Women's Leadership Conference embraces social change leadership model

Women's Leadership Conference embraces social change leadership model

T he Women’s Leadership Conference is March 25, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Peabody Auditorium at Georgia College. The theme is “Navigating the Road to Resiliency.” It’s open to alumni, students, faculty, staff and members of the Middle Georgia community. 

Ashley Copeland
Ashley Copeland

“We’re focusing on the ‘navigating’ part of the theme, so people will walk away from this conference having concrete ideas of something they can implement tomorrow, in a week, or next year,” said Ashley Copeland, assistant director of Leadership Programs and conference co-coordinator. “They will also continue building on these ideas and tapping into the network that they've made from this conference.”

The winning theme was a collective effort from the Conference Steering Committee with representatives from Georgia College, Milledgeville and Macon.

As a hybrid model—offered in person and virtually, this year’s conference could capture more participants. The annual conference averages just over 100 participants.

“If participants can't make it in person, they still have an option to engage with the conference, build networks and relationships,” Copeland said. 

Dr. Jennifer Graham
Dr. Jennifer Graham

The Women’s Leadership Conference is currently in the planning phase, and the search for speakers is on.

“If alumni who are living in New York, or wherever, want to participate as a session presenter, having the virtual track gives us the capability to make it happen,” said Dr. Jennifer Graham, director of the Women’s Center and co-coordinator of the conference.

The Women’s Leadership Conference will begin with discussions on leading change. 

A speaker leads a breakout session as part of the Women's Leadership Conference.
A speaker leads a breakout session as part of the Women's Leadership Conference.

“That's because our conference is rooted in the social change model of leadership theory,” Graham said.

Breakout sessions will last 50 minutes. They will include an interactive workshop, a presenter panel with discussion or 15-minute “Ted Talk” presentations. 

“The breakout sessions give attendees an opportunity to dive a bit deeper into the concepts,” Graham said. “We ask presenters to bring something tangible with their presentation, so participants can walk away with something they can immediately apply to their job, school or life.”

“The conference also provides a unique opportunity for people to network and build cross-industry and generational relationships.” Copeland said. 

A Women's Leadership Conference participant engages with the group.
A Women's Leadership Conference participant engages with the group.

Copeland and Graham want presenters to use the social change model of leadership as their guiding theory. In turn, they hope participants will learn about this model with an emphasis on individual and social values, interpersonal relationships, group processes and community. 

“That's very much in the spirit of what we hope people take away from the conference is collaboration, networking, building relationships with people who are different from themselves and who do different things. That’s important, because when we come together, we can do amazing things.”
– Ashley Copeland

“A real tangible concept that we want people to leave with is having increased knowledge of how to lead, while realizing how their positionality and identity impact their leadership,” Graham said. “We’re all working in diverse communities and with individuals of varying identities, backgrounds and experiences—that’s important. And, it's also useful for our students, as they go into the working world.”

The first Women’s Leadership Conference was primarily for students. It was held in the early 2000s and hosted by the Women's Center, when Graham worked alone to put it on. However, due to lack of funds, she was unable to host it again until four years ago.

When Graham realized there wasn’t another Women’s Leadership Conference in middle Georgia, she and Copeland discussed how they could make it happen, while filling a gap in the community. 

“A real tangible concept that we want people to leave with is having increased knowledge of how to lead, while realizing how their positionality and identity impact their leadership. We’re all working in diverse communities and with individuals of varying identities, backgrounds and experiences—that’s important. And, it's also useful for our students, as they go into the working world.”
– Dr. Jennifer Graham

“We want students to continue attending this conference to get that professional experience,” Copeland said. “And to show them that our university has a mission of leadership and engaging for the public good.”

“With the road to resiliency, we hope that participants will leave with tangible skills in how to build resiliency in their own lives,” Graham said. “What does that look like? It’s self-awareness in leadership, as well as in those small moments with things you can do to refill your own bucket, like overcoming burnout or charting new paths.”

The conference is the result of collaborative planning between four Georgia College offices—the Women’s Center, Leadership Programs, University Advancement and the College of Business—as well as community members.

“That's very much in the spirit of what we hope people take away from the conference is collaboration, networking, building relationships with people who are different from themselves and who do different things,” Copeland said. “That’s important, because when we come together, we can do amazing things.”

Learn more about the Women’s Leadership Conference including how to submit a proposal or register for the conference.