By Nadira Mohammed
The University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) recently hosted its 12th iteration of the student leadership workshop which began in 2018. The mission of this workshop is to provide Leadership development for our University Students through professional education workshops and programs. The vision is to enhance the leadership capacity of students so they enhance their profession, communities and society.
The aim of this program is to allow students to develop critical thinking skills, an understanding of change processes, and be able to think critically about obstacles to change, and to comprehend and be able to utilize a process for decision-making.
This event was hosted by Dr. Kenneth Niles, a faculty member of grad school and social sciences. He was there to make the students get comfortable with their peers around them. Mr. Jad Isidore (Mr. USC) held an ice breaker which allowed the students to come up on the podium and express their style of leadership symbolized by any object/s in the room.
The guest speaker for this event was Ms. Vernisha Ayoung. Ms. Ayoung is an information and digital technology professional with over 28 years of IT experience. Her work experience has taken her from the US to the UK, Canada, South America, Latin America, Europe, and India. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including nonprofit health education media and oil and gas as well as from various roles in church.
She graduated in 1999 with a double major in Behavioural Science and Computer Information Systems and later acquired a Masters in Business Administration. During the pandemic she later completed a postgraduate certificate in executive strategic leadership and is currently a doctoral candidate at Liberty University.
Ms. Ayoung’s presentation was on Ethical Leadership in the Digital Age. This topic had three (3) important components; ethics, digital age, and leadership, all of which she expanded on as she went along.
She started off her presentation with the definition of ethical leadership and stated, “Ethical leadership requires professionals to have a wide range of skills and competencies, which are underpinned by ethics, trust, integrity, and recognition of their corporate responsibility. Complexity in the professional environment brought on by rapidly evolving technology, digital disruption and mis/disinformation, is directly impacting all organizations and professionals.” Following this definition, she further stated, “all of these things directly impact organizations and impact you as a professional.”
With reference to Mr. USC’s ice breaker she indicated that this is where ethics come in, “it is about your values.” Her main points revolved around cyber security, artificial intelligence (AI), and mechanical learning.
She indicated that youths need to be careful in the news they hear and to trust, but always verify because not all news that is shown is correct, fake news is an epidemic. Ethics transcend all ages, not physically but every period, and as young leader, the values you harness have to tie in with the corporate responsibility.
She informed that the Digital Age, similar to the Industrial Age, still has a learning process with the new upcoming tools. The tools of the digital age are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) which is a subset of AI, Cyber Security, Data Culture, and Accessibility to Information. “Data is the new oil”
She begins her presentation on leadership with the stark difference between being a manager and a leader as explained by Steve Jobs. Following this Ms. Ayoung voices that information technology and business are extremely interwoven as everything in the digital age needs technology.
One of her most hair-raising quotations from the presentation came closer to her conclusion, “As a leader you look for the opportunities and the challenges and how you respond to them.”
She explained the different generations leading up to Generation Z (Gen Z) and tied it into the different markets that each generation reached and further explained how the current generation (Gen Z) can reach their target market.
Upon concluding, she quoted, “Christian leaders are driven by their ethics in any age,” and gave reference to persons from the bible such as Esther & Haman, Daniel, Moses, Joshua, and Gideon. With this she reiterated her points and shared the platforms in which you can reach her. Following the conclusion of her presentation, there was a brief question segment.
Ms. Anna Howell gave the vote of thanks and the closing prayer was done by Ms. Elsa Elvin.