Second ever Peer Collective Summit discusses leadership, mentorship

Picture of Princess Sarah Jane Culberson
Courtesy of Princess Sarah Culberson

On March 10 and 11, Lewis & Clark hosted the second annual Peer Collective Summit, with the theme of “growing together.” 

The event was planned by three co-chairs, Director of Student Engagement Tamara Ko, Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement Joann Zhang and Director of the Center for Social Change and Community Involvement Andrea Salyer, with additional help from graduate assistants and Vice President of Student Life Evette Castillo Clark. The organizers planned this year’s version by reflecting on last year’s pilot and using, as Salyer put it, LC President Robin Holmes-Sullivan’s “vision for a peer collective.” 

The summit began on March 10 at 6 p.m. with a reception dinner at the Cooley House hosted by Holmes-Sullivan. The next day, started at 9 a.m. with breakfast, before Castillo Clark made opening remarks, Princess Sarah Culberson gave the keynote address. 

After Culberson’s speech, various other speakers presented, focusing on the themes of wellness, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), intercultural communication, goals, difficult conversations, leading peers and developing a resume and leadership skills.

In comparison to last year, this event had more speakers, as the three co-chairs were focused on engaging a broader community.

“Much of the focus is still the same: finding ways to support our peer leaders on campus,” Zhang said. “What will be different is that we are calling upon our community to help lead us into learning. We will have concurrent sessions with presenters from both on and off campus, joining together to talk about how peers can support and lead their peers.”

Culberson had a similar focus with her video available on the LC website before the event..

“I’m going to be there and take you on a journey from West Virginia to West Africa,” Culberson said. “We’re going to talk about peer mentoring. Do you want to be a peer mentor? Do you need support being a better peer mentor? Or would you like to be mentored yourself?”

Culberson’s keynote speech was crafted to appeal to students, which was not difficult since her own background resonates with the types of students in attendance.

“Princess Sarah’s background as a biracial adoptee and as a student leader, a student athlete, is able to connect to many of our students’ varying backgrounds,” Ko said.

Additionally, Culberson’s life has some less relatable elements that made her an especially interesting keynote speaker.

“Princess Sarah’s humanitarian background stems from her experience as an adoptee, in which she learned about her biological roots from a village in Sierra Leone, West Africa and that she was of royal descent,” Ko said. “Her story has led her efforts towards improving the education, economic opportunities and living environment of the people of Sierra Leone.”

Another focus of the summit was building student connections, to greater live out the vision of a peer leader collective.

“We (had) intentional opportunities for attendees to get to know each other through networking and learning,” Zhang said. “ We hope new ideas, new friendships, new ways to support each other (are) formed and last beyond just the 2 day event.” 

The summit provided a space for students to consider themselves and their community and how their leadership style impacts their desired role on campus. The Peer Collective Summit series has launched and taken off, promising to help future generations of LC leaders grow into that role.

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