The Student Leadership Conference occurs annually in the spring semester and brings together external and internal speakers to educate our audience about a topic that relates to that theme. This year’s conference theme was Mental Health: increase awareness, reduce stigma, educate. This year’s speakers were a combination of faculty, students and honored guests, who explored the theme of mental health. We hope that you find the content educational and insightful.

Hidden Disabilities by Diana Vila

About the session: Hidden disabilities keep many of us feeling less than our peers without disabilities. It's important to find safe people on campus who can guide you, mentor you, and make the obstacles easier to overcome. Trusting another with our secret can be hard, but it's essential to success. It can kick-start your success in school and in your career. Being empowered can be a beautiful thing, but you must start with that first step. Trust yourself and reach out.

About the speaker: Diana is a current graduate student at CUNY School of Professional Studies. She has multiple disabilities which has posed challenges to her learning. Through the help of a counselor, she was able to navigate through college and seek help when needed. She aims to use her story as a way to motivate others to look for support throughout their journey.

There is No ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Solution, When Addressing the Mental Health Crisis in Adolescents & Young Adults by Dr. Dana Stein

About the session: The rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts are at record highs. While there are a plethora of advisors suggesting we engage in "self-care" clearly it is more complicated than a quick fix. I will dig into the research and present the specifics of how social media has impacted mental health and how to better manage our use of technology. Suggestions will be presented about what self-care really looks like versus the superficiality that we are bombarded with that actually makes us all feel worse. Links between our nervous system and mood will be explored.

About the speaker: Dr. Stein is a clinical psychologist with 25+ years of experience who has worked at the Manhattan VA Hospital, St. Vincent's Hospital, Weill-Cornell Medical Center and now solely in private practice. She works with individuals aged-16+ and couples. Anxiety, depression, perinatal issues, parenting issues, student focused issues, and substance abuse are just some of the areas of focus in my practice.

Joy Zone by Crystal Dilonez

About the session: Proactive thought: The world in general is not as binary as we're conditioned to believe it is. In particular, through the lens of capitalism we are conditioned to only deem ourselves as worthy when we're producing. But what happens to this concept of our worth when we're producing for ourselves rather than "the machine"? Are we only worthy when we're working a 9am-5pm job? Are we not worthy when we are producing for our benefit as well? (i.e. self-care). In a world where joy has become a radical act, join us in a radical effort to reclaim our sense of worth by tapping into your inner child. This carefully crafted card game playfully deconstructs the concept of pedagogy and academia while utilizing multiple counseling practices to identify, reflect and radicalize the "worker mentality" conditioned into us all - whether we're students, self-employed, working part or full-time, serving as caregivers for others in addition to ourselves, all of the above and beyond.

About the speaker: Crystal is a radically passionate person doing their part to make this world a more just, accessible and equitable place by way of honoring my humanity and celebrating the ancestors. With a special note towards my "day job" as an Opportunity Programs (OP) Student Counselor, they are currently doing so one college student at a time. They feel very honored to be able to come full-circle and now serve the community that supported them; they are a proud product of OP as a CSTEP SUNY alumni.

Critical Conversations: Talking about Mental Health by Linda Paradiso

About the session: Not all injuries are visible. We learn CPR to help people when they are having a heart attack but what can we do when someone is having a mental health or addiction crisis? Attend this session to learn what to say and skills to use to provide support to people who are having a tough time or are in psychological distress.

About the speaker: Linda Paradiso is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at CUNY School of Professional Studies where she teaches nursing leadership and coordinates the graduate Nursing Organizational Leadership Program. She is a proud three-time CUNY graduate (CSI ’82, ‘85 and Hunter ’89). She is a psychiatric nurse practitioner and board-certified nurse executive. She volunteers as a member of the Vibrant Emotional Health Disaster and Crisis Response Advisory Committee and the NY State Chapter of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. Prior to joining the CUNY faculty in 2015, she worked as Director of Psychiatric Nursing at several NYC hospitals.

Technology and the Anxious Self by Danielle Magaldi

About the session: This presentation considers technology’s effect on mental health, exploring the possibilities technology affords along with the anxiety it engenders. Using clinical case examples and current research, we consider how social media influences self-concept and identity formation. We will explore the variegated meanings, implications, and impact of the technologies that have crept into almost all aspects of our lives. The presentation prompts investigation into when our technology use is healthy and when it is problematic. We will consider the data that identifies when our responsiveness to our phones can be compulsive, and the paradox inherent in technology use - preoccupation while using it and preoccupation when separated from it. We consider how technology is not only shaping our experience of ourselves but also our relationship to others, at a time when our personal emotional disclosures are now more likely to take place on Snapchat and Instagram than face to face. What does it mean then for us and our relationships when we replace presence with virtual connectivity? This presentation presents findings on how emotional connection is complicated, enriched and sometimes troubled by the introduction of technology, allowing participants to examine their relationship with technology in a thoughtful, considered way.

About the speaker: Danielle Magaldi, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Literacy, and Special Education at Lehman College, City University of New York. Her research agenda focuses on how technology is impacting human relationships. She leads a research lab exploring how screens impact teaching and therapy and has authored numerous chapters and articles on the effects of technology on children, teens, and adults.

Work Stress and Mental Health by Emuran Saidy

About the session: Work stress can have physical, emotional, psychological, and mental effects on employees. According to the Center for Disease Control, "work stress refers to the harmful physical and emotional effects when job requirements do not match workers’ resources or needs. Work stress can lead to poor mental and physical health." Furthermore, a worker might have the necessary resources available to them but a toxic work environment can have emotional and mental effects to an employee. My presentation will look at work stress and its effects on mental health, importance of self-care, participants will be able to understand their own level of stress at work. Moreover, I will also talk about the unique stressors at work that can affect an employee's personal well-being and how to cope with stress at work.

About the speaker: Emuran Saidy is a student pursuing a Health Services Administration degree at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Emuran is involved in the Black Male Initiative, the Ernesto Malave Leadership Academy and a participant in the Global Solution Challenge with students from Jordan through International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) sponsored by the State Department. Emuran works for New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation as Supervising, Training and Development Associate.

A New Mental Health Approach for Children by Agnieshka Burke

About the session: In our fast-paced world, it can be difficult to slow down enough to perceive and take notice of the mental changes that can be happening in response to past or current trauma. Children are especially at a disadvantage as they cannot often times accurately pinpoint their mental states and actively look for help. The goal of this session is to shine more light on the practice of mindfulness as well as other novel trauma release and repair practices such as somatic and polyvagal therapies, and other yoga and physical-based activities that have been scientifically proven to improve mental health and repair the damage caused by trauma. These approaches can be used in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy, but can also be offered as a mindful and relaxing outlet for kids and teens that does not require verbal sharing but offers connection and healing of their nervous systems and can guide adolescents into better mental states.

About the speaker: Agnieshka Burke is a student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is a lifelong supporter of better mental health for all kids but especially those that suffer from anxiety, depression, and traumatic experiences. She is a proud member of the National Society of Leadership and Success.

The Intersection of Social Justice and Mental Health in the Black Community by Candice Barfield

About the session: Belonging to a group that experiences oppression, discrimination, and biases is one thing, but belonging to various groups who experience oppression, discrimination, and prejudices simultaneously, is an even more intense and unique lived experience in its own right. The Black community, specifically in the United States, carries the burden of not only being the recipients of racism but being involved in a system that is notorious for not prioritizing their wellbeing either. Racism and other forms of inequality and inequity mentally scar the Black community and exist everywhere Black people hold space. It starts in schools, followed by the workplace, the legal system, and public spaces. ‘Born to Lose: The Intersection of Social Justice & Mental Health in the Black Community’ explores how the lack of fair and equitable distribution of social, political, educational, and economic benefits impacts the mental health of Black people in the United States. It will specifically focus on the life trajectory of Black individuals from the time they are born, following their youth and adolescence, and ending with their transition into adulthood.

About the speaker: Candice is a lead Advisor for Youth Initiative/ Educator. She has served as an educator in public and charter schools in NYC for 6 years. Community healing is near and dear to her heart, focusing on children first. Advocating for the support of children and their well-being, specifically, their mental wellness has been a top priority in all her professional roles.

When They See Us by Karl Alexandre

About the session: When they see Us highlights the effects of microaggression towards students of color and other minority groups in the classroom. In this session, we will be tackling the biases and preconceived notions that professors may have towards individuals who may look and speak differently from the general population. Oftentimes, these personal views may cause the professors to overlook students, assuming certain students do not speak English because of their names or the way they look and sound, and prejudging certain minorities of criminality backgrounds. How can we start to make changes in the classrooms and create a productive learning environment for instructors?

About the speaker: Karl Alexandre is a social worker intern with the counseling department at Kingsborough Community College, and an academic advisor with the College Discovery program. He earned his first Master's in Urban Studies at Queens College and is current pursing a second Master's in Social Work from the College of Staten Island.

To join the 2024 Student Leadership Committee, please contact Student Development and Leadership Coordinator Reshma Jaigobin.