Invest in the future of the movement—help us bring more students to the CFI Leadership Conference!
June 8, 2011
Students are still contacting us from places like Georgia, Texas, and California. They want to attend the CFI Student Leadership Conference this summer, but they lack the resources to cover the full cost of travel.
Please make a donation today to help us bring these students to the Leadership Conference!
Like hundreds of students, my first exposure to the wider freethought movement was at a CFI Student Leadership Conference. Now, a decade later, I have the opportunity to pass the baton to student organizers and activists like Cody Hashman and train the next generation of leaders. Read Cody’s letter below to learn how attending the conference inspired and equipped him to make a difference on campus. Then please give what you can so that more student leaders like Cody can attend the conference this year.
Campus Outreach Coordinator
Center for Inquiry
Co-founder and former President
University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers & Inquirers
In the summer of 2008 I was fortunate enough to attend the CFI Student Leadership Conference because I received a travel grant from CFI.
I was a young motivated student who had started a small organization promoting science, reason, and secular values on my campus. The conference experience gave me priceless insight and the tools to develop my student group, the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers & Inquirers (UNIFI), into a nationally recognized and influential community of skeptics and secular students that is thriving to this day.
During the conference I was immersed in the freethought movement in a way that I had never dreamed. The conference not only allowed me to network with other student leaders, many who ran highly successful student groups and grassroots campaigns, but also I was able to connect with influential figures in the movement. This included D.J. Grothe, the host at the time of Point of Inquiry, who would later become the keynote speaker at UNIFI’s first annual award-winning Darwin Week. The conference also allowed me to establish a more intimate rapport with CFI organizers, including Lauren Becker and Debbie Goddard, in a way that’s not possible with long-distance communication.
Students work in small groups for sessions on leadership, activism, more
The presentations and workshops offered during the conference equipped me with important tools and know-how that I was able to bring back to my student group and implement immediately. I learned that the basis of a successful student group is organization. Without a well-organized group, even the most inspired collection of individuals will suffer to create positive change in the world. Conference workshops on topics from organization to navigating social media to writing press releases taught these invaluable skills and were informative and practical.
While inspiration is hard to measure, I can assure you that what I took from the conference most of all was inspiration. While the social connections and organizational know-how were imperative to the success of my student group, they would hardly have been useful without a sense of inspiration. This inspiration was derived from a revitalized feeling of compassion, empowerment, and motivation. This was an underlying theme of the entire conference and culminated with a final talk by Austin Dacey related to his book The Secular Conscience. I walked away from the conference wanting to mirror the passion and commitment of all who were involved with the conference: the organizers, the donors, the authors, the speakers, and the other students.
UNIFI’s Darwin Week 2009 attracted over 1000 participants
Overall, the Student Leadership Conference was a life-changing experience—not just for me, but for the students, faculty, and community members that benefited from my experience. The trio of inspiration, leadership tools, and social networking allowed for my group and me to pull off the first of our highly successful annual Darwin Weeks, which won CFI’s Best On-Campus Event of the Year award for 2009. I am confident that without the opportunity I was given to attend the Student Leadership Conference, my student group would not be as successful as it was—and still is today, three years later.
Thank you very much for making it possible for students out there like me to attend this life-changing conference.