Alumnae, Students Meet at Women’s Summit



Laura Stoloff

Last Saturday, Colgate launched its second annual Women’s Summit, during which alumnae returned to guide female students on their paths in life, at college and beyond. Of the 200 alumnae invited, around 32 returned to campus for a reception Friday evening.

The conference began Saturday with lunch in Olin Hall and an opening address from Associate Professor of Economics and Women’s Studies Ulla Grapard, who spoke about her research in feminist economics and her journey to become an economist.

Throughout the weekend, alumnae and professors hosted three rounds of workshops: “Balance: Family, Career, and Health,” “Perception vs. Reality: Image” and “Perception vs. Reality: Winding Path After Colgate.”

The summit drew a large crowd, including first-year Kali McMillan.

“I attended the Summit to hear what women have done with a Colgate degree, what some of my options will be and, of course, because my mother was going to be there,” McMillan said.

The Office of Alumni Affairs recruited alumnae from a combination of surveying offices across campus and nominating women with whom employees remain in contact. McMillan’s mother was one of the alumnae who attended the conference because of her belief in strengthening the relation between Colgate women.

“My mother came back because she thinks its important for the current women students to be able to have a dialogue with Colgate women who have come before them,” McMillan said. “The structure of the Summit is ideal to create intimate dialogue on a wide variety of topics anywhere from career discussions, balancing career and family, social responsibility and any other topic that might not fit into a box.”

The entire series of workshops received positive feedback, as students gained valuable information vital to their future as career women.

In “Perception vs. Reality: Image,” attendees focused on self-reflection, in which individuals reflected on where they are heading in life, and on how to manage decisions along the path.

In the other workshop titled “Perception vs. Reality: Winding Path After Colgate,” those who participated became educated on tools of transition, essentially how to effectively shift from life as a student to life in the real world. They then discussed how to match an individual’s skills with her passion.

Students learned how to build bridges when working across different communities or in international environments. They received information on building local community and building informal personal networks, which all prove essential to post-graduation success.

The workshops allowed McMillan to reflect on her future.

“I think it is important for women to understand that there are a lot of choices once we graduate from Colgate,” McMillan said. “Also, that upon graduating Colgate, it is not necessary to know exactly what you want to do.”

During the lunch hour, attendees discussed the struggle of balancing family and career life, and at the end of the conference, Professor of Educational Studies and Women’s Studies Kay Johnston spoke to the entire group about the importance of relationships.

Director of Alumni Affairs Robin Summers ’90 said that the Summit received encouraging reactions.

“We had very positive feedback from the students who attended,” Summers said. “They got a lot out of the weekend and had a wonderful experience because of the amazing connections, in-depth conversations and incredible alumnae.”

As far as constructive criticism, McMillan has some complaints.

“I do believe that the Summit carried out its mission, but it would have been more successful if more students had shown up,” she said. “About 80 registered but only a little over 20 came.Although the topics discussed, such as what to do right out of college and whether or not to start a family and how it will change things, are not currently relevant to me, it was good to hear what women have done with a Colgate degree, the multitude of things I can do with my life. It was also interesting to hear how Colgate has changed over the years.”