Spring 2023 Student Leadership Conference


The MGA Student Leadership Conference is a free event for current students to network and connect with other students interested in developing as leaders.  The conference will help you develop skills necessary for student leadership positions on campus, and professional and community leadership roles by participating in sessions that introduce new ideas, challenge ways of thinking, and empower you to make a difference

For spring 2023 the conference will take place on March 10, 2023 at the Robert F. Hatcher, Sr. Conference Center (located in the PSC building). This year's conference theme is "lead from where you are" and the focus is to help students learn how to be a leader in any organization or group they belong to, regardless of their "official" position or title. All students are a part of the MGA community and by attending this conference, you will develop a greater sense of how to contribute as an active member of the university and in the world around you. Transportation will be provided for Cochran and Eastman students, leaving from Sanford Hall in Cochran at 7:30AM.

Click below for 2023 presenter bios and session descriptions:

2023 Sessions

This is also a great opportunity for any student to get an early taste of what to expect from a professional conference once they are in the workforce. If you are a student and this is going to be your first conference, here is some advice on how to get the most out of it!

  • Review the schedule - find out the topics of the break-out sessions and plan your day in advance so you can attend the sessions you think you will enjoy most.
  • Dress professionally but comfortably, in other words, "business casual" - this is a networking opportunity so you want to make a good impression. If you're not sure what "business casual" means, level 4 in this article's infographic will give you a good idea of what it is: How to dress like a leader in any work environment
  • Take notes - this will help you retain important information, document ideas the presentation might inspire in you, and it's essential to help you divide and conquer. Speaking of...
  • Divide and conquer - if you're with a group split up and go to different sessions. That way you can share what you've learned with each other after the conference.
  • Meet new people - breakfast and lunch will be provided. Take those opportunities to meet someone new! If you go to a breakout session that you really like, take a moment to meet the presenter, tell them you enjoyed their presentation and, if they are willing, get their contact information to follow up later.
  • Get 3 ideas - try to come up with 3 key takeaways for each session you attend. After the conference take some time to think about how these can help you become a better leader, a better professional, and a better member of your communities.
  • Silence your phone - avoid the possibility of causing an interruption and throwing other audience members (or worse, the presenter) off track.
And finally...
  • Act professionally - the other attendees of the conference could be future co-workers, supervisors, or industry colleagues, be thoughtful about how your actions my impact their perception of you.
Keep an eye on this page for new and updated information as we get closer to the date of the conference.


Session Briefs (for full descriptions click here):

Keynote Speaker

Mr. Paul A. Little II

Leading beyond tomorrow: Exploring the Intersection of Vision & Innovation

Keynote Speaker Bio:

Paul Little II is a native of Macon, Georgia and the husband of his best friend, Natalie H. Little for the past 15 years.
He currently serves as CEO of Innov8 Leadership Solutions. The vision of Innov8 is to equip organizations for sustainable growth by developing a culture of continuous innovation. His life’s mission is facilitate healthy partnerships between faith based organizations, businesses, academic institutions and governmental agencies to improve the quality of life for all people.

Guest Speaker

Dr. Winfield Tufts

Effective Leadership

Contrary to what we see in entertainment, leadership is not focused on the greatness of the leader.
Effective leadership is focused on people and an organization and leading them both towards positive growth.
In his presentation, Dr. Tufts will address the two destinations that are key to success: the flourishing of team members and excellence of the organization; how relationships in organizations are the real engines that maximize an organization’s effectiveness, and assumptions team members make that leaders need to understand.

Breakout Block 1

The Cs of Leadership - Like Diamonds but More Valuable          Presenter: Stacy Cimowsky

There is no such thing as perfect leadership—any more than a truly perfect diamond. However, we can all work toward being an effective leader and having a learning spirit that will progress us each day towards a more perfect leadership style. A leadership style that, during the length of your lifetime, may truly serve to be more valuable than the rarest of diamonds!

Presenter Bio:

Stacey Cimowsky is an active Human Resources Manager with experience in the insurance and engineering industries. Over her career she has hired hundreds of employees – contractors, staff level professionals, and managers. Her current assignment is as an HR Manager for an actively growing Electrical Engineering Services firm in the utility industry. Throughout the span of her personal and professional journey, she has been a leader in a multitude of organizations ranging from her local and national sorority to a variety of civic, athletic, and church organizations. Ms. Cimowsky knows what it takes to be a leader!

Leadership When You Weren't Leading          Presenter: Dr. Jonathan Jenkins

The opportunities to exercise leadership skills are a lot more common than we think and sometimes we don't recognize them when they appear. Because they are not always easy to recognize it can be challenging to effectively take advantage of such opportunities. In this session we will not only learn how to recognize opportunities to show our leadership abilities but we will also learn how adapting principles and practices to the people we are working with allows us to personalize the impact of our leadership.

Presenter bio:

Dr. Jenkins is an Assistant Professor with the School of Computing at Middle Georgia State University.

Leadership & Metacognition: Understanding How You Learn Will Help You Lead          Presenter: Dr. Kelly Causey

In this session we will use a variety of short activities to identify our learning styles and strengths, then we will talk about how knowing your learning styles can help you become a better leader. We will also be looking at how you can use a knowledge of your team members' learning styles to accommodate their needs in a way that leads to overall team success. Participants will receive information about several free tools and resources about metacognition, learning styles, personality types, and leadership. This will be a fun, interactive, discussion-based session!

Presenter bio: 

Dr. Causey has been an educator for 30 years. She holds a Bachelor in Elementary Education from Saint Mary's College, a Masters in Educational Leadership from Georgia College & State University, and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Georgia in Athens. She has taught 3rd and 4th grade at Sonny Carter Elementary School, served as an Assistant Principal at Sonny Carter Elementary, Bernd Elementary, and Jones Elementary then was promoted to Principal at Sonny Carter. She has also worked as an adjunct professor at both Wesleyan College and the University of Georgia, and went back to work part-time at an independent school as a Curriculum Specialist and Technology Integration Specialist and she eventually became the Head of Preschool, PK-12 Curriculum Coordinator, and finally Head of Lower School at Stratford Academy in Macon. This is her first year at MGA and she LOVES it. Go Knights!

Lead with Love          Presenter: Darra McClendon

During this session we will explore the importance of finding and doing what we love so we can lead well from anywhere, anytime. The goal is to understand why we must dig and find what we love and really want to do, THEN lock in on the deepest “why'' for doing that. We will elaborate on what it means to be a L.O.V.E.D. leader, what that looks like, and how we can start mastering these traits right now.

  • L: Listens to what’s in them
  • O: Observes what is needed in an entity/situation
  • V: Values people
  • E: Expects resistance and proactively plans for it
  • D: Delivers

Presenter Bio:

Darra McClendon has been building capacity and sustainability for businesses, nonprofits, and the Middle GA community for 10+ years. She has shared her expertise with local and national brands including Goodwill Industries, The 4-H Program, and Chick-fil-A. In 2018, she started Simply Ordered Solutions LLC, a professional organizing and wellness firm committed to relieving stress for clients by helping them streamline and declutter, saving them time and resources. As a Professional Organizer and a newly certified Holistic Health Coach, Darra enjoys being hands on in showing people how to cut clutter inside and out and keep it that way. Darra is a graduate of Mercer University’s Stetson-Hatcher School of Business and actively empowers the creative economy to rise together and do what they love. She achieves this as the Rising Tide Society chapter leader for the Macon/Middle GA Chapter. She’s proud to be a part of a global community of more than 77,000 creative entrepreneurs who believe in community over competition and have a desire to lead with love.

Breakout Block 2

Communicating From Where You Are          Presenter: Prof. Liz Riley

Effective leaders must clearly communicate in a variety of circumstances and with diverse groups of people. This flexible communication style should not only be grounded in the fundamentals of good communication but also be adaptable to the characteristics of the audience. Good professional communication is critical to good leadership and organizational success.

Poor communication, on the other hand, can be expensive as it can create a lack of focus at the team level, higher turnover, a decline in productivity, a lack of innovation, dissatisfied customers, lower morale, safety issues, and a loss of credibility. 

This presentation will include important aspects professional communication within the framework of situational leadership. We will cover the fundamentals of good communication along with the importance of being able to adapt your communication to the situation and the audience. 

Presenter Bio:

Prof. Riley is an Associate Professor in the School of Business and holds an M.B.A. and an M.A. in Professional and Technical Writing. She currently teaches business communications and social media classes. She is also also a freelance editor and writer, focusing mostly on travel writing.

A Greater Understanding          Presenter: Mrs. Zoe Kakou-Pope

Just because you don't immediately see your perfect fit, does not mean that you can't see a need. For me, I saw the need for more educators that care. I also saw a need for resources to rocket talented businesses and students to their next level. That is where I found my passion for helping students from ages 5 to 75.

Today, I hope to ignite that spark within yourselves and realize that you serve an important purpose within all levels of your community: I hope to help you identify and build upon the necessary skills needed to positively impact your civic, university, and professional communities.

Presenter Bio:

Zoe Kakou-Pope was born and raised in Marietta, Georgia. She began her Middle Georgia journey by attending Mercer University in Macon. After pursuing Psychology and Spanish, she moved forward in her professional career with providing business development services such as start-up consultation as well as website and content creation. She also continued her love of education by continuing to manage daycares, a non-profit, and tutoring businesses. Her professional career revolves around community involvement, leadership, and education. She is the C.E.O. of Learning Empowerment Academy and ensures that community giveaways, sponsorships, and job readiness is a must in the curriculum. After spending almost a decade leading in the classrooms, almost 2 decades in childcare ownership and management, and nearly 15 years in performing arts & academic mentorship, she realized her calling was in growing the minds of all ages and helping people to realize their worth and unlimited potential. Zoe hopes to raise awareness about the importance of remaining a critical thinker, striving a higher level of understanding, and seeking excellence in every little thing that you do.


Passion, Purpose, & Presence          Presenter: Ms. Tamara McCann & Ms. Tokqiann Goodman

Passion, purpose, and presence are all attributes that good leaders have. One of the main qualities of situational leadership is the ability to be flexible. This presentation will focus on helping you identify and reflect on your core values and passions. Understanding one's core values gives greater clarity over the direction that might be the most rewarding for one's life and helps us make better-informed decisions in the short and long term. Students will also participate in activities that will allow them to analyze various leadership positions to determine how being present in those roles might impact their ability to be flexible and make insightful decisions. 

Presenter Bio:

Ms. Tamara C. McCann, Ed.S. is a native of Griffin, GA., and has been an educator for 17 years. She has served as a high school and middle school Special Education Teacher, a middle grade English Language Arts Teacher, and an Instructional Coach. Ms. McCann has also served in several different leadership roles throughout her educational tenure. She currently serves as Griffin-Spalding County School System’s Recruitment and Retention Specialist. She follows the prophetic philosophy of "To whom much is given, much is required." This belief fuels her passion for creating and supporting quality instruction inside and outside of the classroom.

Ms. Tokqiann Goodman is a lifelong learner and proud educator. During her 16 years in education, she has served teachers and students in various capacities including as a classroom teacher, an instructional coach, a Recruitment and Retention Specialist, and a Secondary ELA Curriculum Coordinator.

Cancelled  Stepping Into Discomfort          Presenter: Dani Bowser

Leadership is denoted by many official titles: Manager, Supervisor, Director, etc. And while it’s great to have these on a resume, it’s more important to be the best leader we can be, no matter what position we hold. To show up with integrity despite feeling overwhelmed. To support those working alongside us when they feel unsure.

It can take time to develop tolerance to frustration and anxiety. Not acknowledging our hesitations will only slow us down in this journey. The best way to break through and become the leaders we want to be is by embracing these fears and learning from them. No matter where you are in your career, challenge is inevitable. Taking steps early on in your journey to embrace it will allow you to develop confidence and self-efficacy. We can learn from past decisions, utilize the knowledge we gain, and move forward feeling empowered as leaders. 

Presenter Bio:

Dani serves as the Recruiter and Lead Trainer for Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness, based in Clayton, GA. She is in charge of all onboarding operations for new staff. Working in mental health has allowed her to step into various forms of leadership and she's excited to share what she's learned so far!