By Casey Elliot
In the daily routine of work, family obligations and college life, it may be difficult to realize the impact one woman can have on the world around her. On April 13 and 14, the OHIO Women Making a Difference Conference will bring that influence into focus by highlighting both the accomplishments of women and the opportunities available to them.
Ohio University's Women in Philanthropy will host the conference, featuring faculty, alumni and students who will discuss issues ranging from challenges in academia to reintegrating into the workplace after military service. Breakout sessions, group discussions, a private reception with the Kennedy Lecture speaker and entertainment all are on tap.
The conference, to be held in Baker University Center and Walter Hall Rotunda, is open to students, faculty, staff and the general public. It runs all day Monday, April 13, and concludes with a breakfast and discussion on Tuesday, April 14. The registration deadline is Monday, April 6.
Barbara Strom Thompson, who chairs the Women in Philanthropy group, expects the program to be both informative and inspirational as it brings to light women's contributions and accomplishments and provides networking and mentoring opportunities.
"Our program will highlight accomplished women from across the campus and the country," she said. "We have much to celebrate."
Dorothy R. Schey, director of development for special fundraising initiatives and a member of the Women in Philanthropy Founders' Circle, said today's women may not realize how their actions can affect students' futures and the community at large.
"Women in Philanthropy of Ohio University is a growing group that realizes the importance of finding ways for women to connect with Ohio University," she said. "This OHIO Women Making a Difference Conference fulfills WIP's mission by providing an opportunity for women to come back to campus to meet with other alumnae as well as faculty, students, staff and community members.
"We also will learn more about philanthropic issues and, in the process, train students -- the future generation -- about ways to give back to OHIO. It is a win-win for all."
Members of The Ohio University Foundation board of trustees founded the Women in Philanthropy group in 2003. Their goal was to broaden the base of financial support among women with connections Ohio University and build a culture of giving among current and future students.
Conference participant and panel moderator Claudia Gonzalez-Vallejo, associate professor of psychology, said she believes conference attendees -- especially students -- will benefit from the exposure to women in all different fields.
"(The conference) is going to allow students to have direct access to people involved in different career paths, including but not limited to academia and businesses locally and nationally," she said. "It will give students a great opportunity to interact and learn about the ways in which women are shaping the world via philanthropy and via their activities in many areas."
WOUB Center for Public Media Director and General Manager Carolyn Bailey Lewis, who will participate in one of the panels, said students' ability to network and identify mentors is a major benefit of the conference.
"From my perspective, one of the most important things that can help any student in a career is a good mentor," she said. "At this conference, there will be women from all careers who have done it all -- from balancing family and career to starting their own business to being professionals in the workplace. In times like this, I think it is important that every student has a mentor who has these tools to help them get where they need to go."
On April 13, attendees can take part in morning breakout sessions that look at women in academia and business, job transitions, women's health issues, making time to give back, how video can assist in fundraising, becoming an author, succeeding in a traditionally male-dominated field, planning for the future, balancing the elements of life and reintegrating into the workplace and classroom after being deployed for war.
Over lunch, Ohio University First Lady Deborah McDavis will speak about pioneering Ohio University women involved in philanthropy. A talk-show-style discussion about philanthropic issues and private reception with Kennedy Lecture Series speaker Sandra Steingraber are planned for the afternoon.
Steingraber, an ecologist, author and cancer survivor, is a recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and human health. Her book "Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment" presents cancer as a human rights issue and was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with newly released information from U.S. cancer registries. Steingraber will speak at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium from 7:30 to 9 that evening.
Dinner will feature Title IX, an Ohio University women's a cappella group, and a "Power of the Purse" silent auction to benefit Women in Philanthropy. The purse auctions have become a popular fund-raising tool for organizations across the country. Thompson also will speak at the dinner, wrapping up the day's events with a talk titled, "Where Do We Go From Here?"
A breakfast on April 14 at the Ohio University Inn and Conference Center will conclude the conference lineup and feature a discussion about mentoring.
The cost of attendance is $25 for students and $85 for others; that covers the conference fee and meals. Conference attendance can be purchased separately for $60 and dinner for $25; students would pay $10 for the conference and $15 for the dinner.
Visit the conference Web site for more information and to register by the April 6 deadline.