By Shelley Handley
For 10 months, nine committee members from Glendale Community College’s Women’s Leadership Group (WLG) collaborated with multiple representatives throughout the district as they created the third annual WLG conference held at GCC, March 30.
The WLG is a district-wide mentoring program with campus chapters that offers employees professional development, personal growth and mentoring for career advancement; its aim is to create a strong and supportive work environment.
The GCC WLG chapter began the annual conference as a means to reach out to other staff and faculty at other college locations.
Approximately 60 registered Maricopa Community College employees attended this eight hour professional gathering. GCC’s Student Union conference room was decorated in a Caribbean theme, and attendees were greeted with, “Aloha,” as they signed in and chose a colorful lei.
Denise Wiseman Stow, a GCC staff member and the WLG co-chair, has over 30 years in event planning. She contributed the decorations and several ideas.
“This event is so fun, creative and full of life because of Denise’s expertise,” said Angela Acuna, Manager of Admissions, Registration and Records on campus.
Committee members focused on several goals as they developed the conference’s agenda of networking, social interaction and leadership skills.
The World Café round table discussion and keynote speaker Tish Times became the morning and afternoon center pieces, respectively. Networking was the chosen topic, and “Women Holding Up Women” the theme.
WLG conference members were able to sit in small groups with one of the 11 attending Maricopa Community College presidents to ask them questions, seek advice and converse. The time allowed for three rotations of networking.
“Stepping out of your boundaries, comfort zone, to expose yourself so that you can advance professionally, learn and develop beyond where you are now is so important,” Bonnie Johnson, an information system technician from Phoenix College said.
“It was intimidating at first to sit down with the presidents, but it provided me with a way to expand socially.”
Johnson works in the Fannin Library. She has been a WLG member for several years, and says she appreciates meeting other prominent leaders at these events.
“Dr. Paul Dale made the conversation very comfortable, and I value his comments,” Johnson said. “Especially, he emphasized that interviewing is a learned skill that takes practice.”
Minerva Pargas, the project director for Degree Phoenix at Phoenix College, had the opportunity to meet with GCC’s President, Irene Kovala.
“Don’t be shy to ask. Request, for it allows you to expand and have new experiences. And, don’t be afraid to say let me try that,” said Pargas regarding what she took away from Dr. Kovala’s advice
I know whenever I attend these type of events I love to hear the stories of the other presidents and how their journey led them to where they are today. I learn something every time I hear them speak. My hope is that the attendees feel the same way,” Phoenix College Interim President Chris Haines said.
Haines said she appreciated being personally invited by committee members and looked forward to the event.
“I also enjoy meeting other MCCCD employees and seeing friends and colleagues from other campuses as well. It is also a great opportunity to meet new people and have some great conversations,” Haines said.
“My hope is that they see the presidents as people who they can relate to on some level and know that we want to assist them professionally and as a person.”
Steelin’ the Night Away, a women’s Carribean style pan drum band, played Calypso music during lunch. The women band members volunteer their time and donate all their earnings to charity.
The afternoon’s keynote speaker Tish Times, founder and CEO of HireTimes Training & Coaching Group, provided WLG members with networking tips.
“The ones who controls the conversation is the one who is asking the most interesting inquiring questions. They are the ones who actively share and listen,” Times said.
Times also helped WLG participants write an Engagement Statement. “Tell who you are and what you do in about 30 seconds, and state it in a way that anyone from any walk of life would understand, make sense of.”
Jodi Russell, Veterans service specialist at GCC, said she appreciated the very upbeat atmosphere throughout the day. “The presenters kept my attention and where engaging. I especially enjoyed the interactive aspect. I wasn’t just sitting and listening, we moved about,” Times said.
In between the day’s activities, Susie Kimball and Serina Kappes, from GCC’s Fitness and Wellness department, involved people physically with music and movement.
“The short fitness excises helped. Their modeling reinforced an important habit to do in our work day, to get up move about,” Russell said.
Ariella Feld, Accounting Assistant CBO at Scottsdale Community College, joined the WLG two years ago to meet new people, develop friendships, understand the MCCCD organization, build skills and personalize her career goals.
“Meeting other people around the organization increases my confidence,” Feld said.
Feld and Russell said the conference committee brought in a good selection of vendors who offered reasonable products and services.
Laura Dodrill, GCC counseling, lead a personality workshop titled, “What Color is Your Brain.” Attendees assessed their leadership strengths and talked about how those traits shape the quality of interactions they have at work.
“Moving from tolerating others to accepting them helps build stronger, less conflicting, relationships,” Dodrill said. “Once we understand and have insight to how we and others view and interact interpersonally in completing tasks, we can begin to appreciate our differences and work more successfully towards getting things done.”
Wiseman Stow, who has been a part of the WLG program for six years and committee co-chair for two, said she values what the program has done for her.
“Besides being able to attend and help with events, I have benefitted from mentorship. Dr. Kovala has been an instrumental advocate and personal support, and Angie Acuna has been very empowering personally and professionally. I consider them to be invaluable friends who have been life changing, enhancing,” Wiseman Stow said.
Stephanie Latham, GCC Admissions & Registration, Records, service specialist and ten year MCCCD employee has been a long time member of the WLG. Latham credits Ruby Miller, her mentor, for helping her to become the successful candidate for her current position.
“Being involved with the WLG program, especially having a great mentor, has given me the guidance and the confidence to take on new challenges in my job and prepare for future job opportunities,” Latham said.
“As women we need to support each other and see other women in leadership roles, the WLG conference was a venue for that interaction. I graduated from the WLG mentor program in 1999 and still have female and male mentors today who were part of that program. I think all leaders want to pay it forward and be mentor whenever possible. The WLG conference provided a supportive environment for us to talk to people one on one or in a small group and make a new positive connection,” Haines said.