Last week, Oglethorpe alumna and trustee Trish Treadwell ’96 sponsored several OU students to attend the Seventh Annual Spelman College Leadership Conference for Women of Color. The two-day intergenerational event attracts thousands of women of color from around the world, and this year, Treadwell accompanied five young future leaders to the conference: Stephanie Perello ’12, Zena Stephens ’13, Keturah Thomas ’13, Erica Blake ’13, and Malika Whitley, a 2011 OU graduate.
This year’s conference theme, “Reset: Sustaining Women for 21st Century Leadership,” stemmed from the concept that women of color, in particular, feel obligated to take care of others—often at the expense of themselves. The modern woman juggles her responsibilities as a student, as a family member, and as a business and community leader. More than 40 professional men and women spoke at the conference, including CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien, Olympian Bonnie St. John, and Kimberly Davis, president of JP Morgan and Chase Foundation.
To Malika Whitley ’11, who is a member of Oglethorpe’s 2011-12 IDEX Fellowship for Social Enterprise, many of the speakers’ points hit home. As an IDEX fellow, she will be challenged to create ways to improve India’s Affordable Schools. “I enjoyed all of the speakers but what Soledad O’Brien had to say really struck me the most,” said Whitley. “She has just finished a new documentary about motivating students in failing schools, and she spoke about giving children resources and incentives to come to school. Many people in both the United States and in India view school as a luxury, but by giving students something to show their parents—something to attest to the benefit of schooling, we can change this notion. I plan to take these ideas with me when I go to India.”
Throughout the conference, the young women took in advice about branding, taking care of themselves professionally and personally, and training their minds to be resilient.
In a letter to the OU attendees, Treadwell expressed her satisfaction with the conference and how grateful she was to have been able to attend the conference with such a fine group of young women.
“What a wonderful time I had with you all…! It was such an incredible sight to gather with so many accomplished women of color, all encouraging one other to sustain themselves and each other and let our individual lights shine!”