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April 8, 2014

Lafayette Women Focus on the Power of Community at Biennial Conference

By Margie Peterson

At the end of her luncheon speech at the 2014 Council of Lafayette Women Conference Saturday, Anne Alexander, editorial director of Prevention, told a story.

One day she arrived late and frazzled for her first yoga workout at a new studio to find that it was full, with little space left on the floor for her mat. She was about to leave when the teacher got up, came over, and hugged her, welcoming her to the class. As the teacher did that, women on the floor quietly started moving their mats to make room for her.

Sometimes, Alexander said, we just need to make room for each other.

“The Power of Community: Lafayette Women Supporting Each Other in Life and Work” was in a sense about doing just that and helping along women of all ages and backgrounds.

About 120 alumnae, students, parents, faculty, and staff took part in workshops on topics ranging from creativity and networking to financial planning and navigating careers.

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In the opening keynote address, President Alison Byerly said, “I am honored to be Lafayette’s first female president, and have been very touched to find that it is important to many women in the community. The alumnae of the early ’70s who were among the first women students were the real pioneers. As I noted in my inaugural address, Lafayette has a strong tradition of embracing change.”

Melanie Ruderman ’14 said the conference was a great opportunity for networking.

“Lafayette does a good job of instilling in us that networking is extremely important,” Ruderman said. “And the alumni that we have here are spectacular. They really give back.”

Gabbi Villanueva ’15 also wanted to develop her networking skills and found the session “Mentoring Powers: Unleashing and Unlocking the Secrets of Sisterhood” led by Vicki Salemi ’95 to be invaluable. Villanueva, an international affairs major, said it was exciting to meet so many alumnae who are doing impressive work.

“It’s great to see how strong their relationship is with Lafayette,” Villanueva said. “We’re a force to be reckoned with.”

That rang true for Kimberly Law Bennett ’90, a family law attorney with Zamborsky & Zamborsky in Allentown.

Bennett said she frequently has clients who need recommendations for a financial planner or realtor or other professionals and making connections at the conference was a great way to find people she can trust to recommend.

Eileen Daly Williams ’88 of Morristown, N.J., joined Bennett at the “Mentoring Powers” workshop.

Williams, who works in financial services with the global consulting firm, Accenture, said attending the conference was a way to treat herself.

“My kids are getting older, and they’re more independent,” Williams said. “When I saw the conference announcement, I thought, it’s time to start doing more things for me.”

“Sessions like this are integral to the forward motion of women at Lafayette,” said Jennifer Kelly, associate professor of music. It helps women find “our common denominators as well as celebrate all the diversity.”

Lauren Sheng, mother of Julia Sheng ’17, was encouraged to see so many women who are confident about what they can contribute to the world. “When I see where Lafayette is heading in terms of its acceptance of women in leadership, I thought that was a very good sign,” she said.

The address by President Byerly showed Maureen Hailey ’77 how far the College has come since she was a first-year student when the first co-educational class graduated.

Back then “it was still a male-oriented, male-dominated campus,” said Hailey, a lawyer from Williamstown, N.J. “It’s just very exciting to come back.”

Hailey, who earned her J.D. from George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., met with Yang Li ’13, who is working on her master’s degree in foreign service at Georgetown University.

Yang, an economics and international affairs graduate, said she was looking forward to the workshop by Sandy Kazinski ’85, “How to Lean In Without Losing Your Balance.”

“I love connecting with people in my community, that’s number one,” Yang said. “I just love being back here.”

Julia Sheng, who is considering studying economics and math, was looking for inspiration from alumnae. “I hope to see what a lot of Lafayette women have done to become successful and to further their careers,” she said.

DEDICATION OF MINDY PLAZA

The conference concluded with a ceremony to dedicate Mindy Plaza, located adjacent to Ruef Hall, in memory of Mindy Ann Lieberman ’81, partner in the Marx and Lieberman firm, who handled a number of equal pay and sexual harassment cases. Co-founder of Association of Lafayette Women, now known as Association of Lafayette Feminists, she died in 2009 from cancer. Her husband, Mark Goldstone ’81, son Corey Goldstone, and Mark’s parents, attended the ceremony. Also on hand was Heather Hughes ’15, president of Association of Lafayette Feminists.

President Byerly noted: “As Lafayette’s first female president, I am conscious of the history of women at Lafayette and the tremendous advances we have made since first admitting women in fall 1970….Today’s students owe a deep debt of gratitude to women such as Mindy Ann Lieberman who upon her arrival on campus in 1977, advocated, educated, and demonstrated in order to achieve full equality in all spheres of academic life.”

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