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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

IC’s Women Leaders Series emphasizes self-care and personal development

From+left+to+right%2C+Mish+Lenhart+and+Camille+Brock%2C+who+were+both+part+of+the+WLS+planning+team+this+year.+
Maddy Tanzman
From left to right, Mish Lenhart and Camille Brock, who were both part of the WLS planning team this year.

Free and open to all Ithaca College Students, The Women Leaders Series (WLS) has been running from March 1 and will continue until the 31st. This year is the 12th edition and has the theme “Women Living Well” which highlights the importance of personal care and professional growth. The series contains programs, presentations and performances all centered around female leadership and increasing female leadership opportunities.

Mish Lenhart, director for the office of student engagement and a member of the Women Leader Series planning board, said this theme was selected because the board felt there should be more of an emphasis on taking care of oneself.

“We were talking about how exhausting it has been these past couple of years and how important it is for people to take care of themselves,” Lenhart said. “So we thought anything that could help that along would be useful for people.”

Senior Camille Brock, a student leadership consultant on the WLS planning team, said the series invites everyone to lead a session.

“We send out a call for presenters and reach out to different student groups, faculty and staff on campus,” Brock said.

This open call has allowed the possibility for sessions to range anywhere from Thinking and Feeling Gender Diffrences, hosted on March 6 to Own Your Awesomeness, hosted on March 22. According to Lenhart, attendance for these sessions has ranged from seven to 28 people.

Brock said this provides the series with different perspectives from a range of people. She said that the interest from the presenters who come from different backgrounds is one of her favorite things about the series and why she recommends attending.

“It’s just really awesome to hear from different women on campus whether they be students, faculty, or staff or just women in the community,” Brock said. “It’s awesome just to hear people’s experiences and learn from them.”

Lenhart said the series was planned to provide people with greater opportunities to discuss female leadership by providing people with a safe space to learn and grow from each other.

“We started the series because we’ve had something called the women in leadership experience for 21 years where we go up to Seneca Falls for the day and spend the day there,” Lenhart said. “So we expanded this because there are other people who want to participate in the series and maybe they can’t spend a whole day in Seneca Fall or they only have an hour on campus.”

The trip to Seneca Falls still remains a part of the series and is scheduled for March 23. Brock said that the series offers many different sessions on a range of topics to assist women in leadership, such as the Table Topics Dinner, hosted on March 6 or the Empowering Excellence, which will be hosted on March 25.

“The program is a facet of a few different things,” Brock said. “There’s professional development opportunities, learning from other women about their experience as women in leadership.”

The series provides networking opportunities such as the Table Topics Dinner, as well as professional growth such as IDing and Building Your Personal Brand. The series also offers more light-hearted and community-building events such as Laughing Yoga.

Because of this wide selection, Lenhart said she would have difficulty deciding which event would be her favorite.

“I mean gosh, I love all of them,” Lenhart said. “So it’s hard for me to choose.”

Brock said she was most excited about who would be presenting in the series because she wants to help people gain confidence in leveraging themselves so that they can thrive in all aspects of life.

“I’m excited for mine,” Brock said. “I’m presenting on personal branding and how to brand yourself as a woman because I think oftentimes branding yourself as a woman can be hard.”

To kick off the series, on March 1, a laughing yoga class was held in Muller Chapel. Elyse Nepa, Assistant Director, Clery Act and Prevention Education, Public Safety & Emergency Management, will be instructing the session. Nepa said she wanted the experience to focus on finding real laughter.

“There’s a way to figure out when you are your authentic self and when you are not your self and one of those areas is your laugh,” Nepa said. “I think as women, we can get those two things very confused and think we’re being our authentic self but was your laugh real?”

Nepa has been teaching yoga for about 10 years; however, she has never hosted a laughing yoga session. She said that hosting this session provides her with the opportunity to learn as she goes.

“I could teach yoga and then I said, what about laughing yoga?” Nepa said. “I’m going to teach it and it’s going to be fun, hopefully, and if not, we’ll just do yoga and laugh.”

On March 19, Mireille Heidbreder, assistant professor in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences, and Studies, led a session titled Audio-Visual Media and The Oppositional Gaze – A Conversation on the Success of Women Filmmakers in Experimental Cinema. The session is based on existing theory on the male gaze in the film industry as well as Heidbreder’s own experience. Heidbreder said one of the inspirations behind this session is based on some of the discrepancies that she has observed.

“In Park, as a whole, there are not a lot of women identifying individuals in comparison to men and male identifying when it comes to the film industry,” Heidbreder said. “[The male-dominated industry] can be really hard sometimes both in the depiction of film and then also working in the industry. I find some of my female identifying students come to me and say, I feel intimidated.”

Heidbreder said that she understands this intimidating feeling because she has experienced difficulties in the industry as well.

“I was a Steadicam operator, it’s a full rake that you put on your body, it’s heavy and there’s a stigma that women can’t be Steadicam operators,” Heidbreder said. “And I received, for lack of better words, a lot of crap about it. And I was like ‘I can do this, thank you very much.’”

Heidbreder said she hopes the session encouraged an open discussion amongst students. She said that the theories she will present contradict each other so she would like to hear students opinions and thoughts on the topic.

“I welcome challenging questions that I certainly may not have the answer to,” Heidbreder said.

Besides laughing yoga, Nepa said that she was excited about another session titled “Women Overcoming Adversity in Today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) World (Leading Self)” because she likes the message of not leaving other women behind when you are in a position of power.

“Making sure that there’s always another woman that you’re going to pull up with you, so that you’re not the last,” Nepa said. “Which I think is really important.”

From March 22 to the 28, six more sessions in the series will be held. Own Your Awesomeness, Unreliable Narrator, Empowering Excellence, Stressed Out and Totally Exhausted, IDing and Building Your Personal Brand and Women Overcoming Adversity are still to come. Lenhart recommends that all Ithaca College students attend these events and participate in the series.

“It’s really a cool opportunity for people who want to learn about women in leadership,” Lenhart said. It’s open to all students so you don’t have to identify as a woman to go to these [events].”

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