Interviewed by Zoya Salahuddin
Director of Student Affairs at Northwestern University, Greg Bergida, is an experienced QLC presenter, having had numerous workshops prior to this year. His workshops incorporate learning from the variety of media surrounding students today, hoping that they begin to perceive such media differently afterwards. In QLC 2017, he presents his workshop “Why Mickey Mouse Matters”, aiming to share how Disney shaped his views on the role culture plays in our lives. His unique and innovative ideas are sure to change your perceptions and understanding of the world we live in today.
Having presented at QLC for 3 consecutive years, what would you say is the best part of each conference?
The best part about presenting at QLC is the chance to speak with students. I continue to be impressed every year with the high quality of the participants and how engaged they are.
Is there anything you believe to be a necessary skill to have when presenting?
It is important to have a passion for the topic you are presenting. If you don’t, it is noticeable. Let your enthusiasm show, rehearse and prepare extensively in advance, and find a way to engage with your audience.
What do you find most inspiring about today’s youth?
While I cannot speak about all of today’s youth, I can speak about my interactions with our students here at Northwestern. I am inspired by their curiosity and the desire to push forward. Every summer I take a group of Northwestern students to visit media companies in New York City. It gives me an opportunity to see them in a very different atmosphere where I get to understand their drive, passion, and that incredible curiosity.
Many of your workshops involve learning lessons from fiction – do you believe this is something everyone should do?
I try to draw on fictional content that in some way is a mirror to important aspects of reality. Rocky Balboa is an inspiring character because he was the underdog. More importantly, in the first movie, he lost. He did everything he could but he still lost. Rocky discovered that he had to do more; he had to train harder, get faster, and fight smarter. Characters from comic books have powers, but are flawed, and they’re accountable for what they are capable of doing. These are all things we should remind ourselves of as we move forward in life as leaders in our communities.
What excites you most about the Qatar Leadership Conference?
Again, this comes down to meeting students. I hope that I can share with them some insights into my life experiences and that they take something positive away from our talk to apply to their futures.
How do you believe mass media and entertainment organisations, such as Disney, try to change our lives?
I think there are many faces to the media companies that create the content we consume. While there is, of course, the commercial side to them where they sell to their consumers, I do believe there is more to them in their mission. We are starting to see greater diversity in characters they create. I personally hope that Doc McStuffins, the Dream Big Princess campaign, and characters like Mulan, Anna and Elsa, Merida, and Eleanor of Avalor inspire my niece and send her the message that there isn’t anything that she can’t do.