September 22, 2019 | 69° F

Mark conference steps into second year at U.

Photo by Shawn Smith |

Dawn J. Fraser, humorist and national speaker, speaks at Mark Conference 2013.

Actress Laverne Cox, PostSecret Project creator Frank Warren and two 8-year-old creators of a fashion movement have left their mark on the world. They are on their path to encourage students at Rutgers to create their mark through the second annual Mark Leadership Conference this Saturday at the Livingston Student Center.

Robyn Ginese, associate director for Student Life Leadership and Training, which is hosting the conference, said the conference is a unique experience created to give students an exposure different than the traditional opportunities they get on campus.

“It’s all about how students can start making their mark on the world now — that you don’t have to wait until you’re a post-graduate entrepreneur to do it,” she said. “So it’s empowering to have [students] start as soon as they can and follow their passions.”

Ginese said all of the speakers this year would be different from last year. This includes Cox, a transgender advocate and actress on the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black.”

“In addition, we have eight [Ignite Rutgers Speakers] who have been trained to do professional speaking, who will discuss how they’re making their marks — whether that’s through community service or overcoming their own identity issues, tragedies within their families and things like that,” she said.

Other conference attendees include a man who overcame Tourette’s syndrome and a Rutgers alumnus who was in a car accident with a reckless driver, Ginese said.  

“Post Secret creator Frank Warren is coming, who made his mark within the mental health world,” she said. “He’s really hitting this concept that it’s so prevalent in our society these days so it’s important to bring light to it and bring awareness to it.”

Ginese said they picked speakers representing different industries to promote the idea that there isn’t only one way to make your mark.

“We also have a few surprise elements planned — there’s going to be a balloon pit, an impromptu dance party — different things right in the middle of the conference. So it’ll definitely be a different and unique experience from one year to the next,” she said.

Joshua Naehr, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he is one of two captains of Promotions and Outreach for Student Life Leadership and Training.

“We work all of the social media sites, tabling events, going to classes to speak as well as any other sort of promotional event,” he said.

Naehr said he has worked on building the culture of the Mark Conference on their social media sites and well as tabling for “Mark Mondays.”

“My favorite has been working on our Mark Story Project campaign where I got to interview people like [Rutgers head football coach Kyle] Flood, professors like Steve Miller and past [and] present ignite speakers,” he said.

Naehr said he was inspired to get involved after he saw a lecture by Seth Godin last year, and it changed his perspective on himself and the upcoming work force.

“I was so impacted that I talked to a friend of mine who was working the event, and he told me to check out the Mark Conference,” he said. “So I read up on it, contacted them and fell in love with the entire cause. It is truly something that allows for so much creative expression.”

Angelie Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she attended the conference last year because one of her friends was an Ignite speaker.

“After I had seen what great speakers there were and how passionate everyone was about being strong leaders, I knew I had to come back,” she said.

Patel said her division handles partnerships, sponsorships and works closely with volunteers and team members. She said they’ve been planning the conference since May.  

“I think sometimes the word leadership can get [mis]construed,” she said. “We don’t want people to think that they have to be the president of an organization to be able to make a difference. Leadership means being the unique influence you want to be.”

By Connie Capone

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