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The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

Women’s Symposium honors innovative, visionary women

The future is female—the message behind ULM’s annual Women’s Symposium has not changed since its inception eight years ago. Last Wednesday, business owners, students and faculty filled Bayou Pointe for a day dedicated to honoring the accomplishments of local women. The Women’s Symposium featured a packed schedule, with ULM hosting a keynote speaker, a series of panels and an award ceremony.

President Ronald Berry opened the symposium with a short speech thanking the women who shaped his life. He honored the legacy of his mother, who passed away over 16 years ago. Berry, who was raised by a single mother, recognized the challenges facing women in Northeast Louisiana. ULM’s president expressed gratitude toward the women like his mother who have faced and overcome struggles.

“It is such an honor for me to be here to tell you that our world is a much better place because each and every one of you do what you do every day without thinking about yourself,” Berry said.

Following Berry’s speech, the ULM dance team, the Hawkline, performed one of their award-winning routines. The Hawkline danced to “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé, encouraging attendees to bust a move or two before listening to the keynote address.

Vice President of Student Affairs Valerie Fields introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Pamela Lewis. Lewis, a former student at ULM, graduated in 2003. Afterward, she attended medical school at LSU, specializing in gynecology. Dr. Lewis worked at Women’s Hospital in Baton Rouge before joining the prestigious OBGYN group Louisiana Women’s Health Care.

During her keynote address, Lewis recalled some of her struggles as a black woman pursuing a medical career. Lewis remembered how ULM’s pre-med faculty advisor once told her she didn’t “have what it takes” to attend medical school. The next semester, she joined the Pre-Med Honor Society, meeting two pre-med students who would act as her mentors. When reflecting on her experience in college, Lewis stated that each stumbling block builds character, fostering determination and perseverance.

“Just know when you hit a speed bump or a stumbling block on your path, it is not a stop sign,” Lewis said. “Keep going.”

Dr. Lewis emerged as a trailblazer in obstetrics and gynecology. She is one of the first black women to work at Ochsner’s Louisiana Women’s Healthcare. Dr. Lewis recalled the nervousness and anxiety she felt while interviewing for the position. When walking into the office, Lewis noticed that none of Louisiana Women’s Healthcare physicians looked like her. Although Lewis initially felt discouraged, she broke through the glass ceiling, a barrier that prevents marginalized individuals from succeeding in their chosen fields.

“Who runs the world? The girls who know that today’s ceiling is tomorrow’s floor,” Lewis said. “When they break that ceiling, they turn around and bring somebody with them.”

After finishing her keynote address, Dr. Lewis joined Women’s Symposium Board members on stage for the awards ceremony. According to the organization’s website, the board “honors several individuals who have contributed to the fabric and empowerment of women and inclusion in Northeast Louisiana” each year.

Two students, Hanna Singh and Maya Melancon, received scholarships after being nominated by ULM faculty and staff. The Women’s Symposium Board awards scholarships based on the following criteria: campus involvement, academic excellence and community service.

Senior business administration major Hanna Singh received the Empowering Student Leader Scholarship, which provides funding for nontraditional students pursuing a college degree. Singh serves as the president of ULM’s chapter of Turning Point U.S.A. and the Marketing Club. She’s participated in the Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup every year, winning last spring’s Elevator Pitch Competition. She also works for Student Publications and Discover Monroe-West Monroe.

Senior speech-language pathology major Maya Melancon earned the Emerging Student Leader Scholarship. Melancon is an active member of HOSA—Future Health Professionals, representing Louisiana as a collegiate ambassador. She participates in two career-oriented RSOs: Sigma Tau Delta International English Honors Society and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA).

“Participating in these organizations has made me more confident in helping others, networking, and personal growth,” Melancon said. “My favorite parts about being a student leader are the experiences I’ve had with fostering friendships, exploring novel opportunities and learning from those encounters.”

English Graduate Coordinator Janet Haedicke, Ph.D., won the most coveted award of the Women’s Symposium, the Legacy Award. A Louisiana native, Haedicke left the Bayou state to attend Hollins College in Virginia. However, she returned to Louisiana for her Ph.D. in English from LSU, beginning a decades-long career at ULM. Now, Haedicke heads the English Graduate Program, teaching courses in modern drama and southern literature.

In her acceptance speech, Haedicke reflected on her experience as a professor at ULM. She stated she still learns new lessons from her students whenever she teaches a course or assigns an essay.

“As I have evolved, I realize that I am learning more from students than they are learning from me,” Haedicke said. “If I get to the point that I cease learning from those students, that’s when I retire.”

Attendees spent the remainder of the Women’s Symposium attending panel discussions. The Women’s Symposium Board organized four panel tracks, catering to the attendees’ interests.

The first panel series centered on nurturing the mind, body and soul. Panelists discussed topics such as self-care, Imposter Syndrome, marriage and therapy. Attendees listened to encouraging advice on how to maintain a work-life balance.

Future businesswomen gathered in a lecture hall for the second panel series, which focused on entrepreneurship and mentorship. Career developers and established business owners discussed the importance of female friendship, or sisterhood, in the workplace. The panelists offered advice on maintaining a mutually beneficial friendship in the workplace.

Leaders on and off campus discussed the challenges of being a woman in male-dominated fields. Directors, CEOs and politicians spoke on the need to transform work environments into a safer, more inclusive space. By sharing personal experiences, the panelists and attendees developed new solutions and ideas for eliminating the gender variable.

Lastly, students joined alumni and faculty members to discuss issues facing college students. The panelists mentioned the importance of adjusting to college and answered questions from prospective students.

After a day of insightful discussions, the Women’s Symposium ended with a networking gala. Attendees made long-lasting connections, networking with local business owners and forming lifelong friendships. Women’s Symposium Vice Chair Melissa Kiper stated that she believed this year’s symposium succeeded in encouraging and honoring women.

“We want girls and women from all backgrounds and all educational and professional levels, to feel heard, seen, empowered and motivated to pursue their dreams!” Kiper said.

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