Women in Leadership Networking Dinner 

As part of their new Women and Leadership Initiative, Engagement, Leadership, and Service (ELS) hosted the inaugural Women in Leadership Networking Dinner.  

This dinner brought together nearly 80 students, administrators, faculty, staff, and alumnae to celebrate the contribution, achievement, and leadership of UGA women and encourage networking among the attendees. 

The event included dinner, fellowship, and celebrating the inaugural honoree and keynote for the event—Dr. Michelle Cook. Cook, who currently serves as senior vice provost, will step into the role of vice president for Student Affairs this October. 

Lytzy Magaly Hernandez, President of First Gen Dawgs, said the dinner empowered her to seek out resources not only for herself as a student, but also as a president of a new organization. 

“Being present in a room full of powerful women in leadership like Dr. Michelle Cook and Dr. Denise Spangler, who granted me the honor of the Presidential Excellence Award, felt nurturing and inspirational,” said Hernandez. “As a woman in leadership, I am inspired by the ability to create innovative change in our UGA community and beyond.” 

Hernandez has learned a lot about leadership on UGA’s campus. As a first-generation student, cultivating connections has always been important to her.  

“[Attending] UGA meant integrating in a community where I could challenge myself to grow and find comfort as well,” she said. “During my first year at UGA, I met barriers as a first-generation college student because while there may be countless resources to help students, they can often be inaccessible and an overwhelming amount.”  

Hernandez helped found First Gen Dawgs, which taught her profound leadership skills, and she developed her own personal statement as a leader. “My personal mission became to help create connections and build bridges across people, organizations, and resources,” she said. 

In March prior to the dinner, ELS hosted two leadership workshops featuring Dr. Cara Winston Simmons and Qiana Wilson. Simmons was recently named director of the Office for Student Success and Achievement in the Office of Instruction. In 2020, Wilson was named the director of the Equal Opportunity Office. In addition, ELS set up a display in the Tate Student Center honoring past and present contributions of trailblazing women of UGA throughout the institution’s history to broaden the collective awareness of UGA community members. 

Taylor Cain, Director of ELS, speaks to group of students.

ELS plans to continue the Women in Leadership Dinner annually, uplifting and highlighting women leaders across UGA’s campus. “We know the power that creating community can have on a student’s experience, and this event is no different” said Taylor Cain, director of Engagement, Leadership, and Service. Cain adds, “The relationships that began over that dinner have already cultivated deeper connections among attendees with many of them sharing how they connected over coffee or a meal with one another in the following weeks.”

With the success of this year’s events, ELS plans to launch the new Women Lead initiative this fall. The new program will provide a cohort experience for students like the staff and faculty versions. Applications for the program will open at the beginning of the fall semester. 

Lori Crawford, assistant director for leadership, who spearheads the initiative is excited for the new program to launch. “We’re thrilled to have an opportunity to harness the energy from the dinner and create space for deeper learning and community while building individual and collective leadership capacity among women,” she shared. “In this program, we are confident that student leaders will have the opportunity to critically examine their leadership contexts, enhance their self-efficacy, and develop necessary skills to become lifelong leaders capable of influencing positive change.” 

ELS strives to deliver programs, services, events, and significant learning experiences which strengthen students’ connection to the university, cultivate a sense of community, and empower students to be engaged and contributing leaders. 

For more information about ELS, contact them at (706) 542-6396, email ugaels@uga.edu, or learn more at https://els.uga.edu/.  

Written by Grace Yancey, Student Affairs Digital Marketing Assistant

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