Every March, coinciding with Women’s History Month, the Center for Leadership Development and Community Involvement at the University of Missouri sponsors the Women’s Leadership Conference. The WLC is an opportunity for members of the community to learn about and celebrate women’s achievements while developing their own leadership skills to continue furthering women’s successes in the world.
This year’s theme was “Finding Power in Your Passion.” Through networking and numerous workshops, lectures and activities, participants were empowered to identify their passions and find ways in which those passions can be expressed productively to best meet their goals and serve their communities.
The conference was held March 9 at the United Methodist Church and began with an introduction by Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor of student affairs at MU. Her advice for turning participants’ passions into reality was to seek mentors. Scroggs encouraged everyone to find three mentors: a personal mentor who can serve as a useful guide, a distant mentor with similar interests whose actions can be observed and imitated and a historical mentor whose legacy serves as inspiration.
A total of four 50-minute breakout sessions, each with six or seven workshops to choose from, followed Scroggs’ introduction. Breakout session one featured an interactive presentation led by Alyssa Bilyeu, former senior facilitator at MU’s Venture Out program. “Mission in Mind” provided participants with practical ways to develop personal and professional mission statements, as well as ways to stay focused and adapt to changes over time.
“As far as personal development, this was the most helpful breakout session I attended,” freshman marketing, public relations and advertising major Brianna Jackson said. She said it helped her realize the importance of having and being able to communicate a specific mission, and that is something she can use every day.
Breakout session two included a workshop led by Struby Struble, coordinator of the MU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer resource center. “Passion into Action” addressed the myth that women are too emotional to be strong leaders and discussed ways to use emotions effectively and productively in society.
Professor of philosophy at Columbia College, Melanie Johnson-Moxley presented during breakout session three. Her lecture “But I Don’t Think With My Ovaries! Women & Big Ideas” explored how and when women have been discouraged or supported in their pursuits of knowledge and how participants can use this discussion to motivate their own educational goals.
During the fourth and final breakout session, senior coordinator of leadership development at MU Michelle Murphy led an interactive self-assessment of leadership and communication styles in her workshop “True Colors: Power Through Effective Communication.”
“It was about figuring out your personality type, learning about it, embracing it and learning how you can better communicate with people of different personality types,” said freshman fashion communication major Neesha Edwards. “That was a really eye-opening experience.”
The day’s events culminated with the address by this year’s keynote speaker Elisa Parker. Parker is president, co-founder and host of the nationally-acclaimed program See Jane Do, a social change multimedia organization that works to empower women. She spoke on the importance of finding purpose in passion and taking action to fulfill that purpose.
“I would definitely attend this conference next year,” Edwards said. “I was left feeling very inspired after this year’s, so I definitely would not pass up on this opportunity to better myself.”
“I thought it was a very enlightening experience,” Jackson said. “They had such a broad spectrum of topics, and everyone could be engaged. As long as I’m at Stephens, I’ll attend that conference.”