The Student Union Building’s Multipurpose Room was buzzing with conversation on Wednesday, April 10 at the fifth annual Women’s Leadership Summit.
The Women’s Leadership Summit started five years ago as an engagement and cultivation event. The summit recruits up-and-coming alumnae and women leaders. These women then come to campus and speak directly with students on various ways to enhance their careers, and answer questions pertaining to their major and life goals.
“Students should walk out with interviewing skills, ways to get ahead once they’re on board in a new position, where they can go with their majors and knowing that you might major in one thing but life doesn’t take a straight path,” said Lisa Sandick, the program director for special events and sponsorships.
In previous years the setup was more of a panel, but this year chairs were set up in small circles, allowing for intimate conversations between women leaders and students. These circles were in three different categories: “Channeling Your Passion into Career Success,” “Making the Most of Your New Paltz Degree” and “Maintaining Your Work/Life Balance, Sanity and More.” After 25 minutes with one group, students moved onto the next, allowing them to engage in every topic.
“We felt that putting students in small groups with a couple speakers and a moderator made it a little bit easier for them to interact, it made it more comfortable,” Sandick said. “Some students don’t really like to talk in big crowds and this way it was more of a conversation as opposed to sitting in the back and just taking everything in.”
Within the three different topics were four or five smaller circles with women leaders, students and moderators.
“Things that I find that are very important to let current students know is that there’s a pathway after college and that they can make it even though the world seems so overwhelming,” said one of the event’s speakers Keisha Parker ‘00. “Also reinforcing the fact that New Paltz was one of the best choices they’ve ever made and it’s gonna be a worthwhile choice that brings great success for the future.”
Barbara Caldwell, one of the mediators, said that what she noticed was students sharing their fears and hopes while the speakers reassured students of the success that they’re capable of creating.
Emily LaSita, a creative writing major, felt that she got helpful insight into many different career paths she could take.
“A young woman stopped me and she was saying that she got a lot out of it and it would really help her along with her career,” Sandick said.
Though the summit was a women’s summit, it was not geared toward only women students, as the summit was available for anyone no matter their gender. Given that the speakers were all women, it gave a unique perspective to the leadership summit and students could ask more specific questions.
“The one surprising topic that female students, not the male students, throughout the three different rounds kept bringing up was confidence. How to exude and feel enough confidence to be competent at their first job after graduation,” said Reena Dahle, a mediator for the summit.
First and foremost, the summit was a forum for all students to come and get advice on how to get their first job and how to make it in the real world. The biggest attraction toward the summit were the personal connections that could be made and the advice that students could get that would be specific to themselves.
“I found that students were asking for very practical advice about how to sell themselves on a resume and in an interview, and how to articulate the skills that they have learned in leadership experiences outside the classroom,” said Linda Eaten, a moderator.
The summit was also able to benefit the speakers who were there by acknowledging their successes and by giving them the opportunity to give back to New Paltz and to students.
“Giving back is critically important to let students know what to expect, what they can do, what the opportunities are and just encouraging them to be their best selves for their future careers and being true to themselves and the things that they want to do,” Parker said.