October 01, 2010

Simon Institute hosting leadership conference

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The success of the annual Paul Simon Leadership Conference at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is not hard to find.

Eight previous conference participants subsequently enrolled at SIUC since the program’s start in November 2003 by Paul Simon Public Policy Institute founder and former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon and then-associate director Mike Lawrence.

The leadership weekend brings junior high and high school youths from the Metro East area to SIUC for two days of activities. The weekend focuses on enhancing leadership qualities of African-American young men through reinforcing positive qualities, building skills and increasing career awareness education. The leadership conference honors Simon, who died in December 2003.

The eighth annual leadership weekend, “Looking Ahead: Preparing Mind, Body and Soul for Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond,” is this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 2 and 3, at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center and various locations on campus. Project officials anticipate 43 youths will attend this year, said Linda Renee Baker, Institute/University professor and project director.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover leadership weekend activities. For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Linda Renee Baker, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute/University professor and project director at 217/553-6660.

Institute Director David Yepsen said everyone with the Institute is proud to be a part of the event.

“It was a project Paul started in response to studies showing the special challenges young African-American males face in our society,” Yepsen said. “The good news is there are good people in East St. Louis who work year-round with groups of young men trying to help them avoid and manage the problems they face. We do a small part of this by bringing a group of them to SIUC. Here they can see and enjoy a major university campus and hear from inspiring people. It’s been moving for me just to watch them work and talk about the issues and challenges they confront and find ways to map their own strategies for overcoming them.”

Yepsen will moderate a panel discussion at 11 a.m. Saturday in Faner Hall, room 1326, after students spend time in each of three sessions that focus on making a difference in leadership and civic involvement, leadership development, and goal setting. Randy Burnside, an assistant professor in political science, is one of three sessions speakers.

At 1 p.m., Marvin Lampkin, senior regional sales manager for pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma US, Inc. Lampkin, of Swansea, will present “Leadership: Preparing for the Future -- The Time is Now.” In August, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Lampkin to serve as board chair of the East St. Louis Financial Advisory Authority. The Belleville School District 201 board earlier this month appointed Lampkin to fill a remaining board term.

At 9 p.m., students will participate in a panel discussion with three SIUC students who are former leadership weekend participants on a variety of student- and college-related issues. SIUC students and former workshop participants Shaka H. Mitchell, a senior in finance; Sylvester D. Woodhouse, a junior in criminology and criminal justice; and Reginald P. Wince II, a junior in elementary education, will lead the discussion.

On Sunday, the day begins with breakfast and ecumenical at 8 a.m. at Touch of Nature, featuring Father Joseph A. Brown, director of SIUC’s Black American Studies Program, speaking on “Leadership: Making a Way Out of Know Way.”

At noon in the Institute lobby, Jonathan B. Buck, a second-year MEDPREP student, will deliver a keynote address, “Success A Journey and Not a Destination: Follow Your Passion and Prepare Your Body, Mind and Soul for the Trip.” Buck, who is from St. Louis, earned a bachelor’s degree in African and African American Studies from Duke University, and a Master of Public Health from Morehouse School of Medicine in December 2009.

The recipients of the 2010 Paul Simon Leadership and Character Award will be announced at 12:45 p.m.

All of the students are also involved with local mentoring programs in the Metro East area, Baker said, and Institute staff know these students through the years. In addition to offering additional mentoring, the weekend also presents a recruiting opportunity, she said. Many of the students who come to SIUC later serve as Student Ambassadors with the Institute.

“We have a pipeline of students we have cultivated a relationship with over time,” Baker said. “It’s served us well for recruitment at the University.”

Simon and Lawrence used a 1994 report by the Illinois Commission on African American Males, chaired by current U.S. Sen. Roland W. Burris, a former Illinois Attorney General and SIUC graduate, and discussions with Baker, as inspiration for the weekend. That report offered recommendations in several areas, including economic development and employment, education, family life and African-American manhood, health and housing.

Yepsen also gives special credit to Baker.

“Nobody knows more people or works harder than Linda does and it’s great to see her devote so much time and energy to making this program happen,” Yepsen said.

“Helping young people step on that first rung of the ladder of success is one of the most uplifting things about SIUC. The leadership weekend is one example of how we do that at this University.”