VIU Students Aim to Ignite Change with Leadership Conference

Portrait shot of Nathan Priest and Amber Lease

Nathan Priest and Amber Lease, Co-Chairs of the Vancouver Island Leadership Conference, are excited to connect students’ passions for leadership with volunteer opportunities in community this year.

June 7, 2021 - 4:45pm

Conference challenges participants to get involved in community action projects – with tuition credits as incentive. 

Vancouver Island University (VIU) students are encouraging other students to take action and make a difference locally and beyond at an annual leadership conference.

The Vancouver Island Leadership Conference (VILC) takes place June 7 – 24 and includes events on Mondays and Thursdays – virtual keynote talks by inspiring, emerging leaders every Monday and community action projects on Thursdays, where students will have the opportunity to volunteer and give back through projects such as beach clean-ups and a donation drive.

Amber Lease, VILC Co-Chair, says the theme for this year’s event – Ignite Change. Locally. Nationally. Globally. – came to the organizing team after much reflection about the past year of online learning.

“We wanted to include a segment that allowed people to get out in community, engage in a safe manner and do something, so they weren’t just sitting in a virtual conference,” she says.

Lease’s personal journey and the experiences of Nathan Priest, her VILC Co-Chair, also influenced the theme.

Lease, who plays on the VIU Mariners women’s basketball team, had her dreams dashed by COVID-19 when, shortly after the team won the provincial championships, VIU, which was set to host nationals in March, had to cancel the tournament. She went home to Oregon, then returned in the fall hoping to play basketball, only to move back home a second time after the season was cancelled.

“I was pretty emotionally distraught and working virtually through Zoom was another big change for me – I was not comfortable at all at first,” she recalls. “We’ve all been through situations we weren’t completely comfortable with and it got us thinking about the future and how change is ever-present.”

The switch to online learning threw Priest into a slump at first, and he quickly found himself forming bad habits like watching his Zoom classes from bed. After talking with his colleagues, he was encouraged to see the change as an opportunity to view things differently and to focus on what was in his power to change.

“I learned to not fear the unknown and gained a better understanding of the influence I have on my own life and how I react to change,” says Priest. “Some things are out of your control, but you can make the best out of situations by focusing on what you do have control over.”

The VILC has partnered with the City of Nanaimo and Haven Society on the community action projects taking place on Thursdays. The activities include an invasive species removal exercise, beach cleanup, and donation drive where new and gently used clothing and toys are being collected for Haven Society, for drop-off at the Welcome Centre (Building 300) by June 17, 2021. Participants from outside Nanaimo will be given a different but similar community action project that they can complete in their home communities. After completing each project, students fill out reflections on the experience in a virtual workbook and five students will be chosen to win tuition credit prizes ranging from $500 - $1,500.

The conference is supported by VIU’s Office of Co-Curricular Engagement & Learning. Free sponsored seats are available to participants thanks to the generosity of the following sponsors: Panago, Island Savings, SIMS Coaching Systems Inc., SIMS Real Estate Group, Edmonton Community Foundation, Carbon Safety Solutions and Mosaic Information Technologies.

To learn more and view the event schedule, visit the Vancouver Island Leadership Conference homepage.


Media Contact:

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Advisor, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Student Stories | Announcements

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email