BY: OLIVIA VARNSON
(Gainesville, Ga.)—Brenau University hosted its second Women’s Leadership Colloquium on Friday, March 20. Held on the first day of spring, the event’s theme centered on a season of hope and new beginnings. Eight guest speakers offered words of encouragement and advice for women on how to be the leaders of their own lives.
Before the guest speakers were introduced, members of the student government spoke about the value of their education at Brenau. President-elect M.K. Jabbia touched on the unique opportunities she has found through becoming involved in various organizations across campus, while President Byronica Banks highlighted the leadership skills she gained during her time at Brenau. Ed Schrader, President of Brenau University, brought attention to major discrepancies that are prevalent in our society to explain why the colloquium was so important. There are far fewer women in leadership roles than men, and women make less money than men when performing the same job. Schrader also informed the crowd that the event was dedicated to honoring Wyc Orr, the late Gainesville attorney who was a supporter of the growth of Brenau’s educational programs.
Orr’s daughter, Kriss Orr Brown, gave the first speech of the event. Brown is a litigation attorney who primarily defends victims of employment discrimination and civil rights violations. She told the audience about her strong female influences growing up, including her two grandmothers who both received college educations and worked in business during a time when it was not popular for women to do so. Those role models helped inspire her to pursue a career that helps and supports other people. Brown encouraged the audience to seek out mentors in all facets of their life because mentors can help us grow and find opportunities.
Marissa Kraxberger was the colloquium’s keynote speaker. As Vice President of Creative for Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand, Kraxberger detailed her unique journey towards a career path she never imagined for herself. She originally planned to become involved in graphic design and the digital world, but unexpected opportunities helped her discover a new passion. Kraxberger stressed the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to building a career plan. She took chances and challenged herself to try new things and it resulted in a career she is passionate about.
Other speakers at the event included Carrie Conway, Senior Program Officer for the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation; Lindsey Nelson, Vice President of Sales Productivity and Talent Development for CareerBuilder; Valerie Simmons-Walston, Brenau’s dean of students; and Brenau Alumnae Anna Alexander Jacobs, Tracy Rhodes and Ashley Lee. Each speaker provided perspective from their unique experiences and gave the audience different examples of leadership and empowerment.