Students meet for inaugural Women in Leadership event

Lauren McCarthy

About 80 female faculty members, alumni and student-leaders gathered on Monday night for the inaugural event of the Villanova Women’s Leadership Association. 

The development dinner for the new organization was held in Garey Hall and included a keynote address from Helen Lafferty professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 

Invitations to the event were extended to female students identified as student-leaders in various on-campus organizations, such as Orientation, Rays of Sunshine and Student Government Association, as well as leaders of sororities and varsity athletics. 

Student Body President Bridget Halligan, Vice President Allison Webb and International Business Society President Meredith Altenhofen sought to create the organization after noticing a lack of support for women leaders on campus.

The idea of this organization has been around for years,” Halligan said. “At the event on Monday night, I heard faculty and staff buzzing about how great it was that this finally got going.”

Specifically, Halligan and Webb found motivation to found the organization after receiving numerous e-mails of support from women on campus upon their election last spring. 

Halligan and Webb, with the help of Altenhofen, began to organize the first steps of the Villanova Women’s Leadership Organization, hoping to create a similar system of support for all women across campus.

“We especially wanted to create a university-wide organization,” Altenhofen said. “Too often business students don’t leave the halls of Bartley, and so on, and then like-minded people are just talking to like-minded people.” 

Monday night’s development dinner acted as the first meeting for the association, where all participants were asked to help develop the first steps for the official debut of the organization, which will officially begin in January. 

Assigned to random tables, guests were posed with discussion questions to help cultivate the beginnings of a mission statement. 

“The goal of the evening was to actually create the mission and goals of the Women’s Leadership Association,” Halligan said. “It sounds a bit backward, I know. We created an organization without a mission. But, we, those women in the first few meetings, knew there was something missing on campus. We wanted to make sure, though, that we were headed in the right direction.” 

After this brief discussion, Lafferty presented her keynote speech for the evening. 

As a professor in the Liberal Arts & Sciences, Lafferty was one of the first faculty members that Halligan and Webb approached when forming the Women’s Leadership Association.

“Bridget and Allison contacted me in October and said they wanted to begin an association for women leaders on campus and try to coordinate a group of women who would be able to develop a mission and set an agenda for the future,” Lafferty said. 

Recognizing the importance and a lack of such an organization on campus, Lafferty jumped at the chance to speak at the inaugural event. 

“Since I work with a number of very talented women, it seemed to me that we should come together to connect with each other and develop our leadership skills to the fullest,” Lafferty said. 

At the conclusion of Lafferty’s speech, guests were invited to a networking session where they could meet other women leaders and reflect upon the evening. 

Halligan feels complete satisfaction with the success of the evening and what this means for the future of the organization.

“The evening was a success,” Halligan said. “The energy in the room was fantastic, and the concrete work we accomplished is impressive. I spent three hours today typing up the different tables’ key points. We’re going to summarize, try to make a formal mission statement and send it out to everyone who attended.”