The Charger Blog

Chargers Power On Their Leadership Skills During Community-Building Conference

The University's Charger Leadership Conference was a fun and hands-on event that enabled students to learn from each other, from staff, and from two alumni who shared how their time as Chargers helped them to grow as leaders.

September 22, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Darby Brown '25 and Charlie
Darby Brown '25 (front) helps Charlie welcome new Chargers to the University.

Darby Brown '25 is a leader who is actively involved in the University community. She serves in several prominent leadership positions, including as president of the Undergraduate Student Government Association. She is also an Orientation and Transition Leader who recently helped welcome her newest classmates to the Charger community.

Brown and many of her classmates recently charged up their leadership experience as part of the University's Charger Leadership Conference. It was a fun and interactive way for Chargers to support each other as they developed their leadership skills – one of the key components of the University's Competency Learning Experience.

For Brown, a forensic science major, the roundtable she attended with other student leaders was particularly impactful. She enjoyed learning about her fellow Chargers' successes and how they demonstrated resilience as they faced and overcame challenges. It was, she says, a great way for them to support and connect with each other.

"Events such as this conference are important because they help us, as student leaders, become better for the communities we serve," said Brown. "If we are given the space to grow as individuals and to develop skills to use in our everyday lives when we step into our student leadership roles, the growth and skills are transferred into how we carry out day-to-day tasks."

'Pathways for students to connect'
Greg Overend
Greg Overend is committed to helping students develop their leadership skills.

The conference was a full day of fun and growth for Chargers. Staff from a variety of offices and departments led sessions that empowered students. Sessions enabled students to build important skills, including ethics and moral leadership skills, conflict resolution, and handling difficult conversations. Staff also helped students build skills that would help them find internships and jobs, offering training focused on LinkedIn, resumes, and interviewing and networking.

For Greg Overend, M.A., executive director of the Center for Student Engagement, Leadership, and Orientation (CSELO), being a part of helping to create the Charger Leadership Conference for students was rewarding. He is part of a group of staff members focused on creating exciting opportunities for students that enable them to activate and power on their competency learning experiences. The group, which also includes representatives from the Career Development Center and the Office of Residential Life, organized the conference as one of its initiatives.

"Our ultimate goal is to provide pathways for students to connect with the leadership experience and competencies," he said. "It's great exposure for students, and it's an awesome opportunity for them to expand on their skills."

The University’s OTLs
The University’s OTLs were among the student leaders invited to take part in the Charger Leadership Conference.
'I feel so much pride in the University of New Haven'

The conference served as professional development, of sorts, for more than 150 undergraduate and graduate student leaders, including OTLs such as Brown and resident assistants. They were welcomed by the event's keynote speakers – alumni who are now leaders in the field of education and who met as Chargers.

Colleen Kazar '11 and Scott Kazar '12, who are now married, shared their own experiences at the University. Colleen says she was "honored" to have the opportunity to speak to students. Now assistant director of student activities at Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding and day school in Wallingford, Conn., she was excited to discuss how she grew as a leader at the University. She says the skills students develop as part of their involvement with clubs and organizations on campus are directly transferable to their careers post-college.

Colleen Kazar ’11 and Scott Kazar ’12
Colleen Kazar ’11 and Scott Kazar ’12 spoke to students as part of the conference.

"Being involved with leadership at the University sparked our interest in careers in the field of education," said Colleen. "We feel strongly about our own leadership experiences at the University, and it changed our lives. We are successful in our careers, and we met each other and our friends at the University. It was great to share the impact the University had in being a part of the foundation for our lives today."

Scott and Colleen Kazar, who now have two children, say they were excited to return to their alma mater. Scott, too, says the University is a "special place" for them. He says that when he first came to the University, he hadn't yet developed his leadership skills, but that he "thrived" as a Charger, as he got involved with campus recreation and student government.

"I developed confidence, and I grew tremendously," said Scott, a recreation specialist for Central Connecticut State University. "I feel so much pride in the University of New Haven. We wanted students to know that they are learning a lot of important life skills. We wanted them to understand they are leaders not just for themselves, but for their fellow students."

'The importance of being an "empathetic leader"'
Kiana White ’23, ’24 M.S.
Kiana White ’23, ’24 M.S.

For Kiana White '23, '24 M.S., the conference was invaluable. A resident assistant in Sheffield Hall, she says what she learned about conflict resolution was especially important in enabling her to support her residents, as well as in helping her to develop her critical thinking and communication skills.

A candidate in the University's graduate program in human resources, White also enjoyed learning from Scott and Colleen Kazar. She says they inspired her, both as a Charger and as a leader.

"They illustrate that students who graduated from the University of New Haven can be successful and give back to the University community," she said. "One concept that resonated most with me was the importance of being an ‘empathetic leader.' To be an effective leader, you must build genuine connections with your team and also understand that you must first be yourself to be both an empathetic and authentic leader."