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Empowerment, achievement focus of Women’s Leadership Conference

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The University will sponsor a Women’s Leadership Conference designed to empower women, and to recognize several who have long track records of success.

The conference will be hosted by the University’s Office for Campus Diversity from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at the Student Union. It is in its 13th year.

The conference is held in conjunction with Women’s History Month, which is also in March. The theme for this year’s conference – “Valiant Women of the Vote” – will be the same as the theme for Women’s History Month. The conference will feature a panel discussion about issues such as the history of women’s suffrage and voter representation.

“The discussion will offer perspectives from leaders with a broad range of engagement and experience with the voting process and community involvement, and who embrace and embody the principles the conference is in place to promote,” said Dr. Taniecea Arceneaux Mallery, UL Lafayette’s executive director of Strategic Initiatives and chief diversity officer.

Panelists will be Kelly Garrett, Sandra Thompson Herman and Ji’Carla Martínez. Moderator will be Dr. Pearson Cross, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Garrett is an advocate for Louisiana criminal justice reform and social justice.

She has been a longtime regional advocate for Louisianans for Prison Alternatives. Garrett is policy council for Voice of the Experienced, or VOTE. The focus of the grassroots organization is civic engagement and policy reform.

Herman was twice department head in the office of the Louisiana Secretary of State, where she helped create the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and served as its first cabinet-level secretary. Herman was the first woman to run for secretary of state.

She later led the Atchafalaya Basin Program, a multimillion-dollar project to enhance and promote the basin.

Ji’Carla Martinez is a senior at UL Lafayette majoring in international relations.

She is the volunteer mobilization and special projects manager at United Way of Acadiana. Martinez is vice president of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and has been a SOUL Camp Mentor and a member of the Student Leadership Council.

The conference will feature workshops conducted by leaders from education, industry and nonprofits. They will cover topics that include career negotiation strategies, balancing family and work, successful leadership characteristics, professional development, community involvement, and health and wellness in the workplace.

Attendees will have opportunities to participate in small “mentorship sessions” with community leaders, Mallery said. “The idea is to provide an environment for conversations with speakers and workshop presenters that can happen on a more intimate level than with breakout sessions.”

Two leaders will also be recognized for achievement and contributions to their communities and professions during the conference.

Della Bonnette, ’59, ’71, will receive the Sarah Brabant Trailblazer Award. It was established in 2016 to honor Brabant’s service to the community and commitment to advancing women’s equity. Brabant is professor emeritus of sociology at UL Lafayette.

Bonnette was the first female vice president in University history. She became vice president for Information Technology in 1996. Bonnette was responsible for administering technical service areas on campus.

Ashley Mudd, ’13, will receive the inaugural Emerging Leader Award. Mallery said the award has been established to recognize “accomplished leaders who are making a difference, but have yet to rise to the level of lifetime achievement.”

Mudd is executive director of the nonprofit Leadership Institute of Acadiana. She previously worked at United Way of Acadiana, where she led the Adopt-a-School program connecting resources from private businesses to public schools.

The conference is open to the public. Cost is $75 until Feb. 27. After that date, it will be $85 until the day of the conference. Students can attend for $35. Cost to attend only the luncheon is $35.

Learn more or register:

Photo caption: Kelly Garrett (top), Sandra Thompson Herman (bottom left) and Ji'Carla Martínez (bottom right) will lead a panel discussion about issues such as the history of women’s right to vote and voter representation during the upcoming Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by UL Lafayette’s Office for Campus Diversity. Photo credit: Courtesy of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette