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Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium helps students S.O.A.R. to higher heights

Illustration by Jarelis Cabrera
By Nailah Edmead

Illustration by Jarelis Cabrera

Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium helps students S.O.A.R. to higher heights

By Nailah Edmead
The 8th annual Patricia A. Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium commenced Friday, and once again helped foster community and empowerment within the student body.

This past Friday, students were able to experience the uplifting and encouraging atmosphere that characterizes the Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium. As attendees were offered networking opportunities and tips regarding personal wellness, the conference fostered a sense of confidence and positivity. Held by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership and channeled through the digital conferencing platform Remo.co, the new virtual format of the event served as no barrier to the impactful, reflective experience it gave students.

“The symposium is here to help students appreciate their passions, strengths, and achievements within the community. As students, they are leaders as well,” said Collette Mighty, the Assistant Director of the Butler Center who oversees the symposium.

Since its inception in 2012, the Women’s Leadership Symposium has promoted personal growth in all fields of life. Renamed in 2016 in honor of Patricia A. Whitely, current Senior Vice President for Student Affairs, the symposium serves as a celebration of women in leadership positions and an inspiration to its audience. The conference facilitates social interaction while also presenting networking opportunities as it garners a plethora of inspiring women from the University and within the community of Miami. This conference, despite the pandemic, was no different.

This year’s theme, She S.O.A.R.S. — standing for Saw, Overcame, Achieved, Reflected, and Served—aims to inspire its audience to not only serve oneself, but to serve the community around them. Prioritizing self-care tactics and peer-driven support, the acronym relays the importance of community in success.

“We want students to know you have to be the best version of yourself before serving those around you,” added Mighty.

The symposium, planned and executed through the major contributions of its student committee, ensured that its themes and guest speakers were carefully crafted to best serve the students in attendance. Making up the panel of various positions, Anastassia Caffati, Angella Nakasagga, Leila Metelus, and Jarelis Cabrera each dedicated weeks to overseeing the intricacies of the event.

“We worked really hard coordinating everything—reaching out to a diverse panel of professionals, choosing workshop themes, and ensuring everyone could use the new platform we were presenting,” said Jarelis Cabrera, a senior here at the University and the networking and PR chair of the student committee.

Via the interactive platform Remo.co, students sat in virtual tables among various professionals as a part of several rounds of networking. As they explored the online conference floor, students gained insight into the careers of diverse leaders at the University.

After networking, attendees were offered a choice between two workshops, each focusing on well-being and optimizing one’s ability. Introducing themes like imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and other self-sabotaging behaviors, students were able to relate to shortcomings of successful leaders while also being urged to adopt healthy, confidence-building aspects in their lives.

The event concluded with the keynote speaker, Canisha Cierra Turner—owner and CEO of Executive Reign, a public speaking and talent company based in North Carolina but serves multiple states. Turner offered encouraging advice to those still exploring their professional life and reinstated the conference’s theme of “SOARING” to higher heights.

“The symposium has always been a very impactful experience, especially considering the networking opportunities it allows for. Hearing from women of color specifically made me feel represented and seen, and I related to a lot of the experiences of the speakers,” added Cabrera.