By Latara Holloway
Members of the AUM community celebrated International Women’s Day by attending the “Make It Happen” luncheon and panel discussion held March 9. The panel featured four women from the River Region, each from different careers, to answer questions about their lives and talk about the challenges faced by women today. The speakers included Dr. Jevonnah “Lady J” Ellison, president and founder of Professional Women of Integrity; Marietta Koums, executive director of the Millbrook Chamber of Commerce; Sesi Ogunbym, Montgomery Pediatric Gastroenterologist; and Dr. Elizabeth D. Woodworth, associate professor in the Department of English and Philosophy at AUM.
The event opened with a welcome by host and member of the organizing committee Zaneta Wilson. A dance performance by student Katie Xu followed. Afterwards, Dr. Yolanda Tyre of Student Affairs introduced the panelists and moderated the discussion.
Over 140 students and faculty participated in the event. Questions ranged a multitude of topics, such as how panelists are able to balance having a family and career, overcome doubts and conquer struggles in the work place.
When asked what inspired her to create this event, ISA faculty advisor Sharon Phinney said she was motivated by seeing how the holiday was celebrated in other countries during her ten years abroad. Phinney was approached by Zaneta Wilson to host an International Women’s Day Event in 2013, and the first event was held last year. It featured Alabama First Lady Dianne Bentley as the keynote speaker.
“The programming goal for 2015 was twofold,” Phinney said. “The first goal was to create an interactive program that would inspire our students to achieve their goals. The second goal was to carry out an associated service project; thus, we selected donating to the women and children of the River Region through the Montgomery Salvation Army.”
According to Wilson, about ten bags of clothing and personal hygiene items were taken up during donations.
“I feel empowered,” said freshman Sydney Kelsey after the event. “I feel that I have the confidence to be myself, and I don’t have to fit into different categories of what people want me to be. I felt like a lot of people would have benefitted from attending. It would have gained a different perspective and more insight on what being a woman is today.”
The event was sponsored by the International Student Association, Student Government Association and AUM International Student Involvement. Phinney plans on establishing the “Make it Happen” event as part of the annual programming.
Photo Courtesy of Frank C. Williams