Panel discusses the role of local female leaders

The office of campus life held the even “On Top of the Town” Monday evening. The event allowed female students and guests from across the university talk and network with each other to expand their horizons.

“We’re trying to introduce undergrad and graduate students to the leadership in the community,” said Gabriela Majeska, student coordinator for leadership.

Mary Larkin, of the LGBT Resource Center, moderated a Q & A panel on women in leadership. The panel included Mayor of Ypsilanti Amanda Edmonds, small business owner Jan McDermott, social worker Liz Hass, co-founder of Women’s Exchange of Washtenaw Carrie Hensel, Michigan State University graduate Amelia Mimi Brown and EMU alumna Priya Gogi.

Each of the women on the panel was given two minutes each to introduce themselves and describe how they got to where they are.

Edmonds was mayor of Ypsilanti for seven days when she sat down at the panel. She co-founded her first nonprofit when she was 17 and started a food accessibility program called Growing Hope.

“I grew up in a place of privilege,” said Edmonds. “I grew up middle class, and white in the United States in the 20th century.” But she knew that other people didn't and the fact that this gave them less privilege wasn't right.

McDermott is a board member for Athena International. She talked about how her husband left her after a marriage of 30 years, her mother died, her youngest son was going to college and she started battling breast cancer all within six months.

“At that point in my life I had to redefine every role I had ever played,” McDermott said, “I was no longer an active Mom. I was no longer a wife. I was no longer a caregiver to my mom and I was sick. So at that point I had to make a decision about who I was.”

She opened a Bed & Breakfast, and with the money from that she paid her son’s tuition his first year. Then McDermott made the decision to go back to school and she paid both her tuition and her son’s tuition. She finished her degree in six years and became a mentor for people starting small businesses.

Hass originally wanted to be a psychologist. During college, however, she decided to switch to social work and became a clinical social worker. Today she works at the University Of Michigan School Of Social Work and is a registered sex therapist.

Hensel is the co-founder of WXW, or Women's Exchange of Washtenaw. According to their website, WXW is “an organization created to connect women to other women, in a supportive environment.”

Brown graduated from Michigan State University in communications. She was hired almost immediately to work in Minnesota.

Gogi graduated from EMU in 2008 with a masters in molecular biology. Gogi had a hard time finding jobs right after graduation. But she did find a six-month internship. At the end of the internship her mentor offered her a job in the company. She turned it down and started her own internship, DeNovo Sciences Inc., which now does cancer research.

After the introductions of the panelists, there was a Q & A.

One of the questions someone asked was, “Is it true that it is not what you know but who you know?” The board said that who you know matters. But if you don't know what you are doing, if you're not qualified, then you won't get very far. And they said that was more important.

The event concluded in round table discussions to discuss “challenging workplace relationships, further education, sexual discrimination and harassment, salary negotiation and balancing life and work.” Each table had a number and the students were allowed to go to one of each of the tables to discuss the different topics.

To find more information about future events, you can find them on Facebook at EMUCampusLife. You can also find #EMUWomen on Twitter.


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