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FROM READERS: Women's Leadership Conference supports leadership, professional skills

Friday, March 8, 2013 | 5:50 p.m. CST

Adrienne Donica is from the Marketing/PR committee for the Women's Leadership Conference. This is an article she wrote about the conference, which takes place in Columbia on Saturday. (Registration for the event is closed.)

MU Women’s Center was grim last Thursday as the 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference Steering Committee discussed the possibility of canceling this year’s conference.

Since January, the 15-person committee held weekly planning meetings full of stories, laughter and hard work. Most of the details were in place but the number of registered attendees was low. The committee had to convince nearly 60 additional people to sign up in 24 hours.

By the deadline, the number of registered conference attendees had tripled to surpass the threshold amount. Executive Director Bethanie Barnes was excited to be able continue with the conference.

“It shows the dedication of our committee to making the Women’s Leadership Conference a success and to getting students interested and registered for the conference,” Barnes said. “I think that it is great that we have so many students interested in gaining leadership skills and finding their passions.”

Sponsored by MU’s Center for Leadership Development & Community Involvement and Stephens College, the Women’s Leadership Conference is a supportive and educational event to help community women, specifically those at the collegiate level, develop their leadership and professional skills. This year’s theme of “Finding Power in Your Passion” will encourage attendees to identify, articulate and support their passions.

“When I heard this year’s theme, I automatically thought I want to challenge participants to define what they are passionate about,” presenter Alyssa Bilyeu said. “Then what are they going to do with it?”

Bilyeu tailored her presentation around the theme hoping to re-motivate her audience. She will challenge attendees to focus on their mission.

The conference will be held this Saturday at the United Methodist Church in downtown Columbia. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear 27 presentations covering a broad range of leadership and professional development topics. Presenters are from the Columbia business community, MU and Columbia College. Elisa Parker, the co-founder, president and host of the award-winning program See Jane Do, will serve as the keynote speaker. MU Vice Chancellor Dr. Catherine Scroggs will address the audience as the opening speaker.

“We have a lot of really good presenters this year,” presenter Relations Assistant Director Megan Cahill said. “I am excited to hear them and hope the feedback from the attendees is good. We have a wide variety of topics so there will be something to interest everyone.”

The MU Women’s Center and MU Department of Student Life have been vital resources for the Women's Leadership Conference. The Department of Student Life helps fund the conference and is home to the Center for Leadership Development & Community Involvement. The Women’s Center, in addition to being a host of some planning meetings, promoted the conference and its mission throughout the year.

“The Women’s Leadership Conference wouldn’t be near the success that it is without the Women’s Center’s assistance in spreading the word and having a strong mission year-round that coincides with our yearly conference,” Barnes said.

The conference is held in March to coincide with Women’s History Month. Additionally, the Friday before the event is International Women’s Day.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising Editor Joy Mayer.

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