Yoonj Kim is the West Coast Fellow and Chicago manager at The OpEd Project. She reflects on this past weekend’s San Diego public seminar.
This Saturday, sunny San Diego was a hub of thought leadership activity as The American Prospect‘s E.J. Graff led a roomful of women — and a man — at our Write to Change the World seminar. The UCSD (University of California San Diego) Women’s Center was our beautiful host site and the combination of the location, our team, and the group of sharp, savvy women made for a most rewarding day where I learned yet another important lesson about what makes our program so unique.
Having been to seminars in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now San Diego, I wasn’t sure if there was something new to be gleaned personally from this particular session. Although it has been the case that each time I go through a seminar I pick up a new lesson, by the time of this fifth session I was thinking, ‘What more could I pick up that I hadn’t the previous four times?’
It was in the midst of such thinking, as EJ and Chelsea Carmona, the manager, were engaging with the class, that I realized I would always, always learn something new. The day’s agenda is chock full of invaluable lessons on expertise, thought leadership, and op-ed writing, all presented by the seminar leader(s). A significant part of the day’s value, however, also lies with the individual attendees themselves and the interactions one has with the folks with which one has serendipitously been placed.
Much of the seminar’s takeaway is contingent upon how much an individual contributes to the discussion and interactions. The assortment of people who attend the seminars mean that not a single one will be the same. At San Diego, participants ranged from recent graduates to nonprofit founders to mental health advocates. Other seminars also vary in the range and diversity of participants, making the conversations at each seminar subtly, interestingly unique.
The importance of this realization is that it is a reflection of what The OpEd Project aims to accomplish in the big scheme of things. Our programs work to coach women and other underrepresented groups to become thought leaders precisely because having a diversity of voices and perspectives is so important in creating an enriched public conversation. Because I attend many seminars, each one with participants of backgrounds, expertise, and opinions different from the others I’ve been to, I always gain new insights on our core curriculum. Similarly, by hearing from individuals other than the white men that fill up a majority of thought leadership forums, the world will benefit.