You are here

Women’s Leadership Conference

Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence

The 12th annual Women’s Leadership Conference brings together students, faculty, staff and community members to commemorate the theme of National Women’s History Month. The goal of the conference is to provide an opportunity for personal and professional leadership development that is centered on the needs of women from various cultural backgrounds.

Join us on March 21, 2019, at the UL Lafayette Student Union for a day full educational breakout sessions, inspirational awards presentations, and empowering keynote speakers.

Conference Agenda

7:30am – Check-in & Continental Breakfast
8:30am – Welcome Remarks & Morning Keynote
9:00am – Breakout Session I
10:15am – Breakout Session II
11:30am – Keynote & Awards Luncheon
1:15pm – Breakout Session III
2:30pm – Breakout Session IV
3:45pm – Closing Remarks & Adjournment

Morning Keynote Speaker

We are thrilled to announce that this year’s morning keynote speaker will be Holli’ Conway, Miss Louisiana 2018.

Holli’ Conway

Miss Louisiana 2018, Holli’ Conway is second runner up to Miss America and a preliminary talent winner at the Miss America Competition.  Holli’ is also a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Northwestern State University, with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Theatre.  She spent the year prior to becoming Miss Louisiana traveling the world on Carnival Cruise Line’s Sunshine and Elation as a playlist performer.  She has been a featured performer in Hairspray, Rent, Songs for a New World, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Avenue Q.  She can sing in three languages and she is trained in ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance. 

Holli’ grew up as a competitive athlete, finding her inspiration from her dad, an Olympic two-time medalist.  Currently, Holli’ travels the state promoting her personal platform, InspHIGHER, a motivational program that guides men, women and children as they strive to reach their highest aptitudes.  Holli’ is the official hostess for the State of Louisiana and spokesperson for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Vantage Health Plan, Propane Dealers of Louisiana and the Louisiana Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Luncheon Keynote Panel

Our Keynote and Awards luncheon includes an empowering panel discussion featuring three prominent news media personalities in the Lafayette area – Marcelle Fontenot, Darla Montgomery, and Jazmin Thibodeaux.

Marcelle Fontenot

Marcelle Fontenot is a native of Opelousas and earned her Mass Communications degree with Honors at Southern University in 2002. She interned at KATC TV3 during the summer of 2001 and officially joined the news department in August of 2004.  She was named co-anchor of the 6:00 newscast in June 2006. Then, in September 2008, Marcelle became co-anchor of the 5, 6, and 10 o’clock editions of Acadiana’s News Channel.

In her career, Marcelle has covered some of the biggest stories of our time: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Jena Six, the Presidential Election of 2008. She is intrigued by politics and has spent time with Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Marcelle has also gone “Inside Angola”–an in depth series about life inside what was once known as “America’s Bloodiest Prison.”

Top 20 Under 40, Women Who Mean Business, Best Anchor and Tops of Acadiana are some of the honors Marcelle has received in her 14 year career. She has won Associated Press awards for in-depth series called “Facebook Stalking” and her community affairs reporting.  Marcelle works closely with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana.

Marcelle loves being in one of the greatest places on the planet. “The people and the culture in Acadiana are like no other,” she says. Marcelle and her husband Jay have two sons, Langston and Gavin.

Darla Montgomery

Darla Montgomery is a native of Opelousas, Louisiana and has been on the air in Acadiana since 1992, anchoring and reporting.

Darla has covered many stories in her career, including local and state elections, as well as tourism promotion traveling with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and a delegation to Canada.  She has interviewed numerous political figures in the local and national spotlight like former Vice President Al Gore and political mastermind, James Carville.  She has covered presidential visits to Acadiana during campaign seasons.  Darla has traveled to Africa where she covered a local mission’s efforts to unite with its sister city in Senegal.  But, no matter how far she travels and who she interviews, Darla admits covering the stories and people of Acadiana makes her job the most rewarding.

Darla is an Associated Press award winner for spot news, feature reporting and public affairs.  Her public affairs award recognized a half-hour documentary chronicling the life of an Acadiana priest and his mission in Haiti.  She spent more than a week in the impoverished country, a time she says changed her life. The documentary aired locally and statewide on Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Darla was also featured in an LPB documentary about South Louisiana’s folk medicine and the tradition of “traiteurs,” or healers. That documentary continues to air on LPB.

Darla attended the University of Southwest Louisiana from 1980 to 1985 majoring in broadcast communication.  Darla was voted “Best Local News Anchor” in The Times Of Acadiana 2018 campaign. It’s a title she has held for 15 years with the exception of one year when she took 2nd place.

When not working, Darla enjoys spending time with her family, writing short stories and poetry, and preparing Creole cuisine at her home in Lafayette.

Jazmin Thibodeaux

Jazmin Thibodeaux is a morning anchor, helping wake Acadiana up as part of the News 15 Today team.  Jazmin joined News15 from KTBS, an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, Louisiana. There, she was a multimedia journalist and news producer. Before joining KTBS, Jazmin was a news producer and multimedia journalist at KLFY in Lafayette. She was also a fill-in anchor for weekend newscasts. During her time there, Jazmin covered the Grand Theatre shooting and the Marksville officer-involved shooting that left a 6-year-old dead.

In Spring 2013, Jazmin graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications with a concentration in Broadcasting and a minor in English. While attending the university, her career in Journalism began. Jazmin was a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Club and the Radio Television Digital News Association. In college, she interned at KOCZ 103.7 and KLFY-TV10. During Jazmin‘s internship at KLFY, she helped cover the search for Mickey Shunick.

Jazmin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.  Jazmin is an Opelousas native. When not working, she enjoys exploring Acadiana with her husband and daughter.

Breakout Sessions

A total of 16 breakout sessions will be held throughout the day of the conference, spanning a variety of topics including: empowerment, leadership and professional development, health and wellness, and women in the academy.

Follow our Facebook event page for more information about our breakout session speakers!

Sarah Brabant Trailblazer Award

The Sarah Brabant Trailblazer Award was established in 2016 in honor of her service to the community and commitment to advancing women’s equity. Dr. Brabant served the University and Acadiana community selflessly as founder of the Mayor’s Commission on the Needs of Women, President of the Board of Directors for Faith House, and the professor for the first course on death and dying at UL Lafayette.

The recipient of the 2019 Sarah Brabant Trailblazer Award will be announced during the Keynote and Awards Luncheon, which begins at 11:30am.

Exhibitor Session

A number of businesses and organizations throughout the community dedicated to providing services to support women’s issues will be in attendance at the conference during our exhibitor session. If you or your organization is interested in serving as an exhibitor, click here to learn more and apply!

Hotel Accommodations

If you will be traveling to the conference from out of town, you may reserve a room at the Hilton Garden Inn at the “Neighborhood Rate.”

Hilton Garden Inn Lafayette/Cajundome
2350 West Congress Street
Lafayette, LA  70506

Click here to book your reservations with the Neighborhood Rate applied.

You may also call the hotel directly at 337-291-1977 and ask for the Neighborhood Rate.


For those who are traveling to the conference from off campus, there will be a limited number of parking spots available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Olivier Parking Tower located at 619 McKinley Street. 


Registration fees are as follows:

Early Bird Registration ($65): January 29 – March 08, 2019
General Registration ($75): March 09 – March 14, 2019
Late Registration ($85): March 15 - March 21, 2019 – On-site

Student Registration ($35): January 29 – March 20, 2019
Luncheon-Only Registration ($35): January 29 – March 20, 2019 

Registration Closed