Over 200 women educated, encouraged and energized one another
By Sherri Long
Knightly News Reporter
Education and empowerment for women were the main purposes of this year’s Women’s Leadership Conference, held last month in the Conference Center at the college.
Rubina Azizdin, career counselor and part-time faculty member at Central Penn, organized the event, which was geared toward women in all stages of their career paths.
The conference featured women leaders in the community and businesses. Attendees ranged from current college students and college leadership, to business employees, leaders and entrepreneurs.
Della Archer, director of employee relations for Harrisburg Area Community College, said she was attending the Women’s Conference because she “looks for ways to network with other women professionals,” and she values hearing “stories of other women to find out how they got to where they are.”
Archer’s coworker, Stephanie Maben, executive assistant to vice president of student affairs at HACC, explained she was attending because “working women face so many challenges. Any opportunity to network with other women is great.”
Albatrosses and rock stars
The conference started off with the breakfast keynote message from speaker and communication expert Robyn Hatcher. Hatcher encouraged attendees to “let your light shine” and to “embrace your albatross.” The albatross, Hatcher explained, is deadweight or a burden. By identifying it, you can reframe it and turn your misfortune into your mission.
Attendees were told to “get your sparkle on,” stood up by their tables, put their hands on their hips, heads held high and shouted, “I AM (after which they inserted three strengths from a list that was at each table)!” This energized the group, and kept the positive and energetic momentum going throughout the conference.
After the uplifting message from Hatcher, attendees went to the breakout sessions of their choice. Sessions were themed with such titles as Knowledge is Power, Financial Literacy, Achieving Your Dreams, Live Your Truth, and Interview Like A Rock Star.
Sharon Kelly, an accounting major student at Central Penn, said, “When I had my first interview, I was really nervous. They gave me this paper to review and asked some questions and I kind of stumbled through it.”
The main reason Kelly attended the conference was for the breakout session How to Interview Like a Rock Star — How to Slay Every Interview for Every Job You Ever Wanted, presented by Amanda King, owner of PeopleSavvyHR Group, to better her chances at her next interview.
Etiquette and power
After the breakout sessions, attendees participated in a five-course luncheon during which Kathy Christopher, general manager for Bridgewood Catering at Central Penn, gave a presentation on proper etiquette for each course of a meal during networking events and luncheon interviews.
During dessert, an energetic fashion show was presented by designer and local business woman Amma Johnson, featuring her AMMA JO fashions, which were modeled by several Central Penn employees, including President Karen Scolforo and Vice President of Academic Affairs/Provost Linda Fedrizzi-Williams. The luncheon ended with the presentation of the Student Leadership Awards.
The conference concluded with a Powerhouse Panel, featuring local women leaders from the government, business and nonprofit sectors. After each panelist made introductory remarks, attendees could ask questions. Questions attendees asked covered discrimination, balancing family and career, and being compassionate, empathetic and successful.
The panel was well-received by attendees.
Azizdin closed the conference by thanking everyone for attending.
“Everything went really well. Actually, it went better than expected,” Azizdin said about the event during a recap phone interview.
This year’s conference was the second annual Women’s Conference Azizdin organized. Attendance increased from 125 last year to 200 this year. She is “definitely planning on a 2018 conference.”
When asked what she’s learned or any improvements she’ll make for next year, Azizdin spoke about the technology of event planning. She is researching a new registration tool to use because some of the payments did not go through and because of lack of notifications when someone registered. She also advised planners to confirm what technology is in each room a presenter will be using.
“One of the rooms we used had new computer and presentation systems installed over the weekend,” Azizdin said. “Thankfully, we were able to have someone from IT help with getting the equipment running.”
Azizdin recommends having one or two presenters as back-ups, “just in case.” One of the presenters could not attend due to a family emergency. One of the Power Panel participants, a friend of Azizdin’s, was able to present in that speaker’s place.
Azizdin continues to get positive feedback from attendees and through responses from emailed surveys.
She has several ideas for next year’s conference topics and planning, including looking for more corporate sponsors to help fund the event and for more giveaways at the conference.
Sherri L. Long is president of the Knightly News Media Club @ Central Penn College.
To comment on this story, or to suggest a story, contact the KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.edu
Edited by media club co-adviser Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi