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College students learn to be leaders at UNG conference

Students from University System of Georgia schools take part in a team-building exercise during the third annual Leaving a Legacy of Leadership conference.

Some 46 college students from across the state converged at the University of North Georgia recently for "Leaving a Legacy of Leadership," a weeklong conference aimed at helping students build their leadership skills and encourage high standards for leadership on their campuses.

The students were selected by their schools to take part in the conference, which is now in its third year at UNG. Designated by the University System of Georgia as a state leadership institution, UNG educates ethical leaders through a variety of academic and co-curricular programs, from conferences like Leaving a Legacy of Leadership to courses in leadership for enrolled students.

"The purpose of this conference is to gather emerging student leaders from University System of Georgia schools and bring them here for one week of intense leadership training," said Jemima Fortune, UNG's leadership and commuter services coordinator. "What we're trying to do is teach them about the importance of values and goal-setting. We want them to go back to their institutions and be change agents for their schools."

Dalton State College just started a Greek life organization and Nate Baggett, president of the college’s first-ever social fraternity, was selected to attend the conference.

"We want this to be successful, so that's why I was sent to the conference," Baggett said. "It's fun, learning about leadership and developing the goals that I want to accomplish at the school with the fraternity and the mission. This conference is really going to help me be able to do that."

The idea for the summit — with its motto "Leadership to the third power!" — was developed at UNG, but educators from across the USG helped develop the specialized curriculum. The conference, staffed by educators and student mentors from different USG colleges and universities, was held on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. 

In addition to presentations about the various aspects of leadership, students also took part in team-building activities; after each challenge, students discussed what happened and what they could have done better. Students also spent a day at UNG's Pine Valley facility on the Corps of Cadets' leadership reaction course and participating in a homemade boat regatta. For the regatta, small groups of three to four students had limited time—and limited resources like cardboard, plastic wrap, string and duct tape—to build a boat and sail it down the nearby Etowah River.

Roshea Waugh, who came nearly six hours from the College of Coastal Georgia to attend the conference, was one of three participants from her college.

"It's been a phenomenal experience; the atmosphere and the people  just make you feel welcome," said Waugh, who is secretary of her college’s Rotaract Club. "I expect to take back the new leadership skills they are teaching us and implement them on campus. I'm just soaking in all the information I can and taking it back to Brunswick."

For these emerging leaders, the real work begins when they return to their home campuses. All are given a year to complete the three goals they identified during the weeklong conference.

"Once they implement their goals, we send them a beautiful medal that they can wear at graduation," Fortune said. "When they get back on their campus, they are change agents and they are leaving a legacy of leadership."

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