Women's leadership event a source of inspiration for students

Lindsey Jameson and Valerie Torge painted the 34th Street Wall Sunday announcing the 21st annual Women's Leadership Conference coming to UF on Feb. 10

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 9:57 p.m.

When Caitlin Healy, 19, attended last year's Women's Leadership Conference at the University of Florida, she anticipated taking part in an insightful event about women.

But she didn't realize how moved she would be by a story of a woman who joined the Peace Corps and tutored African women on her own initiative. The woman told of how the women she was tutoring had been raped by their school teacher and, as a result, were forced to leave the classroom.

Healy, now the director of publications for the conference, said hearing the experiences and stories of different women last year inspired her to get involved with this year's 21st annual Women's Leadership Conference, hosted by UF's Women's Leadership Council.

The conference will provide men and women of Gainesville with an opportunity to network, auire leadership skills, and learn about women's achievements in different fields, such as law enforcement.

It will take place on the second floor of the Reitz Union on Feb. 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Monday is the registration deadline for the event.

Healy said attending the conference made her realize how important it is for the council to exist to bring women together in order to "hear each other's stories."

The Women's Leadership Council is sponsored by the Dean of Students Office. The council is responsible for organizing and promoting events that empower women by pushing for leadership on campus and in the community.

Valerie Torge, 20, director of the conference, said the Feb. 10 event is the biggest of the year planned by the council, and it is a key reason for the organization's existence on campus.

The council has designated a separate committee to organize the event.

"We all pitch in, even the people who aren't on (the) conference committee," Torge said. Seventy-five people attended the inaugural conference, which was founded by Helen Marmechev, UF's first female vice president. Two hundred people were registered to attend last year's event, according to the council's Web site.

Lindsey Jameson, 19, publicity director for the conference, said the effort to spread awareness about the event picked up at the start of this semester.

"It's been a little stressful for the past week or two since we've got back from break," Jameson said. "I'm trying to make sure that everything gets done and on time, but I am really enjoying it. It's exciting once you finally see everything come together."

Jameson said that the theme for this year's conference - Exposed: Women Leaders Caught Red-Handed - is meant to bring attention to the positive and newsworthy things that women accomplish.

This year, the conference will feature a career panel, a selection of 18 workshops and keynote speaker Mary Wise, the UF women's volleyball coach. Breakfast, lunch and entertainment will also be provided for participants.

Jameson said that, although the event is a way to honor women, it is useful for everyone, because it provides participants with the skills needed to become a leader.

"I think a lot of times (men) see women in the title and just walk away from it," Torge said. "Male or female, they're going to have to work with women eventually in their careers, so I think it's important to be aware of the issues."

You can register for the conference online at www.dso.ufl.edu/studentorgs/wlc/conference.php and submit $25 to Nora Kilroy in the Dean of Students Office, 202 Peabody Hall. A rate of $20 per person for groups of five or more is also available.

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