Gustavus Women In Leadership (GWiL) is a unique organization whose purpose is to prepare, promote and inspire Gustavus women in their professional and personal leadership development to reach their potential.As noted on the official website, GWiL’s vision is to “transform our communities and workplaces by inspiring all women to advocate for themselves, live purposefully and create opportunities for future generations of women.”
GWiL is led by faculty advisor Dr. Kathi Tunheim and an Executive Board of 13 involved and passionate students.
“Our alumni are engaged and eager to interact with our members which really drove my continued involvement in GWiL.” – Mae Meierhenry ‘17
Leading the Board are seniors Alexandra Kopp and Mae Meierhenry.
“I initiated my involvement with GWiL as a sophomore because of upperclassmen teammates involved in the program whom I identified as role models. I hoped to garner similar professional skills and networking opportunities,” Meierhenry said.
Despite its name, GWiL welcomes and encourages male involvement.
“GWiL is a great organization for any male or female to be involved with on campus to strengthen leadership skills and develop business acumen with exposure to successful Gustavus alumni and professional speakers through on campus events, our annual conference, and many other networking opportunities,” Senior Katey Nelson said.
A unique component of GWiL includes the various networking activities with fellow Gustie alumni.
“GWiL holds events on campus that allow for students to network or learn valuable skills like dressing professionally or crafting a resume, however they also hold various off campus events and speakers that bring current students together with alumni,” Senior Olivia Gori said.
One of GWiL’s strongest features includes engaging current and past Gusties.
“Our alumni are engaged and eager to interact with our members which really drove my continued involvement in GWiL. Every student can gain valuable skills and insights from the programming alumni network,” Meierhenry said.
Additionally, GWiL actively works with the community and participates in various outreach activities.
“This year we paired with the Thrivent Action program to give to our local Committee Against Domestic Abuse (CADA). We donated to CADA’s Adopt-a-Family program and bought Christmas gifts for a family in our community affected by domestic abuse,” Meierhenry said.
One of the organization’s largest events includes the Gustavus Women in Leadership Conference. Primarily student planned, the conference includes keynote speakers, interactive panels, and more.
This year’s conference is titled, “Navigating Conflict In An Ever-Changing World,” and will explore the experiences of strong women in leadership as they share their stories of perseverance, flexibility, and conflict.
“When deciding the conference theme, we found this to be a topic that could resonate with all members of our audience, as we all go through critical moments within our personal and professional lives,” Nelson said.
Attendees will get the chance to hear from many influential and successful women including the President of Allina Health Buffalo Hospital, the Human Resources Director at General Mills Convenience & Foodservice, and the Founding Executive Producer of the Women in the World Summit.
“I am excited for this year’s conference theme because I think it will be especially helpful for me as I graduate and enter the workforce. After taking two different conflict resolution and resiliency courses this semester, I recognize the importance of managing stress and conflict in both my personal and professional life,” Gori said.
“This conference is valuable to those who attend because it serves as a forum for fellowship, meaningful discussion, and collaborative learning. It is an opportunity for women (and men) to stimulate, challenge, and develop themselves as leaders who are navigating critical and challenging moments in ways that serve the collective good,” Nelson said.
The three conference directors, Lydia Kennedy ’17, Katey Nelson ’17, Tessa Semerad ’17, and Dr. Kathi Tunheim agree that planning the conference is a relationship-based, team effort.
“When deciding the conference theme, we found this to be a topic that could resonate with all numbers of our audience.” – Katey Nelson ‘17
“We have so many partners from the Gustavus community that generously provide their support, resources, and skills to help make this event a success,” Nelson said.
The 7th annual Gustavus Women in Leadership took place on Thursday, April 27 at the American Swedish Institute.