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Traci Corey, Karli Corey and Polo Reo Tate

Today, Olivet College held the third annual Cultivating Women Leaders event, Together We Rise, to help middle school girls to female business professionals develop their leadership skills. The event is part of the Olivet College Women’s Leadership Institute and welcomed more than 275 attendees to campus for interactive sessions and leadership training.

“I’m excited to say that Olivet College is leading a movement to address the gender gap in today’s workforce,” said Traci Corey, Women’s Leadership Institute director and Olivet College presidential spouse. “I believe in the power of mentorship in developing the women leaders of tomorrow. Mentors play an extraordinarily important role in galvanizing a young woman to aspire to great accomplishments.” Corey has advocated for women’s rights, addressing issues head-on and encouraging women to work together to make a difference.

Attendees, including current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and female business leaders, networked and received professional and personal development from Olivet College alumnae, as well as women business professionals. Key areas critical to successful leadership were identified, and presenters shared personal experiences of obstacles they encountered and how they overcame those challenges.

Together We Rise

The day was comprised of interactive sessions and panel presentations, including opportunities to network.

After the welcome and introduction, the “Be the Change” panel featured Olivet College students junior Nicole Deweyert, junior Brittany McDuffie and junior Tyler Nobel. The panel covered topics like how to successfully transition from life as a high school senior to a college freshperson; how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with any form of diversity; and how to get involved and engaged without overloading yourself.

Keynote speaker Polo Reo Tate with CWL attendees of the Merze Tate Explorers

A speed networking session followed, allowing students to connect with female leaders and fellow students in their chosen field of interest. Attendees later expressed the session afforded them the opportunity to meet face-to-face with role models and icons who otherwise would only be available through the media.

A classic session, “Dress for Success,” next tackled the difficult task of preparing for a job interview. The session was presented by Kelly Duggan of Kelly Duggan Image Consulting.

Following the session, attendees enjoyed lunch and informal networking, as well as a message from Olivet College President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., and performances by junior Ta’Neeka DeMyers, junior Abigale Smith, junior Emily Dorn and freshperson Victoria Herson. Dr. Corey spoke to the impact the Cultivating Women Leaders event has had on campus, which honors the College’s rich tradition of education for all, regardless of gender, race or financial means, and how proud he is to be a part of continuing that history.

Back by popular demand, the third “Olivet College Alumnae” panel featured Melanie Engels ’08, pharmacy manager, Munson Healthcare; Dominique Giroux ’18, volunteer, Camphill Community, Ireland; Caitlin Tyler ’12, owner, Hook & Reel Design; and Re’Gene Thompson ’17, technical assistant, Michigan Millers Insurance Company. Sheri Jones, WLNS news anchor, facilitated the panel. Each panel member shared more about how their Olivet College education helped them launch successful careers, especially highlighting the strong female mentors they built relationships with while students.

Keynote Address: Polo Reo Tate

The afternoon continued with the keynote address by Polo Reo Tate, author of “Deep Dark Blue: A Memoir of Survival.”

Tate, a Lansing native and the great-great-granddaughter of automotive pioneer Ransom E. Olds, was eager to accept the challenges that awaited her as she headed to the U.S. Air Force Academy after high school. However, Tate was not prepared for the harassment as well as the physical, emotional and sexual abuse from her peers and superiors that greeted her arrival — a horrific personal journey of survival and resilience Tate unflinchingly chronicles in her memoir.

Tate’s compelling and eye-opening odyssey of grace and reclamation as well as her courageous and positive outlook on life serves as motivation for women of all ages.

“We have the opportunity now to have a voice more than ever,” Tate said. “We have the opportunity to speak with authenticity. This is my philosophy: believe, be love, be now. Believe what we are set to do. Love as we were meant to. Be present in every moment. We’re all in this together, truly.”

Additional Sessions

A session on “Negotiation Skills” followed, helping prepare attendees to determine equal pay, to negotiate equal pay for equal work and to negotiate for a promotion. The session was presented by Melanie Estes, vice president, transportation practice lead, DHS Consulting; Tom Kolassa, chair, Olivet College board of trustees; Maureen Mitchell, regional vice president, Meijer; and Karen Preston, director, human resources, RTI Surgical.

The “Let’s Get Real” panel rounded out the presentations, featuring Delstene Atkinson, special assistant to the president, Olivet College; Jacqueline Bougie, owner/creator, Searchlight Healthcare Advocates; Traci Corey, director, Olivet College Women’s Leadership Institute; and Melanie Estes, vice president, transportation practice lead, DHS Consulting. The panel members shared personal experiences by answering questions like what moments made it all worth the fight; at what age would you go back and give yourself advice and what would it be; and what was your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it.

Awards and Final Remarks

Women’s Leadership Program Cohort Two

Following the “Let’s Get Real” panel, certificates were presented to the second cohort of the OC ATHENA International Women’s Leadership Program, recognizing their development throughout the yearlong program. Using their skills and training, these young women will serve as Ment-Hers to the next generation of female leaders at summer camps and other upcoming Women’s Leadership Institute events.

Final remarks were given by OC ATHENA International Women’s Leadership Program participants, sharing more about how the program and event have impacted them and their futures.

View Photos from the Event

In case you missed it, check out some incredible moments from the 2019 Cultivating Women Leaders: Together We Rise event at Olivet College. These pictures only capture a point in time, but the leadership training and resources participants received will affect the rest of their professional careers and personal journeys!

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