Students attend Women’s Leadership Development Summit

Jade Ashley '20 and Olympia LeHota '20

Last month, two Sweet Briar students attended the Virginia Foundation of Independent College inaugural Women’s Leadership Development Summit held in Richmond, Va. The summit was designed to empower young women who are attending a VFIC member college or university, like Sweet Briar. 

At the three-day event, Jade Ashley ‘20 and Olympia LeHota ‘20 networked with professionals, participated in workshops and learned about women in leadership roles. Workshops included information on strengthening networking skills, harassment in the workplace and how to handle it, and resume building. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to develop their own leadership and professional skills. 

For Ashley, the best part of the summit was hearing Maria Tedesco, the president of Atlantic Union Bank speak. In her speech, “The Secrets They won’t Tell You,” Tedesco talked about being aware of your own brand. “She posed many different questions, but the one that stuck in my mind was, ‘How would you want them to see you?’” Ashley said. She was able to meet Tedesco and described the opportunity as a “one-of-a-kind moment.” Ashley learned that being a leader is much more than just standing in front of a crowd and speaking. “It is the little things that you do every day and the people you help,” she said. 

LeHota learned about the opportunity from an email that was sent to Sweet Briar students. She believed the opportunity would be a great resume booster and a way to get to know what other women are doing in their communities. Her biggest take-away? “I learned that self-care is extremely important. Though self-care isn’t a stranger to me, it was nice to learn how to handle stress in a different way” she said. She enjoyed making connections with other attendees. “I fell in love with the involvement and success of the women I met,” she said. 

LeHota also enjoyed the workshop topics and the enthusiasm from speaker Jamelle Wilson, the dean at the University of Richmond. “I left that session proudly saying that ‘I am Olympia Athena Kaete LeHota and I am authentic!’”

Mary-Beth Johnson, the chief operating officer for the VFIC, explained that the “primary goal was to have the students walk away from the summit feeling more empowered to serve as leaders in both their professional and personal lives.”

Both LeHota and Ashley experienced this at the summit and would recommend the experience to future Sweet Briar students.