Home Education UWF hosted 10th annual Women in Leadership Conference

UWF hosted 10th annual Women in Leadership Conference

This year’s conference, themed “Resiliency Through Purpose,” provided attendees the opportunity to learn from and connect with prominent leaders who have achieved personal and professional success.

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“When you are connected with a purpose that aligns with your values and goals, it can serve as a source of inspiration and motivation to persevere through challenges,” said Tim Kinsella, executive director of the AWKO Center for Leadership. “A leader with purpose is like a ship with a known destination, plowing through the ocean on a deliberate course.”

University of West Florida President Martha D. Saunders and City of Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves welcomed the audience. The in-person emcee for the event was Laura Hussey, WEAR ABC 3 news anchor. Mel McCrae, Cat Country 98.7 morning show co-host and Laura Griffin, Escambia County Medical Society executive director served as virtual emcees. Leah Kinsella, coach and meditation expert led morning and afternoon activities on the power of meditation, introspection and self-kindness.

The morning keynote speaker was Simplified® founder and UWF alumna Emily Ley ’05, ’07. Ley’s address, “Resilience Through Burnout,” focused on how the many demands placed on modern women contribute to burnout and thriving personally and professionally through a uniquely female experience.

“You have more agency than you realize,” Ley said. “Press pause. Decide what matters. Not only can you heal from burnout, you can build a life you love.”

The morning panel session was titled “Purpose and Vision.” Dannon Byrd, founder and owner of Tap the Coast, moderated. Panelists included:

  • Jacey Cosentino, wealth management advisor, Peacock Wealth Management at Edward Jones
  • Katie Garrett, founder and owner, Old Hickory Whiskey Bar, The Kennedy and Onassis
  • Stephanie Knight, owner, Escape Wellness Spa
  • Jessica Lee, general manager and vice president, Kia AutoSport
  • Tia Robbins, owner and CEO, Taste of Pensacola and destination sales manager, Visit Pensacola

The afternoon keynote speaker was actor, writer and producer Erik Stolhanske. Stolhanske’s address was titled, “Foolish Perseverance: How a Kid Growing Up with a Wooden Leg Went On to Make the Comedy Movie, ‘Super Troopers.’” He shared his poignant yet humorous story of overcoming adversity and persevering, even when the odds were stacked against him.

“My mom, an incredible woman, always taught me to get back up and keep going,” Stolhanske said. “Everyone has a ‘wooden leg’ of some sort. Get back up. Take risks. Life is about finding purpose and making decisions that bring you joy.”

The afternoon panel discussion was titled “Pivot to your Purpose.” Nicole Stacey, vice president of destination development at Visit Pensacola, moderated. Panelists included:

  • Holly Benson, founder and CEO, Screen Corps
  • Jen Grove, vice president of external relations, Baptist Health Care
  • Robin Reshard, director of the Kukua Institute and community advocate
  • Alicia Tappan, founder and CEO, Tappan Consulting

The closing keynote, “Tactical Influence: Overcome the Gap Between Intentions and Impact,” was delivered by former undercover police officer and federal prosecuting attorney Pamela Barnum. She shared how her experiences in deep undercover work in narcotics and a successful legal career translated to real-world strategies for cracking the code on trust, improving professional relationships and increasing effectiveness.

“We decide if we like or dislike someone within one tenth of one second of meeting them,” Barnum said. “Imagine the relationships we could have if we learned to overcome this, or the people we could avoid if we learned to trust our instincts.”