Aggies Leading the Way! 2017

The fourth annual Aggies Leading the Way! Undergraduate Leadership Conference was held on Saturday, February 25, and was free and open to all undergraduate students in all majors. 

With workshops, keynote speakers, and networking opportunities, this event helped students reach their leadership potential and practice their professional skills!


Conference Mission

The 2017 conference theme was Level Up. All leaders experience moments of capping out and feeling as if they have plateaued. Learning how to adjust to new people and opportunities can maximize the need to expand our capacity and, at times, recognize that we many need to take few steps back before we can move on. Our theme of Level Up was designed to help conference participants rise to the challenge of taking their leadership to the next level that is right for them.

Through a variety of interactive workshops and large-group activities, we aimed to help students:

  • Level up their personal leadership
  • Engage with others on a new level
  • Apply their leadership to different contexts.


Keynote Speaker: Ashley Good

Ashley GoodAs the founder of Fail Forward, Ashley believes that failing well is a critical skill on the journey to success. She is a popular Canadian speaker who provides workshops, consultations, and events to explore how failure can actually be beneficial to level up in your leadership process. She states on her website that failure can be a “learning tool and a culture driver to support and foster innovation.” Ashley has even developed a process for annual failure reporting, which organizations like Engineers without Borders Canada use to address and learn from their missteps each year.

Ashley firmly believes that talking about failure is a key part of achieving your goals. Leadership almost always entails failing, sometimes repeatedly, before achieving what you want. In order to level up, you often need to fail first. When situations demand that you take your leadership to the next level, it’s important to learn how failure can help you in the leadership process.

In addition to Ashley being our keynote speaker, she also hosted a workshop and closed the 2017 Undergraduate Leadership Conference. 

Keynote Address

Courage to Try, Resilience to Fail

Taking leadership to the next level requires risk and trying something new. Sometimes, leaders fail in their attempt. The opening conference keynote focused on shifting our perceptions of failure and uncovering the importance of challenging ourselves by illustrating the links between failure, learning and innovation, and actions and mindsets to foster smart risk taking. Conference participants experienced a call to action – a kind of homework for the day – by doing something that made them uncomfortable, trying something that frightened them, or was at the edge of you capacity. Some examples of possible challenges throughout the day were:

  • Speak up and share a question or idea
  • Say “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand” instead of going along with the conversation
  • Ask a peer for feedback
  • Share a story of failure or acknowledge a weakness
  • Commit to stepping up and doing something truly challenging where success isn’t guaranteed
  • Support and encourage someone else who has failed to try again more wisely
  • Any other action that is uncomfortable, scary or at the edge of your capacities

Closing Plenary

Next Steps to Level Up

Preparing to level up our leadership can seem daunting and, at times, frightening. When committing to taking risks, we need it destigmatize failure and seek what we can learn and how to adapt. The conference’s closing plenary focused on building a safe space to discuss failures openly and maximize the learning we gain from them. Conference participants learned how to turn the experience of failure on its head and walked away with tangible skills, insights, and actions that helped them respond to failure well.

Main Conference Workshop Areas

Leveling Up Your Personal Leadership (Session 1)

Workshops in this session focused on helping students work at the edge of their comfort zones and skill set in preparation to advance their leadership.


  • Leggo Diversity! - Maria Bundang & Deborah Kagan
  • Different colored LEGOs represent many different salient identities that include topics on education, sexuality, gender, spirituality, ethnicity, and many more.  Participants are able to build something that is meaningful to them through everyday objects such as LEGOs, let people interact with the material, and enable people to see their intersectionality within their identities. Through this workshop, people should come to the conclusion that others are composed of various identities that may not always be apparent.
  • Let's Get Down to the Nitty Gritty - Zach McLaughlin & Dillan Christensen
  • Inspired by the Escape Room phenomenon, this presentation will challenge participants to think on their feet, work together in teams, struggle, and their success will all depend on one thing: GRIT. Grit is a multi-faceted topic whose many aspects work together to create a powerful drive that individuals use to pursue success and their long term goals. In this workshop, we will talk about grit, what aspects make up grit, and how we can incorporate some tips and tricks into our lives that will help us boost our success in the pursuit of our long term goals. So come enjoy a challenging, exciting workshop that will put your grit to the test!
  • The Happiness Advantage: Creating Lasting Positive Change - Odisea Macias
  • This workshop is designed for participants who want to learn new self-growth techniques. Participants will be introduced to positive psychology and will learn how doing a simple two-minute exercise can help change their perspectives and the way in which they view their world. We will also discuss success and its relation to happiness and how manipulating this equation can lead to an increase in your intelligence, creativity and energy levels.
  • You're Going to Hear Me Roar - Jaime Allen & Leah Galasso
  • Do you prefer listening to others rather than speaking up in large groups? Favor working on your own to working in teams? Value innovating and creating ideas over time rather than diving right into a solution? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you just might be a Quiet Leader. In a world that considers “good leaders” to be energetic, outgoing, charismatic, and bold, this workshop will examine the intricacies and strengths of leaders who are quiet, humble, modest, or reserved. Through small group discussions, journaling, and reflecting, participants will leave the workshop with a better understanding of how to be more confident in their unique leadership style.
  • LeaderSort - Kristopher Disharoon
  • Want to gain a better awareness of which Leadership House you truly belong in? Well, come let the Sorting Hat tell you where you belong! In this workshop, you will go through the leader sorting process by gaining a better understanding of your personal leadership attributes and others that share those attributes. You will then create your House’s own Leadership Shield that reflect your group’s common attributes and your group will be able to share them with other Houses. Through sharing you will learn best practices on how to work with others that have different leadership perspectives.


Engaging with Others on a New Level (Session 2)

Workshops in this session focused on helping students motivate and support others to collectively transition to the next level.


  • Leading Your Team to the Next Level! - Aggie Ambassadors
  • Just got assigned a group project or became part of a new team and need tips on how to be most successful? Group relationships are the fundamentals to making teamwork a positive experience. Our workshop focuses on how to navigate the various stages of team building and mastering the art of working with others. You will learn the basics of team bonding in order to create the most effective teamwork practices to help in your future endeavors.
  • Examining Failure & Fear: What's Stopping You? - Ashley Good
  • This session is designed to help students redefine failure by understanding and expanding their own perceptions and fear of failing. Participants will be guided in examining reasons for not taking risks, tapping into their more courageous natures, and identifying avenues where they can move forward through fear.
  • Growing Your Network - Jenine S. Jenkins
  • Statistics show that almost 60% of available positions are in the ‘Hidden Job Market’ and can only be accessed if you know the right people. Additionally, networking is a powerful tool once working in an organization to help you manage your career and ultimately get to the top! This workshop is all about the various steps to take in order to start and grow your network.
  • Tactics on How to be a Conscious Leader - AAUW
  • This workshop engages students to become more conscious leaders through tackling the concept of
    privilege. In unpacking the system of privilege - the special rights and advantages granted to certain groups based on age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, race/ethnicity, religion, and social class - students will learn how to identify manifestations of privilege in everyday settings and be equipped with tactics to address it. In doing so, students will enhance their efficacy as leaders, become more aware of their own identity, and be more conscious of how others identify in various environments.
  • Dialogue: Sharing Experiences and Bridging Divides - Tessa Oates
  • This workshop will provide an introduction to the concept of Dialogue. It will include topics such as how Dialogue differs from other forms of communication such as Discussion and Debate and how and when to create a space for Dialogue. Additionally, we will specifically be focusing on the importance of strengthening dialogue skills such as active listening, sharing personal experiences instead of facts, and determining intent versus impact. Lastly, we will explore how the process of dialoguing can help build trust, respect, and empathy among individuals with varying perspectives. Exploring the differences between Dialogue, Debate, and Discussion will assist leaders to communicate as effectively as possible as they develop their leadership skills.


Applying Leadership to Different Contexts (Session 3)

Workshops in this session focused on a specific application or special topic of leadership, as it relates to leveling up our collective capacity for creating meaningful change.  Workshops addressed the transferability of leadership across different positional and non-positional situations or environments.  


  • Transferable Skills of Participating in an Organization - Kristin Dees
  • Do you know how to speak or articulate how your experience outside the classroom will help you in your future path? Do you know what employers or graduate schools are looking for when interviewing regardless of academic discipline? Come learn how to map out your experiences outside of the classroom to transferable skills needed for internships, job interviews, and graduate school interviews.
  • From Undecided to Open Minded: Reframing Uncertainty as Opportunity - Kelli Sholer
  • Recent studies have shown that most people will change jobs at least 7-10 times during their working years. The world of work is more dynamic than ever and the skills of adaptability, curiosity, and resilience are essential in order to navigate this new (and constantly changing) economy as well as to develop personal growth. In this session, traditional thinking about a linear career planning process will be challenged and participants will gain awareness of a new framework for their career journey: happenstance learning theory. Through a combination of discussion, interactive exercises, and Road Trip Nation video stories, participants will be introduced to this theory’s concepts and how these can be integrated into how they approach their career and leadership development.
  • Moving from Spectator to Participant - Christie Navarro
  • As leaders, we have a responsibility for others and the world around us. Effective leaders know what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves. In addition, leaders recognize when and how to give of themselves for the benefit of the greater good. Through discussion, reflection, and small group activities, this workshop will help participants understand the meaning and behaviors of civic engagement, identify issues of concern that matter most to them, and explore avenues to pursue movements for change.
  • Professionalism Beyond the Gender Binary - Austin Tarumoto & Robun Huang
  • This workshop will center the experiences of queer, non-binary, trans, agender, gender non-conforming, and genderqueer folx in the “professional” environment. We will be discussing various forms of oppression, such as genderism, cis-sexism, and heterosexism, and how they shape current ideas of what professionalism is. We will also discuss the ways in which these forms of oppression intersect with race, ability, and class. Our workshop focuses on how professionalism has created a set of unhealthy norms of gender expression that are exhibited in dress codes, productivity, bathrooms, personality, and emotionality. After unpacking the toxic roots of professionalism and its contributions in further perpetuating gender and sexuality based discrimination and violence in the workplace, we will explore meaningful ways we can interrupt this form of oppression.
  • Reflaction: Turning Reflection into Action - Corrine Hawes
  • Everyone came to this conference today with a goal. Now that you’ve attended two sessions about self and others, attend this session for the opportunity reflect on what you learned, engage with other conference participants on their learning, and create an action plan of how to apply the information to a context of your choosing. Students will also examine work environment culture and how that may impact their action plan.

The 2017 conference is funded and made possible by the UC Davis Center for Leadership Learning and Undergraduate Education.

Thanks to the following programs for their generous promotional donations:

  • Campus Recreation and Unions
  • Center for Student Involvement
  • Cross Cultural Center
  • College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
  • College of Biological Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Letters and Science

Thank you to the conference planning committee for their dedication and hard work:

  • Melissa Cruz, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
  • Kristin Dees, Center for Student Involvement
  • Isabel Duenas, Campus Recreation and Unions
  • Corrine Hawes, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
  • Jeanette Plascencia, Student Academic Success Center - Educational Opportunity Program