"Everybody has a voice," Elizabeth Oluokun '17, told an audience of students, mentors, and admitted students gathered for "Bryant Women: Finding Your Voice," an event that offered students an opportunity to network with peers, learn from Bryant community mentors, and attend a panel on leadership. "Whether it's a small voice that encourages individuals or a louder voice that encourages larger change, you need to make sure you speak and that your voice is heard."
"We want to make sure that [Bryant] is an empowering place" where women "can succeed whatever their goals are."
The event was organized by the University's Woman's Leadership Collaborative, which strives to enhance the experience of women on campus, and was co-sponsored by Academic Affairs, the Admission office, and Bryant's PwC Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
"We have unbelievable women here," noted Associate Provost Carol Demoranville, Ph.D., in her introduction, "and unbelievable women leaders. We want to make sure that this is an empowering place for them, where they can succeed whatever their goals are."
A panel discussion moderated by Vivian Tejada '17, a winner of Bryant's Women's HERstory Award, covered a variety of topics, including how each panelist found her own voice, qualities that make a good leader, and leadership skill development. Panelists included:
- Jennifer Parkhurst '97, MBA '96, Director of Human Resources at Fidelity Investments and past president of the Bryant University Alumni Association;
- Michelle Cloutier '05 MBA, Bryant's Vice President for Enrollment Management;
- Associate Professor of Marketing Jane McKay-Nesbitt, Ph.D.;
- Oluokun, Orientation Leader Head Coordinator, Linked Through Leadership Change Facilitator and winner of the Penny Stone Emerging Leader Award.
The panelists agreed that being a leader requires continuous refinement and reflection. "Leadership is a process," Cloutier noted. "I don't think you're ever done learning to be a leader. As you're working with different teams, or different types of teams, there are always opportunities to learn and grow."
For Parkhurst, broadening one's horizons is a key element of that process. "It's important to seek out opportunities to become a leader," she said. "Get involved in as many things as you can. Raise your hand and sign up for things that put you outside of your comfort zone.
"So many of the best leadership opportunities I've had have simply come from someone asking me to get involved and me saying 'OK, I'll try that out.'"
The panel's message inspired students to continue their journeys as leaders. "There's so much to learn from women in the Bryant community and in the field," said Jillian Donlon '19. "I'm glad to connect with my female peers, who are just as motivated and eager to learn as I am."