Shawn C. Best leads an engaging discussion about our values and the impacts of being emotionally intelligent 

Marist students jumped out of their seats to participate in an interactive leadership workshop led by guest speaker Shawn C. Best. This lecture sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Affairs as a part of their intersectionality and access series.

Best, university director for the CUNY black male initiative, defined emotional intelligence simply as, “Awareness, transparency, and risk. All three are important because it’s not comfortable necessarily to delve into emotions all of the time.”

To kick off the workshop, attendees were instructed to line up in order of their birthdays without speaking to each other. The goal of this activity was to illustrate how society communicates with one another through verbal and nonverbal cues. Through this activity, participants had to increase their own level of self-awareness.


Increasing self-awareness is the first step towards becoming emotionally intelligent. Growing up, kids are taught right from wrong in the world, but they may not have been taught how to respond or react when faced with difficult situations or emotions.

“As a kid, I saw difficult conversations that my family wasn’t willing to have openly, such as money issues or to be involved with the religious services in our church.” Best explains that growing up in a strict household he wished he could have been open and honest with his family to discuss these difficult topics and then offer his opinion. Through this, he might have been able to establish transparency within his family and lend a helping hand.

He believes, “The more you are aware, the more you are able to actually identify where your actions come from and why they happen.”  Best explained that at one point during his college career he observed other students relationships with their parents and the open dialogue they shared. That sparked him to think, “Maybe I should try this, even if it means the risk of failing or being spanked as a twenty-one-year-old.” Best took a risk without fear of failure, to be emotionally intelligent you need to take risks without fear but accept that the outcome might be rejection or acceptance.

The next step to increase emotional intelligence is finding balance. “I had come to this place of equilibrium. To understand there are moments where I need to be hardline and tell you what needs to happen logically. And there are times where I need to open up and share myself emotionally.”

After the workshop concluded, attendees stayed to continue conversations. Many students and faculty members were inspired by the concept of emotional intelligence and how impactful it is in our everyday life.

Robin Torres, Assistant Dean of Student Engagement and Leadership, was amazed by the workshop and felt that it was a game changer for many students. However, what resonated the most with her was how “our earliest memories make such a key impact on us and can be traced back to our values.”

Sophomore Durashahwar Ahmed learned that “it’s okay to ask for what you want.” Although, sophomore Aicha Sylla, seemed to really enjoy how, “interactive and engaging the workshop was.”

Claudette McCullers, a sophomore, felt like, “you have to invest in yourself, even if you fail. At least you tried.” Seems like McCullers understands what it means to take risks without fear of failure.


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