Student leaders enhance their abilities, mindset during conference



Matthie (left) encouraged student leaders to re ect on their leadership experience and work to actively solve the problems they face in their clubs.

Krystal Ortiz, News Editor

The Student Leadership and Diversity Conference, an event designed to enrich student leaders, took place in the Murphy Auditorium on Feb. 21.

The conference was coordinated by Dr. Melissa Aponte, the director of the Office of Student Development.

Aponte described the conference as a “collaborative effort.” Both the Division of Student Life and the Student Life Diversity Committee worked hand in hand to provide feedback on what should be included in the conference and how it would convey the theme of 50 Years of Women at Iona.

The conference focused on leadership and diversity. The purpose of the conference was to engage student leaders and give them the opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills.

“The purpose of doing so is to continually help our students build their leadership skills, allow them the space to network with one another and reflect on the importance that diversity and inclusion play in their leadership roles as well as for the college as a whole,” Aponte said.

Aponte also explained that the theme of leadership and diversity stems from the values of the Division of Student Life, which is why the conference was held.

“The division values continual learning and development of its student leaders, and this is just one of many training opportunities that it provides for its student leaders,” Aponte said.

The conference began with a check-in and registration for students and was followed with a keynote address from ‘98 alumna, Nadia Matthie.

The Division of Student Life reached out to several alumnae who had successful careers and were active student leaders.

“We wanted to pay homage to 50 Years of Women at Iona College, so it was suggested that we invite alumnae back to present at the conference,” Aponte said.  “We wanted to highlight the amazing ways that women, especially women of color, have contributed to Iona’s history and legacy.”

Matthie graduated from Iona with a BS in accounting. She has over 23 years of audit and advisory experience and is currently an audit partner in the New York City office of WithumSmith+Brown, P.C. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants. Matthie was also featured in Crain’s magazine as one of the “Most Notable Woman in Accounting and Counseling.” She has also won numerous awards.

Matthie concluded her keynote by speaking with volunteers who are presidents of clubs and organizations and offering them advice on challenges they are experiencing as student leaders.

After the keynote address, the conference separated into breakout sessions where students had seven different workshops to choose from.

Many of the breakout sessions had the same theme of strengthening leadership. Others focused on the theme of inclusion, such as “Safe Zone Training” and “Diversity and Inclusion in the Modern Workplace.”

All guest speakers that participated in the workshops had big takeaways that they wanted the student leaders to leave with, including Residential Life Graduate Assistants Marimar Perez and Samantha Ortiz.

Perez and Ortiz were guest speakers at “The Art of Leadership and Manifestation: A Guide to Unlock your Potential” workshop, where they focused on the power within the individual in order to serve others and become an effective leader.

Perez wanted students to recognize that they all have the potential to do great things if they have the proper mindset.

“The biggest takeaway that I would like the students to get is how powerful their mindset and what they believe of what they can achieve and what they can do is,” Perez said. “This might sound really corny, but this has a big impact on what you are going to do in the future and how you are going to do it.”

The Division of Student Life wanted the students to learn some new ways of leading, to learn what diversity and inclusion means to them and to gain a greater understanding of their abilities.

“We hope students develop and enhance a personal philosophy of leadership that includes an understanding of self, others and the community,” Aponte said. “That they gain knowledge of diverse cultures, cross-cultural communication, the dynamics of privilege and oppression and the uses of power between groups.”

Different student leaders also learned different things from the conference.

“The entire conference was memorable, but something that stood out to me the most was the first keynote speaker’s ability to relate to us but yet explain the difference in her experience at Iona from ours,” Campus Minister Tamia Reyes said.

Some also said that their ability to lead has been strengthened.

“I think this will help me to be a better student leader, because it will motivate me to talk to my organization’s members about their futures and how important it is to use the time in college to your advantage,” Resident Assistant Edward Mafia said.

Lastly, Commuter Assistant Brianna Tagliamonte stated that her biggest takeaway from the conference was the importance of connections.

“The importance of building up a network and using your connections to help you really resonated with me,” Tagliamonte said. “Iona student leaders are always willing to help someone else out and want to see you succeed, so we should make use of the connections we are building in our various roles.”