ATHENA conference empowers GV women

	Courtesy Photo / Elizabeth Brown

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Elizabeth Brown

Paige Platte

ATHENA International presented a leadership conference to more than 80 women at Grand Valley State University on October 27. The conference was a daylong event, meant to empower women to be leaders in their student organizations.

Most of the day was spent with smaller groups, each led by a facilitator. These small groups got the chance to know one another on a more personal level.

“It was amazing,” said Margie Munoz a GVSU sophomore conference attendee. “It was the combination between the people I met, the thoughts I thought, and the motivation and support I received that re-energized me and gave value to what guides my heart.”

ATHENA International was founded in 1982 as a nonprofit organization with the purpose to support and develop women leaders. ATHENA International names eight pillars that make up great leadership: Live authentically, learn constantly, advocate fiercely, act courageously, foster collaboration, build relationships, give back, and celebrate.

Different pillars resonated strongly with each woman in attendance. Sophomore attendee Megan Williams was most passionate about the “advocate fiercely” pillar.

“Perhaps it’s because of my career goal to be an attorney after law school, but I believe it’s important to fight for what you believe in and to help others do the same,” Williams said.

In the smaller groups, the women participated in several activities that led to conversation about each member’s leadership style and passion.

One of the activities required each member to choose a photograph from a table of many photographs. Members then had to describe something about society that they are passionate about changing and how they would go about making the change happen.

“They meant completely different things to everyone, and it was definitely a window to their minds,” Munoz said.

Women who attended the conference were able to pick each other’s brains and view things from perspectives that were very different from their own.

“I enjoyed getting to know the girls in my group,” said sophomore attendee Cara Kovall. “It is very cool to get together with people from different organizations and realize how much you have in common.”

After engaging with different perspectives and people all day, the conference attendees were asked to create a legacy statement. This legacy statement was up for personal interpretation and women could use long or short-term goals to express the legacy they want to leave in college or in life.

Munoz chose to create a life-long legacy statement: “Find your passion and live without boundaries. Don’t settle for ignorance. Realize that nothing is defined. Our lives are intertwined, and together we combine to create a positive universe. Spread the Love. What gives my life meaning is love and exploration, and I encourage everyone to do so. Love leads to harmony, and with this, complete universal connection, and I believe if all we focused on was love and learning about everyone, everything, and what has not been discovered, the world would be a much more peaceful, awakened place.”

After completing these statements they were all hung on posters in the larger meeting room for all attendees to read one another’s statements and leave comments.

“I enjoyed the legacy statement viewing the most,” Williams said. “I loved seeing what the other women wanted to accomplish and giving them notes encouraging them to push forward with that goal to help leave their legacy.”

The conference concluded with a toast of sparkling fruit juice among the smaller groups. Each women received a certificate of completion. Many women exchanged contact information to keep the connection they had made.

“You get to know people very deeply when you hear about their passions and what gives their life meaning,” Munoz said. “I got to know women that I had always seen around campus at a much deeper level, and realize that I am not completely alone.”

ATHENA International will host ATHENA Connections 2012 with key note speaker Kathy Crosby, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries Wednesday Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. Contact the Women’s Center to reserve a seat to this event.

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