Reflections from OWHE 2018

First and foremost, I want to thank all the amazing, talented, and hard working women that made OWHE a success. From our volunteers to our Keynote, Dr. Susana Rivera-Mills, and from the board members to our presenters, I am so grateful for all the passion, energy and creativity that went into this conference. Ever since my first conference in 2013, OWHE has been my professional home. It was the first conference I presented at, the first conference I volunteered at and the first conference that truly inspired me to challenge myself both personally and professionally. If you would have told me five years ago that I would be coordinating the OWHE conference, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I’ve always enjoyed being involved in leadership, but never the one to lead. In high school student government, in undergraduate clubs, and on committee positions on campus. I was happy to be a part of the planning, but tended to thrive in the background, or as a worker bee. So when I took a leap last year and applied for the conference director position, it took a lot of courage. I jumped in before I felt completely sure I could do it. I challenged myself and stretched my limits. Leaning into the unknown and being brave was an underlying thread in all of the wise women panelists stories and really resonated with me this year. Directing OWHE 2018 was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career, and I wouldn’t have gotten this chance if I hadn’t thrown my hat in the ring. Thank you to all who spent hours making OWHE 2018 great, who leaned into their uncertainty, embraced bravery and unlocked their potential this year. I could not have done this without you.

And now for a few takeaways from the conference this year:IMG_5664-small 2_0.JPG

  • The wise women panelists raised a great question, which continued discussions throughout the afternoon: How do we define “woman?” How do we expand this definition? How does OWHE embrace the breadth of diversity that make up women in higher education and in our society as a whole? The board has been very intentional this past year to expand this definition, but there is much work to still be done. The insights from speakers and from attendees alike surrounding this topic are inspiring and I hope to continue this conversation throughout the year and into next years’ conference.

  • Dr. Susana Rivera-Mills referred to Portia Nelson’s poem, “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk” and it really spoke to me. It was an inspiring reminder to own our choices and to continue to move forward when challenges arise. Learning from past situations and choosing to make a change even when it takes courage.

  • And lastly, the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership. The post it wall illustrated this far better than any words could. Remember this when unlocking your potential at your institutions or in your personal life. Cultivate the qualities you value in others’ leadership and utilize them in your own leadership roles, whether they are informal or formal.

Thank you to all the insightful, brave and passionate folks who shared their wisdom and experience this past weekend! 

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And now, a few fun stats about OWHE 2018:

  • We hit the record number of institutions present at the conference - one up from last year! Let's continue to spread the word about OWHE and bring a few colleagues with you next year. 

  • OWHE 2018 had the most women of color present - 25% more than last year! And we had 39 women attend the women of color breakfast! Such an immense success, and we’re really excited to continue this connection and networking throughout the year and into future conferences.

  • We had the most volunteers engaged in conference planning and facilitation throughout the year and at the conference. The success of OWHE 2018 was due to the hard work and creativity of all these wonderful people. I am so honored to have worked with all of you this year.

  • We officially consumed the most gallons of tea that the Sunriver conference staff had ever experienced! About 2pm, one of the conference staff let me know that a typical group of this size consumes around 3-4 gallons of hot water, and at that point we had consumed 21! We do not have the final invoice yet, but I would not be surprised if we surpassed 30 gallons of tea by the end of the conference. Here’s to a hot cup of tea to encourage connection.

I am so grateful to have been a part of this year’s conference. I am inspired, rejuvenated and encouraged by all of your stories, experiences and passions you shared with me and one another at OWHE 2018. I am so excited to continue to engage with you all throughout the year through the book club, webinars, the mentorship program and more! And I look forward to seeing you all next year at Salishan Spa and Resort for OWHE 2019.

Also, if you are interested in shaping the direction of OWHE, apply for a board position here! (Include Link here). We’d love to have you on the team! Take a chance, practice bravery, and unlock your potential with OWHE!

Lea is a Student Success Coordinator for the Social Sciences Division at Southern Oregon University. She serves on the the Oregon Women in Higher Education Board as the Director of Annual conference. Connect with her at

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