Leadership will be the focus this weekend at St. F.X.
The Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership will host the fourth Leaders’ Summit @ X, Jan. 26 and 27, which will welcome more than 100 student leaders to the Antigonish campus.
“They have been very successful,” McKenna Centre executive director Mary Coyle said.
Participants will come from the Maple League of Universities, which includes St. F.X., Mount Allison, Acadia and Bishop’s universities, along with students and representatives from the Nova Scotia Secondary Schools Student Association.
The students will participate in a variety of workshops and seminars, including hands-on ‘leaders in action’ sessions.
The theme for the summit is ‘creating and seizing opportunities.’
“We are really looking forward to it,” Coyle said.
For the first time, the gathering for student leaders will include the Judge John C. Friel Student X Talks Series.
“He [Frank McKenna] thought it would be a great way to honour his memory,” Coyle said of creating the event in Friel’s name.
The men, who met at St. F.X. as undergraduates, also continued their studies together at Queen’s University and law school at UNB.
They were not only friends, but also brothers-in-law; McKenna married Friel’s sister.
“He was a terrific supporter of the university and a very bright mind,” McKenna said, describing Friel as a “great judge” who practiced all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“It seemed appropriate to start a program in his [Friel’s] name because of his strong association with St. F.X.”
‘Justice’ was the theme for the inaugural X Talks in 2017.
“We wanted to start a program associated with the centre that would further stimulate debate and bring leadership skills to the fore,” McKenna said.
This year, McKenna will be the guest speaker, while students Annie Sirois (St. F.X. Students’ Union president), Sam Gan and Nicky Barona will also take the podium.
Coyle noted the event will conclude with what she described as a “fireside chat,” with Xaverian Weekly co-editors – Claire Keenan and Ian Kemp – asking McKenna questions.
The Judge John C. Friel Student X Talks Series will get underway, at 7 p.m., in the Gerald Schwartz School of Business Auditorium.
“It is a matter of history that St. F.X. has produced a lot of leaders and, I think, part of the reason for that is it is a closed environment and one conducive to debate and the stimulation of ideas, so we wanted to create a program that would further enhance that,” McKenna said.
He added it provides students with an opportunity “to listen to provocative speakers.”
“It also gives students a chance to show off their speaking talents, in front of others, as well, and express themselves,” McKenna added.
The former premier of New Brunswick was asked what he hopes participants will take away from the summit experience.
“If there was a message that I would bring is that leadership is an acquired skill – we are not simply born with it – and we should never consider ourselves to be excluded from taking a leadership role,” McKenna said.
He noted the importance of practice in developing what he called a “learned trait.”
“The more people practice public speaking, or the more they practice making decisions, the better they are at it,” McKenna said.
He said he is a “prime example” of that successful formula.
“A poor kid from a farm in rural New Brunswick, who really had no leadership skills in my background, at all, but was lucky enough to be exposed at St. F.X. and, later in life, to challenging environments,” McKenna said.
He credited Coyle – the recently-installed Senator of Canada – for her work with the McKenna Centre.
“I am thrilled with the way that it is all working out. She is a genius at leveraging everything that is offered at St. F.X. and turning it into something significant,” McKenna said.
Coyle noted the leaders’ summit will be her “last official duty” as executive director.
“I have enjoyed it immensely. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with St. F.X. students and I have learned so much,” she said.