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352 Participate
in Women's Leadership Conference

Date: Feb. 26, 2002
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos by: Lisa Ventre
Archive: Campus News

Mary Stagaman of RWC at Women's Gallery

If developing leadership is indeed what the Women's Leadership Conference is all about, the 352 UC women who attended last week's conference met two prominent examples to guide them.

The conference opened with a presentation by Ann Wood Schlesinger, a former speech therapist who launched a new communication coaching business whose clients include the presidents of Croatia and Slovakia. The day ended with a presentation by Nikki Giovanni, acclaimed African American poet and leader in the Black poetry movement.

Schlesinger, president of EXEKUSPEAK, offered guidance on transitions, providing examples from her own professional and personal life. After working briefly in communications for a bank, she spent 14 years as a Cincinnati speech therapist with a private practice. When boredom and bureaucratic aggravations mounted, she set out to find a new career, facing criticism from family members who questioned why she would turn her back on the success she already enjoyed.

She considered opening a florist shop and retail dress shop plus other careers, but instead opted to open a new business tied into the growing internationalization of the business world - coaching and training individuals in communication and accent reduction. Divorce and remarriage, selling a house and a condo and moving into a new home are among the personal transitions she has experienced in recent years, in addition to her new career.

She identified six phases of transition, noting that whether the transition is "chosen" or "not chosen" the same stages seem to occur: <

  • Vague uneasiness. This is the period when you begin to feel a lack of enthusiasm and start to wonder what life would be like if you did something else. "It's a general feeling of discontent."

  • Make it better. A stage that involves a renewed determination to be more excited by volunteering for organizations and doing more extracurricular activities.

  • Making it wrong. This is the stage where you complain and criticize others, such as the management. "It's always easier to look outside as opposed to acknowledging what might be happening on the inside."

  • Exploration. The point where you begin to examine what else might be out there. "This period lasted three years for me. People close to me thought I was losing it." The investigation begins and you begin to network to find a change.

  • Partial transition. The waffling begins and you begin to question if you're making the right choice by changing. You try to cling to what you know and already have.

  • Completed transition. You set new goals and go after them.

Today, Schlesinger counsels communicators around the world, including two presidents elected in countries once part of the Communist bloc.

Nikki Giovanni

Poet Giovanni was greeted with a standing ovation prior to her day-ending presentation. She was also welcomed with two poems that were created in two women's workshops during the conference.

Born in Knoxville, Tenn., Giovanni was raised in Lincoln Heights before reaching acclaim as an African American poet. She told the audience she was always glad to come home. "I can't boycott Cincinnati, because I'm at home," she says. But she noted that despite the fact she likes "us," "we've gotta change."

"Another dead body just won't do," she lamented. She suggested that police not be given guns and that reparations be paid for slavery. She also had the audience bursting with laughter as she suggested that college is "for people with no talent," and that a tax deduction be allowed for manicures, pedicures and massages.

She paid special tribute to Rosa Parks, the woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus. Giovanni told CNN Parks was the most influential person of the 20th century. She also paid tribute to Emmett Till, a 15-year-old African American youth beaten to death and castrated by white men in Greenwood, Miss., in 1955, when they took offense that he spoke to and allegedly whistled at a white woman. She likened the Pullman porters, who arranged to take Till's body home to his grieving mother, to shepherds in the Bible.

Giovanni, professor of creative writing at Virginia Polytechnic University, is the author of more than 14 books of poetry, including Ego-Tripping, The Women And The Men,Cotton Candy On A Rainy Day and Those Who Ride The Night Winds. Her most recent book of poems is Blues: For All The Changes: New Poems (Morrow, 1999). A new book is expected this fall.

During the mid-day break, the achievements of UC women were spotlighted in a Women's Gallery. Books, sketches, paintings, writings and photography were among the items displayed. Participants also attended workshops on leadership, public speaking, spirituality, transition and more.

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