MSMU presents: The 2015 Women’s Leadership Conference

Written by Kimberly Quitzon, Vice President

Mount Saint Mary’s University celebrated 40 years of leadership this Saturday at the 2015 Women’s Leadership Conference. Students, teachers, and women of multiple areas of study attended a variety of workshops and presentations offered for the occasion. The event featured speakers of different fields sharing their stories and advice on how to be a leader and work in industries that are typically male-dominated.

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“…we know we are preparing a generation of visionary leaders.”- President Ann McElaney-Johnson

The opening session was the perfect kick-start to the inspirational day. Rosalyn Alma Kempf, Director of Women’s Leadership, opened with an anniversary announcement of Mount Saint Mary’s University’s 40th year of leadership.

President Ann McElaney-Johnson followed with an opening remark stating, “…we know we are preparing a generation of visionary leaders.” In the midsts of such preparations, she added that the school will be developing a Center of Advancement of Women.

Opening guest speaker Lateefah Simon, Program Director of the Rosenberg Foundation, touched the hearts of those who listened. Her story left many feeling strong, letting the crowd know that self-determination and fierceness are the key components to being a strong successful leader. Simon started her life in the projects, pregnant, with no father to help raise her child. She then gained the opportunity to work for the Street Survival project and helped women who were young, pregnant and in jail see hope in their future. From then on nothing hindered her and she insisted the same for the women in the audience. There is always room for more women empowerment and Simon advised that “you have no choice, it’s on you, your time is now.”

After Simon’s encouraging moment, a panel of alumni shared the benefits of being a leader at the university. Leadership Lessons Learned at the Mount featured Sue French ’79, Brittney Plascencia ’12, Margarita Rivas ’03, and Avygail Sanchez ’01. French, a Women’s Leadership program pioneer, said a leader must find balance by remembering to, “…have fun, but also replenish the spiritual side.”

All of the women gave excellent advice and shared challenges they faced in their field. Avygail Sanchez mentioned that as the only woman of color at her work, she overcame the differences because she “…didn’t enter with the mindset as a minority.”

“we are the makers of our own identity,”- Nichol T. Whiteman

We all stress over credit cards, student loans, and unintentional emotional spending. However, Taylor had helpful advice on how to take charge of your money and prepare for the future. From the Personal Finance 101: Prepare to be the CEO in Your Own Life, Linda Davis Taylor took the stage next. It is all about knowing “what you own, what you earn, and what you spend,” according to her. She taught about stocks, bank accounts, and statistics that will inspire students to “let your money work for you.” A key factor many remembered: invest in your future, despite your young age.

Dodger blue hats lined the stage soon after Nichol T. Whiteman, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, explained that “[w]e are the makers of our own identity.” Although there is a plan you have mapped out in your head, Whiteman expresses how life can take you to places you never even imagined. She stressed that all students have an “innate ability to be confident and committed and the courage to do anything they want to do.”

Marcie Edwards on breaking glass ceilings.

Similar to Whiteman, Marcie Edwards, General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power broke through many glass ceilings to get where she is today. As a teenager, she learned the ropes of her industry in order to work her way to the top in a male-dominated field. However, it was not without failure that Edwards found her way as a manager. “You need to learn how to fail, learn how to fail gloriously,” she said.

Overall, the conference proved to be a rewarding event for those who listened and participated. Through the power of personal storytelling by successful women leaders, many took away that confidence and humbleness do open doors to endless possibilities.


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