome Celebration located at the rooftop of San Marcos’ USU building, the host for this year’s CSUnity. It had a wonderful view! The Welcome Celebration was done to get to know individuals from other campuses before the conference began the following day, it also served as a way to network. I met student leaders from Dominguez Hills, Northridge, Stanislaus, Fullerton, Long Beach, Chico and San Marcos. It was an amazing feeling to get to know so many people. Some of them it was their first time being involved on their campus, while others had been involved for some time and just wanted to help the next wave of student leaders. I was also quite ecstatic when I met some that were in their campuses Greek community, whether they were in local organizations or NPC’s (National Panhellenic Conference) and IFC’s (Inter-Fraternity Council).

Friday, August 12 – It was time to get down to business! After the Welcome & Keynote we all split up to all kinds of workshops, I chose Leading with Mindfulness. We were told to close our eyes and empty our minds, to focus on our breathing until that is all you hear and feel. The presenter began to give us a small set of instructions. “Think of a person you love very dearly, and visualize only them”. From there we were told a series of things pertaining to both the individual we thought about and ourselves. “This person has felt pain just like you”, “This person yearns to be loved just like you”, “This person is human just like you”, as the statements continued I couldn’t help but feel sad and I received this flood of understanding about what she was trying to prove. Then she continued by telling us to now think of someone we found annoying or disliked, not hated. I found it to be more difficult to try to relate to this person that I disliked, I thought of the statements, but kept thinking up responses to why it was still unacceptable for what that specific person did, but even then I was able to receive some clarity and understanding on how being a leader should truly be like.

My next workshop was Love Your Role, which was done by the ASI president of Dominguez Hills. It spoke about embracing your position and being able to fully understand what it is your position is there for, not just what you are there to do. It was stated that to fully succeed you must understand the mission of your organization, it beliefs and core values, as well as its purpose. Embracing not just your own goals and aspirations in the organization, but also those of your other colleagues and working as a team to accomplish similar goals. Five things that could be taken away from this workshop were:

  1. Know your why.

  2. There is no one type of leader or perfect leader.

  3. Great leaders also know how to follow.

  4. We are still learning no matter the age.

  5. The thoughts you have of others may be a reflection of their thoughts on you.

Afterwards there were smaller sessions set up that were led by student leaders at San Marcos to gain a better insight on certain campus problems. The session I chose was Student Engagement. CSU’s represented in this session were Fullerton, San Jose, Humboldt, Bakersfield, Cal Poly Pomona, Dominguez Hills, Chico, Northridge, Long Beach, San Diego, Channel Islands, Maritime, Sonoma, San Marcos, and of course, Los Angeles. Solutions that were brought up were providing an incentive like food or prizes, it was also brought up that not all CSU’s had a “dead hour” like most campuses and so those that saw it seemed to benefit the other campuses took down the information to suggest it for the coming year. Suggestions, ideas, and current attempts kept circling around the room; things that helped, things that didn’t, things that should be avoided, and the possible repercussions of certain events. As the session grew to a close many approached other campuses for more ideas or elaboration on those that were mentioned. I was approached and asking about our most successful events Mardi Gras, Moonlight Dinner and our recent student elections event. It was exciting to discuss with others what could help out their campus and being reached out to as a reference.

What followed was a string of fun and laughter with some of the other members of the U-SU board of directors, whom have grown to become my close friends. Then finally Day 2 of our trip came to a close.

Saturday, August 13 – As CSUnity continued we had more workshops that continued to enrich our experience. The one I chose was Everyone’s a Risk Manager! It explained that when it comes to throwing events or anything at all you can’t completely eliminate all possible risks, so as the presenter stated that one must engage in risk responsibly. Safety must be of the utmost priority and reputation is always a risk category.

As a member of the U-SU board of directors, we have a Chair and Vice Chair, none have been voted on yet. We also have members who are Chair’s for certain commitees. So we all attended the session for Chairs to see what our responsibilities would look like and figure out how we’d deal with problems if they may arise.    In the session it was mentioned to make sure we’re fully versed in Robert’s Rules of Order and Parliamentary Procedure, to hold practice runs if necessary, and learn the mission of the board and commitees. There were many other tips that were given to us by experienced Chairs, but what I really liked the most was that there were plenty people that were still new and those whom had experience patiently answered all the questions that were asked even if some had similar answers to previously answered questions. It was an enlightening moment as their knowledge was passed down to the next wave of leaders, as they were getting ready to move into the next stage of their life.

Finally, it was time for the last workshop of CSUnity. I had chosen to go to Why Pizza is Sexy: Understanding the Bias in Leadership. Before I move on, I want to make sure that you can understand that is what the title for the workshop was, not kidding you. The presenter, Brandon Tsubaki, is a hilarious and funny person; his presentation is one that I will not easily forget. He was blunt and got straight to the point with things, even the PowerPoint of his introduction was witty. He used colors, images, and words to help us distinguish the bias we all have internally built and the exercises he used to demonstrate it to us was clever and illuminating. He shed light that although we may think of “unbiased” decisions in situations that require them, we are all in no means unbiased. It is not possible to separate yourself from your personal experiences and so we are unable to become unbiased individuals. He ended the workshop with an explanation on why he had chosen to title his presentation as such, and his response to his own title was, “Why not? Why can’t it be sexy, if it’s all about individual perceptions”.

And on that note CSUnity ended. We exchanged cards, emails, numbers, etc. with everyone we grew a connection or friendship, hugged our last goodbyes and took our last pictures. I can happily say that it was an experience I wouldn’t change in the slightest. I made good friends and grew more as a person. I even grew closer to the people I’ll be serving with on the U-SU BOD this school year, we experienced many firsts together like our first time at SkyZone, Noodles & Company, other food places I can’t remember the names of. It was an experience I’m thankful for. I learned many things that don’t just apply to student government but that I can also use and apply for the future.

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Candy Noriega

Cal State LA

Candy Noriega is a 4th year at Cal State LA majoring in Criminal Justice and Sociology with a minor in Psychology. She is a student member for the U-SU Board of Directors and an Associate Justice for the Associate Students, Incorporated. She spends most of her time on campus studying and volunteering,you are sure to see her at campus events! When not on campus, she spends time at home with her little lovable son, rereading her favorite novels, reading or writing poetry, and watching her favorite crime shows, Bones and Criminal Minds. She loves to try new foods and you'll always be able to find her around it, too! She enjoys all types of music from Heavy Metal to EDM to Classical. See what she's up to on Instagram @sugardoll013
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