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CreateHER Day 2019 celebrates female leadership

Ellie Kahn

Contributing Writer

While Knowlton Commons is typically busy, bustling with students and professors alike chatting and grabbing coffee, the energy felt different this past Saturday, April 13. The Ruth W. Williams Hall of Life Science was transformed into a hub of empowerment, female leadership and multicolored pastel cotton candy — also known as the second annual createHER Day.

CreateHER is an initiative from The Center for Entrepreneurship at The College of Wooster and was developed as a way of supporting female students through specialized programming, resources and mentorship. Conceptualized by APEX event planner Marina Rosales ’15, the initiative was founded in the fall of 2017 and hosts a number of events each semester for the campus community. Dana Smith ’18, an entrepreneurship intern who assists with marketing and planning, joined Rosales this past fall in coordinating and guiding the leadership createHER team, which consists of nine Wooster students.

After a welcome address from President Sarah Bolton, createHER Day 2019 began with a keynote speech from Kimothy Joy, a Denver-based artist and author whose illustrations seek to enact social change and action. Joy’s message centered around the importance of “speaking your truth” and “taking steps towards your goals everyday,” creating an atmosphere of potential and inspiration among the over 100 participants. As Smith shared, “the fact that we could have [Joy] be a part of this day was truly such an honor. I think she in particular represents everything that we hope createHER inspires our students to do and become … This is a day that truly celebrates women’s leadership and shows younger female students in particular that their voices matter, they can be successful and their passions and interests are important, valuable and meaningful.” One lucky student won a copy of Joy’s “That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women,” an empowering book blending biography, watercolor illustration and female leadership.

Following Joy’s keynote speech, createHER Day participants were invited to move into smaller breakout sessions, where each group was treated to a workshop led by a female professional. Kate Volzer, the CEO and co-founder of alumni networking platform Wisr spoke about her experience navigating the creation of a tech company; her workshop was titled “Ready Enough.” The breakout session “Create With Passion” was led by Andrea Pierce-Naymon, who detailed her thoughts and journey behind founding the all-natural skincare line OY-L. Lastly, Janae Bryson led the workshop “Socially Branded,” in which she discussed the creation of professional personal brands; Bryson is the founder and brand stylist of the media company Auden & Company. In choosing the speakers, createHER leaders “look[ed] for women who embody the mission of createHER and who are passionate about women’s leadership,” with Smith adding that “we also wanted to make sure we found individuals from all different industries and backgrounds.”

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the day was the ongoing painting of a live mural during the event, created by Cleveland-based artist Lisa Quine. Quine is an internationally renowned artist specializing in hand-lettering, murals and graphic design. Attendees were invited to participate in the mural throughout the day, culminating in a beautiful hand-painted floral illustration reading “createHER” followed by the group’s slogan, “inspiring women to lead.”

No detail was overlooked when it came to this year’s createHER Day; the event was photographed by Cleveland-based female photographer Sharon Hughes, and attendees were treated to whimsical gourmet cotton candy provided by the company Art of Sucre.

When considering the success and impact of the event, createHER student leaders credit Rosales and Smith for their incredible organization, leadership and passion as planning began last summer. According to Lexi Kangas ’19, “the majority of the work in planning createHER Day was done by Marina and Dana. This event would not have been possible without their dedication and hard work … It started as just an idea Marina had at the beginning of last year and has grown into something truly wonderful and astonishing.”

Anushkaa Gupta ’20 emphasizes this as well, adding that “createHER Day last year was the first time that this campus had seen such an initiative. Marina and Dana’s hard work reflects every little thing that made this day possible.” When considering the event, founder Rosales reflected that “createHER Day is a celebration of the mission of createHER, and of the amazing women part of that initiative. We hope that attendees walked away not only feeling inspired, but also feeling like they too had the skill-set to be a strong leader.”

Now in its second year and striving to become an annual event, how has createHER Day changed since last year, and what are hopes for the future of the event and the organization? As student leadership member Annelisea Brand ’21 stated, “There was a lot of trial and error last year. CreateHER Day was smaller … this year we had self-made entrepreneurs, artists and business owners doing events outside of the break-out rooms. We were able to fully support local, women-run businesses this year.” This sentiment was echoed by Kangas, who said that “the first year is always a learning curve for something so new, so it was great to see the general improvements in organization and experience now that we know what we’re doing a bit more. The change in space was of course an improvement as well,” referring to the move from Morgan Hall to newly renovated Williams.

When considering the future of createHER Day, Smith hopes that more students and faculty members attend, adding that “this is such a special and unique event, and createHER only exists here at The College of Wooster, so I hope that the event continues to grow and attract more people as time goes on and it becomes more of an establishment on campus.” Another goal of subsequent createHER Days will be increasing the number of high school students and community members who attend, so students at the College can connect with the broader Wooster community about the issues prevalent in a largely androcentric world.

The impact that createHER has had on the campus community is evident in the testimonies of those who actively engage with the initiative, transcending class years and majors. Mia Eschinger ’22, a student studying political science and Spanish, joined createHER because of the support and inspiration it brings to female students. As Eschinger recalls, “I love all that is done through createHER, as it serves as a part of our community that will always support everyone, encouraging students to approach opportunities they may not have initially.”

Brand, an anthropology major, agrees with the importance of the initiative, stating that “[createHER] teaches self-advocacy, recognizes where there are privileges in society, and connects students, no matter their identity, to alumni and resources.”

An English major graduating this upcoming spring, Kangas reflects on her time in createHER fondly, remembering “I felt inspired to join createHER because from the very first meeting Marina held about the initiative I felt compelled as a woman to do something more for the lack of support women may find on campus. CreateHER continues to inspire me every day to be a better model for womanly support and encouragement in everyday life.”

While the name of the initiative seems to focus solely on the advancement of women, members of the createHER leadership team want the College community to know that every individual is welcome to attend. According to Brand, “createHER welcomes anyone and everyone. It was developed with women’s needs in mind, however all of our events and resources are applicable to every person on campus. Do not let the name discourage you if you don’t identify as a woman.”

As the final event of the year, createHER will be hosting Tie-Dye Night on Thursday, May 2 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., location to be determined. For those interested in engaging with createHER, contact Marina Rosales at MRosales@wooster.edu, Dana Smith at DaSmith@wooster.edu, or stop by their office in APEX.

(Photo by Lesley Chinery)

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