By Courtney Dunne, Editor-in-Chief
On Sept. 16 and 17, the alumni office reminded women they are not just Ohio Wesleyan women for four years, they are an Ohio Wesleyan woman for life.
The inaugural Women of Wesleyan Leadership Forum attracted more than 100 alumni and current students to share in the success of OWU women.
The idea was planted just six months ago to bring back a targeted population. There were six decades worth of alumni represented at the forum.
Panels throughout the weekend included Women Leading the Way, Charting her own path for women entrepreneurs, as well as a philanthropy panel of women working for nonprofits.
Ashley Biser, a professor in politics and government, led a study in recent years that proved that the women on OWU’s campus have historically been more involved on campus than the men.
Biser, who sat on the Women of Wesleyan Leadership committee, put together a student panel for alumni to hear from current women of OWU.
“I think I am a leader first, then I am a woman … being a woman here has allowed me to discover my own power,” senior Jess Choate said. “There are so many different areas where women come together to support each other.”
At the end of the panel, during the Q&A session, one of the questions asked to students was, “Do you think this panel is representative of all Ohio Wesleyan women on campus.”
The panel said since they all came from different backgrounds and social groups on campus, they summed up the feelings of women on campus pretty well.
Diane Petersen ‘66 opened the weekend as the first keynote speaker. Petersen spoke about her time at OWU as a transformative period, as she was the first African-American woman in the country to join a traditionally white sorority.
Petersen’s journey was not as smooth as others in college in the 60’s in order to become a sister of Delta Delta Delta (Tri-Delta) sorority. In Petersen’s years at OWU, ‘62-’66, she saw OWU move from conservative to a little more liberal.
Tracie Winbigler ’87 was brought on the board because she has had experience leading women in the workplace as she currently serving as the CFO of the national retail company REI and previously served as the CFO of National Geographic. She co-chaired the event with Colleen Nissl ’72, the executive vice president and global general counsel for NetJets Inc.
Winbigler and Nissl were co-chairs of an external committee to organize the event, while Katie Webster, the Director of Alumni Relations helped lead the internal committee on campus.
They not only brought these women together to celebrate but also to learn from each other.
Students who attended the forum were able to network with alumni and learn what recent grads are doing to become successful.
“My daughter is a freshman at Wesleyan, so partly she is gone and I have more time and she is going to Wesleyan and I went to Ohio Wesleyan and I thought this was a good opportunity to reconnect,” said Janet Gross, ‘81.
Martha Noreault ‘66 said, “Diane Petersen is a member of my class and she did such a wonderful job at speaking at our reunion that I wanted to hear her speak again.”
The alumi office has sent out surveys to get feedback to find out what they can do better for Women of Wesleyan 2017. “In the future, we hope to include even more students and faculty in the event and do some mentoring through the forum,” said Webster.