CUNY SPS Students Gather for 4-Day Leadership Conference

Male CUNY SPS student arms folded and seated during on campus event

Students at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) converged to share ideas, brainstorm, and collaborate at the 2021 Student Leadership Conference, held from April 27 through May 1. 

The theme of this year’s conference was Leading, Coping, and Thriving through Crisis, and featured a number of workshops focused on specific issues and challenges facing student leaders during the COVID pandemic. More than 73 people participated in the virtual four-day event, with many attending multiple sessions. 

“The Student Leadership Conference was especially useful this year as a vehicle to help our CUNY SPS community commune, regroup, and support one another through all of the changes brought on by the pandemic,” said Shakima Williams Jones, co-chair of the CUNY SPS Student Association and a MS in Business Management and Leadership student, who served as one of the main organizers of the event. “Walking people through the ways that COVID has affected us all—and then giving them the tools and supports to help them—felt like the right thing to do.” 

The four-day conference featured student-moderated panel sessions that explored a wide variety of topics, including Student Leadership, LGBTQI+ Leadership, CUNY SPS Mental Health Resources, Returning to Work, Inclusive Leadership- Balancing Physical and Mental Health, Leadership through Policy and Civic Action, and CUNY SPS Administration.

Ben Krasinki, a BA in Liberal Studies student, moderated the Student Leadership and Returning to Work panel sessions. “One of the main highlights of the panels was the excitement and engagement of the panelists. We all needed a distraction from the current health crisis and bringing different people together to have a discussion was second to none,” reflected Krasinski. “At the same time, having an open forum for students to express themselves openly produced some much-needed interactions that I believe most of us have been lacking over the past year or so. The biggest takeaway from the conference is that people are people and we all struggle with different life, emotional, and spiritual experiences, so connecting with faculty, staff, and other students was very helpful.” 

“I was able to moderate a panel of our CUNY SPS leaders and talk to them about the unexpected ways that they and our school were affected by COVID, and the unexpected victories that they were able to make during this time,” noted Williams Jones. “It was amazing to hear how we have been able to turn this huge encumbering thing into wins for our community.”

This year was the first time that the Student Leadership Conference, which was previously offered as an annual one-day event by the CUNY SPS Student Association and the School’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, was planned with input from the larger student body and was offered in a multi-day format.

“The highlight of this year was the decision to open up the conference planning committee to the larger student body and all of the new ideas they brought with them,” said Sarah Krusemark, student services coordinator at the CUNY SPS Office of Student Services, who also assisted in planning the conference. “When we reached out to recruit the committee, over 75 students expressed interest in helping plan the conference. I think the online format this year opened up opportunities for all of our students to contribute while also expanding the accessibility of the conference for students who cannot make it to campus.”

This year marks the fourth since the Student Leadership Conference began. In 2018, the conference featured the theme Women and Minorities: The New Majority, and in 2019 it explored the theme Leadership in the Digital Age. The 2020 conference was cancelled due to COVID.

About the CUNY School of Professional Studies

For over 15 years, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) has been leading online education in New York. Notable for offering the most online bachelor’s and master’s degree options at the City University of New York, and for serving transfer students as the University system’s only undergraduate all-transfer college, CUNY SPS meets the needs of adults who wish to finish a bachelor’s degree, progress from an associate’s degree, earn a master’s degree or certificate in a specialized field, and advance in the workplace or change careers.

The School’s growth has been remarkable, with twenty-four degrees launched since 2006. Enrollment has risen by more than 30% in the last four years to over 4,000 students in the credit-bearing programs. Thousands more are enrolled in non-degree and grant-funded workplace learning programs. In addition, the School has an active alumni network and has established the CUNY SPS Foundation, which offers multiple scholarship opportunities to current students.

CUNY SPS has consistently been named by US News & World Report as one of the country’s top online institutions. This year, the School was ranked in the top 2% in the nation on the publisher’s list of the 2021 Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs.

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