Blazing the Trail for Tomorrow’s Leaders: UWN Celebrates International Women’s Day
In acknowledgement of International Women’s Day, The United Women’s Network (UWN) held their 8th Annual Women in Business Conference. The conference was special to many as it was one of the largest student-run events held on campus since 2020.
The idea behind this year’s theme of Blazing the Trail for Tomorrow’s Leaders was for audience members to learn from the inspirational journeys of each speaker: (left to right) Susan Stelter, BS IDS ’93, Chief People Officer and Co-Founder of West Monroe Partners, LaTonya Wilkins, Author and Founder of Change Coaches, Lecturer Anna Lloyd, Angela Prazza-Winters, Assistant Dean of Student Services, Özgür Arslan-Ayaydin, Clinical Professor Finance and Nabeeha Bakhrani, BS IDS ’20.
The conference highlighted the stories of amazing women leaders making groundbreaking accomplishments in their field. Susan Stelter, BS IDS ’93, Chief People Officer and Co-Founder of West Monroe Partners, served as this year’s keynote speaker. She talked about life as a UIC alum and spoke about her journey to success in her current role.
Susan was joined by Lecturer Anna Lloyd, who moderated a fireside chat. During this discussion, Susan emphasized the importance of being open to new experiences and thinking critically as key skills for students to develop as they prepare to enter the professional world. She also explained that there truly isn’t a work-life balance. Instead, she alluded to the analogy that the two land on a scale where some days family takes over, and other days, work takes over. Susan’s work ethic and her dedication to her family gave everyone something to learn from.
Following this powerful keynote, LaTonya Wilkins, led the next speech. LaTonya is the Founder of The Change Coaches and author of Leading Below the Surface: How to Build Real (and Psychologically Safe) Relationships with People Who Are Different from You. During her speech, she emphasized the importance of leading from below the surface by way of connecting with the people around you, showing empathy, and building psychologically safe relationships.
“I’ve realized through being authentic and leading below the surface, I’ve been able to connect with people that really need me in the world, and I can make such a big impact…My calling is to make people feel like they belong at work on a larger scale,” explained Wilkins. She urged attendees, as they prepare to take on leadership roles at UIC and beyond, to also lead below the surface. LaTonya gifted five signed copies of her book during the conference.
The final portion of the conference was a panel discussion that featured Angela Prazza-Winters, Assistant Dean of Student Services, Professor Özgür Arslan-Ayaydin, Clinical Professor of Finance, and Nabeeha Bakhrani, BS IDS ’20, Technology Analyst at Accenture. Lecturer Anna Llyod led an engaging conversation with each panelist about their personal road to success and how they tackle biases in professional settings. Unanimously, the audience agreed that the insight and advice shared was “inspiring” and “valuable.”
“I really liked the event. It’s very eye opening to hear from different professionals. The women here are gearing conversations toward the struggles of being a woman and overcoming what we face,” said Sydney Reyes, a freshman majoring in management.
Diana Soriano, Assistant Director of Advising and Retention, and Lecturer Morgan Lord from the iLEAD Professional Development Program (PDP), led a networking session where attendees participated in various improvisational activities. The 8th Annual Women in Business Conference was a huge success, and UWN looks forward to continuing to support and inspire the next generation of trailblazers from the UIC student community.