Leadership lessons, creating your brand and empowering your career – these are just a few examples of what close to 70 women learned firsthand during October’s three-day Women’s Leadership Development Summit in Glen Allen, Va., hosted by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC).
The overall group, consisting of juniors and seniors at higher education institutions across the Commonwealth, included 10 students from Marymount University – Zahra Amsa, Britney Andrade Aragon, Jillian Deignan, Krissha Deundo, Victoria Marin, Aileen Martinez, Aya Raihanoune, Megan Shea, Sushmita Thapa and Meream Younis. Since 2019, Marymount’s Office of Student Engagement and Leadership has coordinated with the VFIC to facilitate student participation and attendance.
The Summit provided these Saints the opportunity to practice what some refer to as the ‘socialization of leadership’ – sharing ideas, developing strategies, encouraging growth and instilling confidence.
“Our program will not only shape how women view leadership, but it will have a positive impact on each participant’s self-perception as a leader,” said Matt Shank, president of the VFIC. “By creating a forum for discussing the issue of women and leadership and encouraging them to develop strategies for effecting change, we can help prepare the women who attend our schools for leadership roles.”
To accomplish that goal, the Summit encouraged participants to reach for the top by routinely engaging in conversations about leadership earlier in their lives, and certainly before they begin their career journey. The Summit also demonstrated the importance of mentors, the value of networking and the need to set ambitious goals and work towards achieving them.
“The speakers were so inspiring and really explained the different characteristics of an empathetic and open-minded leader,” said Marymount junior Aileen Martinez. “I learned so much, from how to manage strong emotions when tensions are high in the workplace to how to be a leader that impacts the lives of those around them. It was a great time, and I hope more Marymount women apply for it in 2023!”
“The Leadership Summit allowed us to share our ideas, develop new skills, grow and instill confidence in ourselves,” added senior Information Technology major Krissha Deundo. “I enjoyed meeting new people from different schools and making connections. I would recommend other Marymount students to attend the conference to be inspired, learn new things, make connections and have fun!”
During the three-day conference, attendees participated in a wide variety of forums, discussions and workshops, which included:
- Leadership Lessons from Trailblazing Women
- Leadership in the Public Sector
- Be Your Brand: Showing Up with Purpose and Intention
- Leading through Conflict
- The Art of Leading
- Empowering Your Career
These were led by a distinguished group of featured speakers that included names such as Esther Lee (President and CEO of Refraction), Jennifer McClellan (Virginia State Senator), Kimberly Mahan (Founder and Partner of MAXX Potential) and Julianna Keeling (Founder and CEO of Terravive), who all focused on the skills that female leaders need to assume positions of authority in professional and personal settings.
“Of all the lessons I learned during the Summit, some of the things I will always keep with me going forward are that being true and authentic is incredibly important to both myself and those around me,” said Aya Raihanoune, a senior at Marymount studying Biology. “Also, I’ll remember that taking risks is vital to success, that imposter syndrome is real and you have to remind yourself that you earned your position, that focusing on personal wellness in relation to mental health is vital to being a better leader and person, and that it’s important to schedule time for myself for my own well-being.”
The Summit also emphasized how mindful living has an important role in mindful leading. Marymount junior Megan Shea, a Health Sciences major on the Pre-Physical Therapy track, recalled the last workshop of the weekend, which consisted of discussions on emotional intelligence, self-awareness and wisdom.
“I learned that we are always continuing to find balance, and sometimes we may have to stop and reflect on how we are balancing our lives physically, physiologically, emotionally, personally, professionally and spiritually,” she explained. “I think it’s worth remembering that it’s a gift to care for myself and the world around me.”
In addition to taking part in workshops and listening to presentations, participants toured the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as well during the Summit.