What I Learned at the 2015 Women of Westminster Leadership Conference

Feature photo above: Young Westminster alumnae in STEM fields shared their experiences and insight at the 2015 WOW Leadership Conference. From left to right, Mandy Bright ’14, Melissa Plunkett ’05, Aly Monroe ’11, Jenn Sanders ’08, Misty Todd ’13.

Below, Westminster student Harmony Nelson shares what she learned at the 2015 Leadership Conference. This year, the annual conference focused on Women of Westminster (WOW).

The group of attendees gathered in the atrium at CSC, snacking and mingling. We were all ready to have an exciting day at the variety of conference panels — “Women in Science Fiction,” “7 Habits of Highly Effective Students,” “Westminster Women in STEM,” and much more. President Forsythe gave opening remarks about leadership at the college. “You can never talk about values too much. Our college’s values of integrity, fairness, respect, and responsibility are embodied here, today, by you.” With these words, he began the 2015 Leadership Conference.

Breakout sessions started, and my first session was “Women in Jazz.” I had the privilege of listening to Professor Wayne Zade discuss the rich history of jazz in America. We listened to iconic artists like Billie Holiday and even a new trio of pioneering women called ACS. He ended the session with his favorite definition of jazz: “Jazz is a music of hope.” Hope comes from the community jazz encourages, the inclusive nature of the music, and the bright future of women in the genre.

My second session was equally meaningful. In Dean Carolyn Perry’s session “So You Don’t Want to be a Leader?”, she described her experience as an introverted leader. Her first of 10 principles to live by will always be on my mind:

“Admit that shyness is rather selfish. If you really care about something, you will find the courage to lead.”

It was courage that allowed her to stand up for what changes she wanted to see in her workplace, even when her inner voice was asking her not to. Dean Perry’s story was inspiring.

In the third session, I enjoyed an informative presentation by Dr. Lisa Fein about marriage ceremony rituals for LGBTQA community members. Her presentation showed the different ways real couples have altered the typical bride-and-groom presentation to better fit their true identities.

At the end of the day, we all gathered in the CSC Lecture Hall for the keynote speaker, Amanda Seales. She performed her Side-Eye Seminar, which was simultaneously hilarious and powerfully moving. She used humor to address real issues of inequality for women in the U.S. One of the things she said I will never forget:

“The greatest power we can achieve as a society is equality because that is when we are using our power at its greatest strength.”

Altogether, I really enjoyed the Women of Westminster Leadership Conference. I left at the end of the day feeling inspired and hopeful. Thanks to the Leadership Conference Planning Committee and everyone else who made this year’s conference so great.

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