The 10th annual Women’s Leadership Conference was held Friday, March 25 at Rose State College. The conference filled to capacity within 24 hours, setting the record for previous attendance.
The main focus of the lectures, panels and discussions concerned empowerment derived from education. Six breakout sessions were offered to attendees. Speakers introduced topics about the global education of women and a panel of research and history majors from UCO and OU discussed the historical developments pursued by influential women.
Discussions involved the impact of gendered language in academia and interactions throughout life. Breakout sessions covered the power of higher education and what lies outside of it by outlining an instructional design in the corporate world. They also includ- ed lectures about furthering one’s education and road maps for success in college.
“Once you have knowledge, no one can take it away from you ... being active with education and empowerment, that’s what this con- ference is about,” Professor of Sociology Tara Hall said.
Hall also announced women’s studies at RSC will now be referred to as gender studies. Rather than the current history-based degree plan, it will now be sociologically-based.
The conference’s success over the past 10 years captured the attention of Oklahoma legislators. Rep. Emily Virgin and the Oklahoma House of Representatives proclaimed March 21, 2016, as Empowerment for Women through Education in Oklahoma Day.
Michelle Brockmeier, professor of history and director of gender studies, received a standing ovation by the Oklahoma Senate for the conference’s proposal.
The recipient of last year’s full academic year tuition waiver scholarship, Verna Edwards, announced the winner of the 2016 scholar- ship. Alicia Hayes is this year’s scholarship winner. Bethany Green and Stacey Marrazo were the other finalists recognized.
President Jeanie Webb and RSC Regent Betty J.C. Wright were the keynote speakers at the conference. They spoke intimately about the women who influenced them most and how their attitude and work ethic helped make them who they are today. Webb gave special thanks to Brockmeier, Dr. Joanne Stafford and Monique Bruner. She recognized their leadership through the process of building the conference and encouraged participants to ac- knowledge their efforts.
The luncheon panel discussion speakers were Dr. Maria del Guadalupe Davidson, Dr. Misty Engelbrecht and Dr. Juanita Ortiz. They shared their stories about growing up from lower income backgrounds and their expe- riences as first-generation college students. They discussed power barriers that were negotiated and privileges that made them feel as if they were “imposters,” because they came from “blue collar roots” trying to live “white collar lives.”
“Attitude reflects leadership, Captain,” Webb said as she cited “Remember the Titans.” “One of my favorite movies ... Attitude starts at the top. We have to work together, and we have to work hard, and I think attitude is every- thing. Look around this room. Together we can achieve so much more but, we have to be positive.”
Every speaker shared a story about how education played a role in shaping a future for themselves, contrary to whatever life laid in front of them.