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Women’s Business Leadership Conference Scheduled March 28


JONESBORO – Serving as a forum for leadership and professional development created to inspire and activate women in the business community, the fifth annual Neil Griffin College of Business Women’s Business Leadership Conference is scheduled for Thursday, March 28.

The conference begins at 9:30 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. in Centennial Hall on the third floor of the Carl R. Reng Student Union. Check-in is from 8:30-9:30 a.m. Admission is free and lunch is provided. For a full schedule and to register, go to AState.edu/COBWBLC or email WBLC@AState.edu.

“We are excited about the fifth annual Women’s Business Leadership Conference,” said Dr. Patricia Robertson, faculty coordinator for the Women’s Business Leadership Center and business law professor. “We look forward to the conference as a day of celebration, encouragement and support for women.

“We will discuss the wonderful opportunities for women and strategies for success and perseverance in the face of challenges.  We hope that the 2019 Women’s Business Leadership Conference inspires everyone to increase their network of mentorship and support for women and girls.  In addition, we hope that this conference motivates all of us to seek new opportunities, gives us the courage to embark on exciting adventures and inspires the perseverance to accomplish lofty goals.”

Four featured speakers will address the gathering, including Dr. Jane McBride Gates, provost and senior vice president for academic and student affairs at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) Systems Office, and Courtney Rowe, vice president, corporate communications at National Geographic, in the first session, followed by scholarship awards. Col. Shelly Woodard Schools, chief trial judge, United States Air Force, and Angela Taylor, software engineer, Google, will speak during the second session beginning at 11 a.m.

Gates holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Arkansas State, a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Arkansas, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in political sciences with areas of concentration in organizational behavior, public policy analysis, legislative process and Chinese politics from Southern Illinois University. She has completed the Harvard School of Education Management development program, Leadership America Forum and the Harvard Graduate School Institute for Management and Leadership.

Gates has a distinguished record of community service.  She served on the Board of Directors, United Way, City of Savannah, Civil Service Commission, member of International Quality Education Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Community Oriented Policing Leadership Council, Connecticut Legislative Task Force for Minority Teacher Recruitment and American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Task Force on Teacher Education.

Rowe, who graduated from A-State in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism, oversees strategic communications for the world-renowned brand’s corporate and marketing initiatives, advertising and corporate partnerships, employee communications and executive outreach. She also manages communications and media relations for National Geographic’s editorial products, including the iconic National Geographic magazine, Traveler magazine, NationalGeographic.com and National Geographic’s social media platforms.

Prior to National Geographic, Rowe spent over 10 years working in the highest levels of United States government, most recently serving as special assistant for message planning to President Barack Obama. She oversaw strategic communications planning and execution for key policy announcements and presidential events, including two State of the Union addresses.

Col. Schools assumed the position of chief trial judge for the U.S. Air Force in 2018. She oversees day-to-day operations of the Air Force trial judiciary and supervises 25 trial judges and three support personnel. She also presides over general and special courts-martial at Air Force installations worldwide.

She received a direct commission as an Air Force judge advocate and entered active duty in November 1997, and previously served as chief circuit military judge for the western circuit, deputy staff judge advocate at Air Education and Training Command, a deputy legal counsel in the office of legal counsel to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, a military justice instructor at the Air Force JAG school and other military judicial positions. She is admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of Mississippi and the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Taylor is a software engineer at Google who made her way to a technical role from a non-traditional path. She grew up in Lonoke, far removed from the tech industry. Taylor attended Northwestern University where she majored in communication studies and moved to California in 2009 to start her career in Google’s People Operations (human resources) department.

In 2011, she discovered she had a passion for programming and began working tirelessly to do a career shift into engineering. She achieved her goal in May 2017 and is now an engineer on the Google Voice team.

Breakout lunch sessions begin at 12:15 p.m. in various rooms on the third floor of the student union with additional presentations including:

  • “empoWErment, leading with ‘WE’” by Whitney Burgess, director of strategy and client services at Team SI, Arkansas’s largest and fastest-growing digital technology company;

  • “If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Won’t Change You” by Rose Hankins, president and CEO at Twisted Foods, healthy meal prep company and restaurant that provides meal plans and gourmet health food;

  • “Mame Steward Josenberger: Fort Smith, Arkansas Businesswoman, Activist and Internationalist, 1890-1964,” by Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch, James and Wanda Lee Vaughn Endowed Professor of History at Arkansas State;

  • “Social Media: How To Stand Out From All Of The Cute Puppies” by Lacey Vance, founder and head of Hounds Hideaway, a resort for dogs that offers boarding for cats and dogs, day care, grooming and additional services;

  • “Financial Management Strategies for Women” by Aimee B. Spencer, financial adviser at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith Inc., and Susan Naylor, senior vice president, wealth management and senior financial adviser at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith Inc.;

  • “Life After A-State: Young Alumni Panel” by Ember Strange, executive director of the University of Central Arkansas Foundation; Kim Dinh, accountant at JK North America; Kyra Sims, human resources assistant at Hytrol Conveyor Company, Inc.; Jameson Murrey, liaison — strategy and solutions, strategic partnerships, ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Samantha Risi, Amazon area manager. Cari White, vice president and chief operations officer of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, will serve as panel moderator.

The conference will conclude with dessert and networking from 1:30-2 p.m.

The Women’s Business Leadership Center is the only one of its type in the state of Arkansas and the Delta region. It is dedicated to promoting leadership and achievement among the young women of Arkansas. The Founder’s Circle, a group of 30 successful professional women, committed financial resources and time to serve as mentors and advisers to young women.

Dr. Jane McBride Gates
Dr. Jane McBride Gates

Courtney Rowe
Courtney Rowe

Col. Shelly Schools

Col. Shelly W. Schools

Angela Taylor
Angela Taylor