2015 Brenau Leadership Colloquium Inspires and Motivates Women of All Ages

Received with enthusiastic fervor, Brenau University’s second Women’s Leadership Colloquium encouraged fellowship and community among its attendees on March 20 at the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts. The event packed Hosch Theatre full of alumni, students, faculty, and community leaders for conversations about the unique potential and challenges of women’s leadership.

“One thread connecting all the speakers is the passion of what they do and how they connect and share their passion with other women,” said Debra Dobkins, dean of the Women’s College.

The colloquium was dedicated to the memory of Eston Wycliffe (Wyc) Orr Sr., a longtime supporter of Brenau and the Gainesville community. His wife, Lyn Harden Orr, and his daughter, Kris Orr Brown, accepted a proclamation marking the dedication of the colloquium in his name.

“The experiences of my grandmothers explained why my mother and father would emphasize women’s studies, and would create an endowment for that purpose,” said Brown. “Providing positive female role models was important to my dad, and still is to my mom, and Brenau was the perfect school for such an endowment and purpose.”

The keynote speaker was Marissa Kraxberger, who has had a diverse career in design, art direction and brand development for high-profile fashion and lifestyle brands including Diane von Furstenberg, Kate Spade New York and Oscar de la Renta. She currently is the creative vice president for Ivanka Trump’s growing fashion enterprise and author of her blog “Lady & Prince.”

“I feel honored to be here, to be part of a group encouraging and supporting women to pursue their dreams. I am thankful and I hope people will be inspired to pursue what they love,” Kraxberger said.
“Marissa’s speech was very inspiring. Hearing her journey and struggles in finding herself is a journey we all must go through. It’s not easy but it’s life,” said attendee Nichole Vernon, a mass communications sophomore at Brenau.

The other speakers included Lindsey Nelson, the vice president of sales productivity and talent development for CareerBuilder, who encouraged everyone in the audience to “be the president of You. Every day you have the opportunity to develop yourself.”

Carrie Conway, a senior program officer serving the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, who shared her experiences of taking risks and facing one’s fears by “braving the wilderness”; Valerie Simmons-Walston, the dean of students at Brenau University, who emphasized the importance of women helping one another and how her own development of leadership skills shaped her outlook on life; Anna Jacobs, WC ’86, manager of the family-owned business Jacobs Media Corporation, and discussed how we can “learn to be leaders in our own lives.”

Tracy Rhodes, WC ’02, a partner in Evans & Rhodes, LLC, who discussed why and where young women should both seek and offer assistance as mentors; and Ashley Lee, who graduated from Brenau in May 2014 and continues to work with her alma mater as an online tutor for the Writing Center.

“As a recent Brenau graduate, I am humbled to be among all these phenomenal women. It’s great that we can come together and share our experiences like this. It embodies what defined my college experience,” said Lee.
The program made possible in part through the generosity of donors to the Grace/Gaskins Women’s Studies Endowment Fund can be heard in its entirety bellow.

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