UCLA Luskin Conference Center Quarterly Newsletter — November 2018

A Unique Leadership Conference at Our One-of-a-Kind Property

A unique course-within-a-conference, Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model, wowed attendees as it made a summer stop at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center. While the course’s title might sound complicated, its mission is quite simple: to teach leadership skills in a cutting-edge laboratory-inspired climate.

Participants from the University of Southern California, California State University, the University of California (including six deans from the Cal State System), as well as Europe, Asia and Africa were attracted by the program’s promise of making significant strides in leadership. The conference program provides participants with “access to the ways of being, thinking, planning and acting required to be a leader and to exercise leadership effectively.”

Being a Leader conference co-organizer Dylan Stafford

Taking an ontological approach, which is described as an “on the court being and action” experience, “Being the Leader” goes beyond more traditional training experiences where leadership is observed and commented on “from the stands.” Most notably, this leadership program follows “rigorous, phenomenologically based methodology that leaves participants actually being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression.”

With an utterly unique approach, the course has been in high demand around the country. Prior host schools include the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, Clemson University’s College of Business, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the University of Rochester and Texas A&M University, among others.

At UCLA, which hosted the largest academic gathering since the course’s inception in 2004 with 120 attendees, a triad of interdisciplinary leaders formed the host committee: Dylan Stafford, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at the UCLA Anderson Fully Employed MBA Program represented management; Dr. Amy Waterman, UCLA Professor, Nephrology represented medicine; and Dr. Khush Cooper from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs represented social welfare.

It was committee co-chair Stafford who thought of hosting this esteemed program at the Luskin Conference Center. With the help of Luskin’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Cindy Gagle, he organized the 2016 Part-Time MBA Dean’s Conference here. “The response from those attendees was so wonderful that I knew the conference center was the venue for this,” Stafford said.

And he was right.

Being a Leader conference co-organizer Dr. Khush Cooper

Attendees loved that the hotel and conference were in one location, a setup that is pretty rare, says Stafford. He and his fellow committee members felt that it made for a better conference because of the serendipitous “hallway” conversations. “It’s not turn-key when attendees are all over the place and have to attend a conference, going from one location, e.g. hotel, to another location for the meeting,” he says.

Since this is a very intense program — six days with a two day “break” in the middle, which is taken up with practical homework assignment — “you need the infrastructure [of having it all in one place] that is: great Wi-Fi, great food, accommodations nearby or on-site, etc. Taking care of people [this way] matters,” Stafford said.

And that includes the food.

Which the attendees loved, says Stafford. It’s healthy, sophisticated food. According to co-organizer Dr. Waterman, this is a mentally demanding course and to send people home for the day to a beautiful hotel room and take care of people with a healthy breakfast, great snacks, healthy lunch, etc., is profoundly important to the success for the attendees.

Being a Leader conference co-organizer Dr. Amy Waterman

Equally important is that “our attendees loved the professionalism of the service they received from staff, the ease of access from LAX to UCLA… you don’t have to lift a finger… and the price-point was very good,” enthuses Stafford.

“It’s clear that it’s built to host academic conferences… it’s sort of form follows function in that regard. When UCLA hosts this or that school, the schools often say ‘I wish we had a Luskin Conference Center at Rice… at Rutgers… Other schools are left being jealous of the utility and loveliness. It’s not old, tired and dusty.”

Stafford relays this interesting tidbit: “During the pre-opening hard hat tour of the conference center, the tour guide was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the artwork that was going to be placed… it was so impressive! I felt people who are working here truly care.”

“As a layman,” Stafford continues, “the experience of being at the Luskin Conference Center leaves people feeling appreciated, valued and that they’re part of something substantial.”