Pamplin College of Business hosts its first-ever Women’s Summit
The Pamplin College of Business Office for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) hosted its first-ever Women’s Summit on March 25.
The morning kicked off with networking opportunities open to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and corporate partners from Pamplin College of Business and beyond. With over 100 attendees, Janice Branch Hall, associate dean of DEIB, and Robin Russell, interim dean of Pamplin, welcomed all those in attendance and spotlighted the 2023 theme, “Claiming Your Seat at the Table.”
“I am so excited to be here today,” said Russell. “To look out and see all the beautiful faces and the energy and the enthusiasm and the potential you all have to be leaders, to make an impact, to change companies, to change the way we do things, and to change society. As you go through your careers, there will be some ups and downs, some things that you will have to work harder to climb over or some things that you have to go around.
"There will be times when you are headed in one direction, then you will have to step back and go a different direction. You probably won’t stay with one company your whole career. When opportunities do not present themselves, you find your own opportunities elsewhere. I wish for you to be in a work environment that appreciates you, that allows you to be authentic, that listens to your voice, and that provides you with opportunities for you to lead.”
Pamplin student organizations whose mission is to empower women — Finance for Females, Women in Cybersecurity, and Collegiate Women in Business — were in attendance as well.
The keynote speaker was Jessica Hotter, who oversees licensing for Rally House, a leading specialty retail store offering an expansive selection of sports-related and local products. Hotter plays a significant role in the company’s continued growth strategy, facilitating existing licensing partnerships while simultaneously pursuing new relationships.
Prior to joining Rally House, Hotter had a successful career within the Office of Licensing and Trademarks at Virginia Tech, highlighted by significant increases in licensing royalties, the development and launch of the university’s signature beer, expanded collaboration with vendors and campus partners, and service on national committees.
“This summit is a great opportunity for women of all ages to connect and learn from one another in a supportive environment,” said Hotter.
Attendees had the option to attend one of three breakout sessions, each focused on a different aspect of the corporate industry with guest speakers. “Thriving in a Male Dominated Industry – Cybersecurity,” moderated by the Women in Cybersecurity student organization, featured panelists Jessica Gulick, an alumna and founder and CEO of PLayCyber by Katzcy, and Kristi Horton, an alumna and founder of Horton Innovations. “Fostering an Entrepreneurial Mindset,” moderated by Cha Barefield and Laura Townsend, director of the Innovate LLC, featured panelists Josephine Arbaugh, an alumna and freelance architect and urban designer, and Lisa Garcia, an alumna and launch coach for Virginia Tech and Biotech Startups. “Finding Your Voice through Wellness and Mindfulness,” featured Ana Agud, manager of the work/life program for Hokie Wellness.
“The summit is an opportunity for us to come together to talk about issues that impact us,” said Hall. “We don’t often have these opportunities to be transparent and to tear off the mask by showing up authentically as ourselves. That’s not the case for our summit. Attendees have the opportunity to engage with employers, fellowship with one another, polish those leadership skills, and really make sure their voices are heard.”
Attendees had the opportunity to have an updated headshot taken. That was followed by speakers Ivy Bryant, an alumna and leader of strategy and execution for the Medicare Advantage segment at Cigna, and John Ward, Cigna’s head of customer experience and leader of its enterprise insights and experience function. Leading the lunch discussion titled, “Embracing Your Inner Imposter,” they examined imposter syndrome, one of the main barriers that can prevent leaders from excelling. Imposter syndrome can lead to feelings of fraud and self-doubt, in spite of education, experience, and accomplishments.
“First Lady Michelle Obama once so eloquently stated, ‘There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish,’” said Emily McCokle, director for student success. “I like this quote because she really emphasizes the ‘we’ part of it. Not just me, not just you, but ‘us’ together as a community, as a force to be reckoned with. We must set the tone for our fellow sisters and rise above anything that comes our way. It’s our duty to not only claim a permanent seat at the table but to make room and pull up a chair for our fellow sisters.”
Planning is underway for Pamplin’s second Women’s Summit in spring 2024. Corporate partners can present a workshop, host a table, and are invited to participate in the summit. Please email DEIB@vt.edu for more information or to become a sponsor.
Written by A’me Dalton