First-ever women’s leadership retreat hosted at Kent State


Katie Clarkin asks the panel members questions during the “Lighting the Way for Women’s Leadership” retreat hosted at Kent State Saturday on Oct.19, 2013. Photo by Julie Myers.

Julie Myers

Kent State hosted the first-ever “Lighting the Way for Women’s Leadership” retreat Saturday.

Katie Clarkin, a senior French major, envisioned the event in the spring when she recognized a need and reached out to the Women’s Center.

Brenda McKenzie, a doctoral student studying higher education administration, said she was doing her internship at the Women’s Center when Clarkin approached the center with her ideas.

McKenzie said their ideas meshed well together, which led them to the planning stage.

Clarkin, co-chair of the event along with McKenzie, brought all of the organizations together for the event. The pair got support from the Kent Interhall Council, Kent State Women’s Center, Panhellenic Council, the Center for Student Involvement, the LGBTQ Center, the Student Multicultural Center and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“We kind of all came together in an effort to plan this groundbreaking event that has never been done before at Kent State, specifically for college women to provide them with an opportunity to really interact with one another and learn from each other,” Clarkin said.

Heard at the event, participants experienced keynote speaker Julie Graber, who is the CEO for The Institute on Women. Graber spoke about artificial barriers that separate women from leadership positions.

Three times throughout the day, participants broke off into smaller groups to discuss current struggles, stereotypes, the keynote speaker’s message and future plans of how to deal with all of it and still be successful.

There was also a panel of female leaders from the area present at the event to answer questions and talk about their personal experiences and challenges they faced as women leaders.

Clarkin hoped this event would become a networking opportunity for women leaders in different organizations on campus.

“I know as a Greek, we have a lot of Greek leadership events, but we don’t often get a chance to meet the other women leaders on campus that we could really learn from,” Clarkin said.

Cassandra Pegg-Kirby, Assistant Director of the Women’s Center, was on the planning committee for the event. She talked about the generations of female leaders.

“I think finding a way to recognize and support leaders on campus in whatever capacity they choose to utilize that is the goal,” Pegg-Kirby said. “I think the leadership (retreat) is recognizing current women leaders, helping those leaders to support the ones who are up and coming and really supporting those up and coming to develop those skills so that they can be the next group coming through.”

McKenzie said she saw the need for this event particularly on the college campus.

“I think sometimes we create this ideal world on the university campus that is not always reflective of reality,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said she had three main goals so wanted to achieve through the event: to raise awareness about the common barriers she thinks women will face, to teach participants how to build themselves up and break through those barriers and to leave attendees with future plans for women’s leadership.

Clarkin said the event was groundbreaking and hopes it will be one of many like it.

Contact Julie Myers at [email protected].