Gustavus Women in Leadership Celebrates 10th AnniversaryThe student-led organization hosted its 10th annual conference on Friday, March 6.
Posted on March 9th, 2020 by

Posters from each Gustavus Women in Leadership Conference from the last decade greeted attendees.

by Corbyn Jenkins ’20

Empowering, inspirational, and motivational are just a few words to describe the Friday gathering of 311 students, alumni, and friends of Gustavus Adolphus College at the 10th annual Gustavus Women in Leadership conference: “Her Journey to the Future: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.”

Through listening to the experiences of the powerful keynote and breakout speakers and connecting with other like-minded women, people from different backgrounds and generations came together to celebrate the strides of women and empower one another in their personal and professional development.

Dr. Kathi Tunheim

The first GWIL conference took place in 2011 and had 101 attendees and now, 10 years later, there were 311. “The conference has turned into a huge reunion for me personally because so many of my former students come back as well as their families. It really is one big reunion where Gusties gather well together and we have a lot of fun,” said GWIL co-founder and Gustavus Vice President for Mission, Strategy, and Innovation Kathi Tunheim.

Along with the conference being a place for Gusties to connect, it is also the culmination of a whole year of work that has involved students, alumni, and community members. “The conference is all about celebrating this community of women that have come together and stayed connected throughout the years and helped each other weather the storms and seize the opportunities that come with leadership development” said GWIL co-founder Kari Clark ’91.

This year’s conference was not only special because of its 10th anniversary, but because it landed on the 100th year for women’s suffrage as well as taking place just two days before International Women’s Day.

After a warm welcome from the GWIL conference directors, President Rebecca Bergman, and Tunheim, the day kicked off with keynote speaker Jessica Bennett. Bennett is a writer and editor at the New York Times focused on gender and culture as well as the author of Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace.

Bennett’s talk covered her journey to becoming the New York Times first gender editor, workplace inequality, The Goldilocks Dilemma, and her book, Feminist Fight Club. Bennett ended her talk by welcoming those attending to join the feminist fight club in which she states there are “no fees, no price to pay, but just support to other women.”

GWIL conference directors ReAnn Eidahl ’20, Lanie Altmann ’20, Kate Holtan ’20, Linnea Anderson ’20, and Rachel Belvedere ’20.

Following were four breakout sessions that illustrated how women are leading in the “present.” GWIL founders Tunheim and Clark led a session on reflections and lessons from 10 years of the organization and conference. For the past decade, the two of them have been inspiring Gustavus women in both their personal and professional leadership development. “My first time at a GWIL event I heard Kathi speak and felt so empowered by her words. I remember thinking, ‘I want to be a part of that organization, I want to be one of those women,’ and now I am”, said GWIL conference director ReAnn Eidahl ’20”. The session focused on the story of GWIL and the impact it’s had on Gustavus women. “GWIL has taught me how to use my voice in the business world. It has empowered me to be a leader in all walks of life. I have seen a growth of confidence in myself since joining GWIL. I feel ready to go into the workforce and be a leader wherever I go,” said GWIL conference director Linnea Anderson ’20.

In the afternoon a GWIL Hall of Fame recognition took place. Ten GWIL alumnae were selected by Tunheim and the GWIL National Advisory Board Chair, Jacque Brunsberg, based on their commitment to GWIL.

The afternoon keynote speaker was Kerri Murray, president of ShelterBox. She shared her journey from her corporate life to working with relief organizations around the world. She also spoke on issues related to female empowerment and gave an inside look into the international disaster relief charity, ShelterBox that has impacted over 1.5 million people in 100+ countries by creating a space for families to call home after a disaster.

The day closed with a reception where Gusties and friends gathered and reflected on the empowering day. “For me there is no better place to be. For the president to have a day to listen, absorb, and learn for me that is just pure joy. No other word for it,” said President Rebecca Bergman.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


One Comment

  1. John Meslow says:

    Wonderful article about GWIL, and congratulations to Kathi Tunheim as the founder and leader ! What an asset she is to the entire Gustavus community. . . .