Finding ‘the keys to leadership’

By Linda Luk

The Northern Leadership Institute will host its one-day leadership conference today, featuring former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon as its keynote speaker.

The conference is open to everyone and will provide opportunities to build leadership skills, said Sadiya Khan, a graduate student and co-chair of the NLI advisory board.

“We work with freshmen and sophomores to develop their leadership skills,” said Rick Clark, institute advisory board member and University Programming & Activities director. “So when the upperclassmen graduate, these student leaders can step in.”

NLI is a group of student leaders who work together to provide leadership training opportunities for other student leaders, Khan said. The student leaders are from various campus organizations such as the Student Association, FUTURE, Campus Activities Board, Delta Sigma Pi and the Asian American Association.

“The purpose of the NLI is to strengthen leaders on campus so their organization will continue to grow and flourish,” said Melissa Axelson, a senior corporate communication major and member of the NLI board of directors and CAB.

The conference begins at 8 a.m with a continental breakfast followed by an opening address by Juan Andreade Jr., an NIU alumnus as well as the president and co-founder of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute. Breakout sessions on various topics including networking, group communication and effective meetings will be led by high-ranking professionals from various career fields.

President John Peters will speak at a networking luncheon where students will be able to talk with professional leaders.

“[Professionals] love to talk about their experience, their careers and inspire someone,” Khan said. “They also provide students with networking opportunities and some are interested in recruiting.”

The leadership conference will end with Simon’s address, titled “The Keys to Leadership,” from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Holmes Student Center’s Regency Room. The speech is free and open to the public.

“Paul Simon is a very influential leader,” Khan said. “He has done a lot of service for Illinois and the United States. He is a person of character, ethics, integrity and that represent our principle.”

Simon served 14 years in the Illinois General Assembly, first as a representative and later as a state senator. He is also the founder and director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he teaches classes in political science and journalism. He holds 44 honorary degrees, authored 16 books and writes a newspaper column.

The leadership conference is NLI’s first group event. In the fall, members will host a leadership seminar series targeted specifically at NIU. It will provide student leaders with opportunities to gain skills to be effective leaders and talk about problems among student organization.

“NLI had exceeded the expectations of the advisors,” Clark said. “It is student-run, and they generated the funding, contact the speakers. It is entirely student-run.”

The NLI was started back in May by Khan and student trustee James Barr with the realization that there is a need for officers of student organizations to share ideas and build up student organization leadership, Khan said. Its mission is to promote strong campus leadership, foster individual character growth, build a foundation for future professionalism and instill a commitment and national civic responsibility.

“The Northern Leadership Institute allows an outlet for NIU students to connect with professional on a more personal level,” said Herschell Taphag, a sophomore business management major and member of the NLI board of directors.