A Review of the 2012 Midwest Service Leaders Conference

by Madeline Bien

On November 10-11, 2012, the Marquette University Service Learning Program hosted 150 students from 18 different colleges and universities throughout the Midwest for the biennial Midwest Service Leaders Conference. The MSLC is a student-led regional conference aimed at helping students develop skills, passion, and knowledge to inspire meaningful service projects on campus, in their communities, and throughout the world.

The 2012 conference was entitled “Imagine Tomorrow. Engage Today” and topics included: Developing Skills for Tomorrow, Engaging the Issues of Today, and Imagining Justice and Change. Attendees of the conference participated in peer-led workshops, roundtable discussions, a community panel, service projects, and had the opportunity to engage with speakers working to bring change to the world. Furthermore, students took away a greater understanding of how to create change around social injustice, develop successful leadership strategies, recruit and retain a peer volunteer force, develop partnerships in the community, and lead reflection sessions.

The goal for the weekend was to look beyond the traditional concept of charity toward a paradigm of justice and solidarity by asking the difficult questions: How do young people in the 21st century not only directly address the social issues of today, but eliminate them completely, enacting lasting change?

The keynote address was given by Christine Neumann-Ortiz, founding Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera (“Voices”). Ms. Neumann-Ortiz is recognized as a national leader in immigration reform, serving on the Steering Committee of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and featured in national interviews on NPR, Democracy Now!, and CNN.

Peer-led workshops were presented by students from several schools on a wide variety of topics. Some of the most popular presentations were “Exploring Educational Disparity,” (Ali Hause and Carrie Hanson, Marquette University), “Let’s Talk about Race!,” (E.L. Hunter and Micaela Maynard, DePaul University), and “Working for Justice, Striving for Peace,” (Kelsey Simkins, Alexandrea Newell, Justine Shorter, and Ciara McCugh, Marquette University). Overall, these workshops were a great way for students from different schools to engage in dialogue with one another about these issues of social justice, participating in a reciprocal activity of both teaching and learning from one another.

Throughout the weekend’s various activities, students garnered a renewed sense of commitment to a future of equality, opportunity, and prosperity for those in our community, our country, and our world. By taking advantage of the chance to network with one another, learning about important issues facing the world today, and reflecting upon current and future goals, participants were reinvigorated in their passions, and have a clearer sense of their role as leaders of tomorrow. The 2014 Midwest Service Leaders Conference will be held at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa in October 2014. More information can be found on their website:


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