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Women of the U spotlights powerful alumnae with new speaker series

By Maeve McQueeny

Women of the U spotlights powerful alumnae with new speaker series

By Maeve McQueeny
The University of Miami’s Women of the U launches a new speaker series to bring accomplished alumnae back to campus to share stories of growth, resilience, and leadership.

This year’s Women of the U speaker series is all about the journey to becoming a strong, female leader and will follow the trajectory of alumnae who pushed forward against themselves and their internal struggles, even when it seemed as if there was no path forward.

All the speakers that will be featured this academic year have achieved success and shattered glass ceilings, beginning with Stephanie Sylvestre, M.A. ’96, who headlines the opening session on Oct. 19 with a discussion titled, “Women of the U: Go Past Stop!"

Sylvestre is a fellow at the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, an academic program for experienced leaders to learn how to address society’s most pressing challenges. For her chosen challenge—increasing Black wealth in Miami-Dade County—she endeavors to use her talents to do social good. Already, Sylvestre is enacting meaningful change in her community and beyond.

She is the co-founder of Avatar Buddy, LLC, an artificial intelligence company that offers teens a digital mentor to foster confidence and self-acceptance. Sylvestre has also worked as chief programs officer and chief information officer at The Children’s Trust, a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to support children and families in Miami-Dade. There, she managed $184 million in grants across 230 non-profit agencies and forged key partnerships that yielded unprecedented success for the Trust.

During the 2020 general election, Sylvestre partnered with over 40 community organizations and funders to co-launch Vote the Future, a non-partisan youth-led effort encouraging voter registration and early voting in Miami-Dade. Vote the Future was responsible for approximately 4,200 people voting.

For a handful of years, she led a team of 2,100 women volunteers who built seven Habitat for Humanity homes in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood.

At the Oct. 19 event, Sylvestre will share her professional journey and personal reflections on becoming the powerhouse she is today.

Subsequent sessions will feature Ileana Musa, B.B.A. ’91, co-head of international wealth management and head of international banking and lending at Morgan & Stanley, on learning how to fail forward and Laura Kohn-Wood, dean of the University of Miami’s School of Education and Human Development on how paying it forward is an integral part of becoming a strong leader.

The Women of the U speaker series will conclude with a special “Meet the CEO” session in celebration of International Women’s Day in March 2023, where Lila Snyder, B.S.M.E. ’94, will share her journey to becoming chief executive officer of Bose, an audio electronics leader and major American technology corporation.  

Women of the U seeks to forge strong ties among alumnae of the University of Miami. Its speaker series aims to foster discussion, create networking opportunities, and provide students with unique industry insights from distinguished ’Canes. The series also showcases the bright people and futures that were furthered by a University of Miami degree.