The Collegian
Friday, February 03, 2023

Westhampton College hosts leadership conference

<p>Current Westhampton students and successful alumni gather for a Women in Leadership Conference. Photo by Yashvardhan Jhunjhunwala. </p>

Current Westhampton students and successful alumni gather for a Women in Leadership Conference. Photo by Yashvardhan Jhunjhunwala. 

Some of the most successful graduates of Westhampton College gathered on Friday, Oct. 17, for the Women and Leadership Conference to speak to and provide networking for undergraduates.

The conference was part of Westhampton College’s centennial celebration and Richmond’s homecoming weekend. It featured keynote speakers Melanie Liddle Healey, group president for Procter & Gamble and WC '83, and Liza Donnelly, a cartoonist with The New Yorker.

From 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., Westhampton alumnae and undergraduates were invited to attend the conference, which consisted of a luncheon, breakout sessions led by panels of alumnae, a networking reception and talks by both Healey and Donnelly. Throughout the conference, women were encouraged to interact with speakers and panelists in question-and-answer sessions.

The luncheon, which took place in Jepson Alumni Center, was attended by about 275 people, filling not only the main room, Robins Pavilion, but two overflow rooms, said Kristen Williams, director of volunteer board relations for the office of the president.

About midway through the luncheon, Healey began her speech with the question, “What shapes the way I’ve lived my life?”

Healey has been ranked in Forbes Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World” and Fortune Magazine’s “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.” In her speech, she shared what she had learned about making intentional choices throughout her life.

“I firmly believe that success is not about the destination. It’s about the journey,” Healey said.

Born and raised in Brazil, Healey lives a life rich in diversity. Her mother is from Chile and her father is from England, and her husband was raised in the Middle East. Both of her children were born in Mexico. She said this diversity of cultures and experiences had taught her to appreciate the power of differences.

Among the advice Healey shared, she encouraged her audience to know themselves and be proud of who they were, to step out of comfort zones and to choose to make a difference.

“As you set forward from this day on,” Healey said at the end of her speech, “believe in yourself. Know yourself. Face each day with courage, values and perseverance. You can only build a life that matters with these firm foundations.”

Donnelly, similar to Healey, spoke about the importance of persistence and self-identity in her discussion about using humor to make a stand. Donnelly is a cartoonist, writer and public speaker who travels around the world to talk about freedom of speech, cartoons and women’s rights.

In a visual presentation illustrated by her cartoons, she spoke about what it meant to be a rebel, and encouraged women to subtly rebel against rules that women succumb to, as she does with her cartoons.

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“I just want to keep rebelling about how women are treated,” Donnelly said. “It’s crazy we’re still talking about it.”

In the middle of the conference, women attended two of four breakout sessions. Led by a moderator, a panel of about five alumnae per session discussed different aspects of being women and leaders.

Colleen Tobin, WC ’14, the youngest panelist at the conference, spoke in the session titled "The Brand of You.” She said she promoted self-awareness in regard to networking and stressed that people were the true “brand of themselves,” but not completely self-absorbed in professional relationships.

At the end of the program, Dean Juliette Landphair shared pieces of advice targeted at 22-year-olds from an older perspective: “View each experience as an opportunity for growth. You will always return to your core values and beliefs as you navigate through life’s challenges in uncertain times.”

Contact reporter Missy Schrott at

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