The Gustavian Weekly

Women of Gustavus push for empowerment: 9th annual Women in Leadership Conference brings women together | The Gustavian Weekly

By Jack Wiessenberger - Staff Writer | April 26, 2019 | News

Gustavus promotes service and leadership as one of its core values. Opportunities to explore leadership can be found in all areas of campus life.

Most recently, Gustavus sponsored a conference to encourage female leadership in professional fields.

The conference, officially titled ‘Gustavus Women in Leadership Conference – Empowerment: We Rise by Lifting Others’, was held Friday, April 26, at the Sheraton hotel in Bloomington. The Gustavus Women in Leadership (GWIL) organization was responsible for planning the conference.

“GWIL is a student and volunteer-led organization that emphasizes the empowerment of women. 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,” Junior GWIL Co-President Ella Johnson said.

GWIL attempts to empower women beyond the boundaries of college and into the workplace.

“This was GWIL’s ninth conference since its inception. I had been working closely with the Gustavus Marketing Department to create the save the date, the invitation, the conference program, and to create content for the day of the conference,” GWIL Co-Director Kristie Tunheim said.

GWIL worked hard to make this year’s conference a success.

“Every year, the goal of the GWIL conference is to support women leaders in their personal and professional development as well as encourage non-women to learn how to be allies of women leaders,” GWIL Co-Director Rachel Belvedere said.

The goal of this conference was the same as the past eight, but this conference was the biggest yet.

“Our audience was made up of students from all majors, staff from Gustavus, alumni, and friends of the college. This was our largest conference yet–we had roughly 300 attendees this year–which is amazing. We mailed invitations, sent emails, hung up posters and spread via word of mouth the details of the conference to promote our exciting event,” Tunheim said.

This conference is looking to promote important ideas of female leadership while also connecting Gusties.

“The primary goal of the conference was to prepare, promote, and inspire Gustavus women, men, and friends of the college in their professional and personal development to reach their potential. This year’s theme was ‘Empowerment: We Rise by Lifting Others’. Essentially, we sought to promote the cyclical process of mentorship and relate it to the notion that when we lift others to reach their potential, we all benefit,” Tunheim said.

This year’s conference was focused on promoting a culture of leadership. Not only encouraging individuals to become leaders, but to help others along their way as well.

“With this theme, attendees saw the power of mentorship and collaboration and learned how to work with others to advance the success of all,” Belvedere said.

GWIL wanted to show attendees that they don’t have to be alone in their struggle for success. Conference planners wanted to stress the benefits of a community with a common goal.

“Everyone that attends the conference will take something different home with them. Personally, I have left the conference feeling grateful, empowered, and excited for my future as a female in the workplace. This conference is so special,” Johnson said.

“We had 12 total speakers presenting. Our two keynotes were Andrea Walsh, CEO of Health Partners and Amanda Brinkman, Co-Host of the Hulu show ‘Small Business Revolution – Main Street’. In addition to our keynotes, we had our ‘Women Thriving in Male-Dominated Fields’ panel which included a district judge, an intellectual property attorney, and the head counsel for the Minnesota Twins,” Tunheim said. The speakers were from a wide variety of professional fields. This gave attendees a solid understanding of how they can lead in all types of professions. Another panel was made up of familiar faces to Gustavus.

“We had a second panel made up of successful young Gustavus alumnae. We also were welcomed in the morning by President Bergman and Warren Beck, the owner of the Sheraton Bloomington and the namesake of Beck Hall on campus. Overall, we had some amazing presentations given by rockstars in their fields,” Tunheim said. These speakers were able to connect deeply with the audience of Gusties. They gave informative and uplifting talks with the same message of female leadership.

“Attendees experienced an exciting day of inspiration from successful women in varied fields along with networking new connections between speakers, alumni, and students. We hope to further develop Gusties, both women and men alike, to live their most empowered lives,” Tunheim said. This conference was the latest effort Gustavus has made to reinforce the core values of student leadership and service.