A final reflection written by Women’s Center student staff member and UMBC Class of 2016 alum, Meagé Clements
Just weeks after graduation, I attended the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), a conference I had been anticipating for months! I arrived promptly on June 1st, just in time for the Welcome Reception, led by various American Association of University Women (AAUW) National Student Advisory Council members. There, I met just a few of the hard working, inspirational women from across the nation who were attending the conference. There were other Women’s Center staff members, members of university and college SGAs, non-traditional women students, executive board members of student-led organizations, and more.Throughout the evening full of ice-breakers, I learned what many of the women were passionate about changing and accomplishing in the world.
Throughout the various conference sessions, workshops, and even during the informal ice-breaker and night-out activities, I found myself learning several things about myself and how to be a successful woman in a male-dominated society.
1. I have a voice that deserves to be heard.
This is something I began to learn throughout my college experience and it is something that I am continuing to work on post-graduation as well. As I attended the opening sessions of the conference: Finding Your Voice and Sharing Your Voice, I learned that it was counterproductive to stifle my voice, especially in situations where I was surrounded by people who could learn from what I had to say. I reflect on the numerous classes I had where I was the only Black woman or woman of color and how I should have spoken up more. Although I have learned to channel my voice through my blog posts and other forums, it is also necessary to use my voice to advocate for myself and other women of color.
2. It’s never too early to network.
Until recently, networking has always been a concept that has been very distant to me. I assumed that it would happen when it happened and that I didn’t need to make a conscious effort to network. Little did I know, this was something that I had been doing subconsciously throughout college. Whether I was exchanging numbers with someone in my academic program, meeting with other students, staff, and faculty in the Women’s Center, or simply discussing my future endeavors with a friend, I was networking. I learned that many people gain necessary networks that helped them advance in their careers. Through the networking workshops at NCCWSL, I met several ambitious women with similar and different aspirations.
3. It’s okay to have A LOT of aspirations.
During the conference, I met so many women who, believe it or not, started in career fields far from where they’ve ended up. I used to cringe at the thought of someone asking what I wanted to do in life because it always consisted of a long list of aspirations. While I learned that it isn’t always possible to accomplish several at once, each goal can serve as a step towards another.
4. The importance of mentorship.
Several times during the conference, the concept of mentorship came up. Aside from my mother, I had never really considered myself having a mentor, nonetheless mentoring someone else. I assumed that because I was still in school and because I wasn’t settled in my career, I couldn’t be a mentor. I later learned that many of our mentors are our peers. As I reflect on the numerous conversations I’ve had with my sorority sisters, I can recall instances where I’ve received mentorship from them, as well as many of my other women peers. I learned that many women found connections and rewarding opportunities through their mentors. In addition, the conference helped me appreciate solidarity amongst women even more.
5. Take risks
I seldom think of myself as someone who takes risks. During the last workshop session: The Art of Living Boldly: A Toolkit for Taking Risks, Handling Fear, and Building a Meaningful Life, a woman named Catie Whelan shared her story about leaving her secure job and taking a risk at another career choice. Despite not meeting the minimum requirements, she decided to take a risk and apply. Not only was she offered the job, but she was given the opportunity to learn another language so she was better qualified. Throughout the session, many women shared stories about aspirations they have but were too afraid to tackle. I reflected on a few risks I wanted to take and was capable of creating a plan to work towards these goals.
Although the conference has been over for some time now, I continue to reflect on all of the things I’ve learned and I will continue to work towards being an effective woman leader. I highly recommend that other women attend the conference and learn more about the efforts of AAUW and NCCWSL.
If you are a UMBC student interested in attending NCCWSL 2017, contact UMBC’s Women’s Center for more information. Also stay tuned for the Women + Leadership Class of 2016-17 experience – details coming soon (here’s information about the Class of 2015-16 experience)!