CU Empowering Women in Leadership and STEM Conference

By Brittney Payette

Student Life Editor

Cameron University hosted an Empowering Women in Leadership and STEM Conference at 5:30 p.m. on March 3 in the McCasland Ballroom which could be attended both in person and over Zoom simultaneously.

The keynote speaker was Shelby Morris, an Oklahoma native who works as an Employee Learning Facilitator at Oklahoma State University. Morris introduced the Clifton StrengthsFinder test to the attendees, which uses 177 questions to determine what people’s top five strengths are. The test, according to Morris, helps people learn more about themselves. 

“Instead of fixating on what’s wrong with people, let’s talk about what’s right with them,” Morris said. She then went on to discuss how people’s innate talents affect their lives, and how the StrengthsFinder test can help people realize their true potential. 

“They are not strengths until they are productively applied,” Morris said.

Morris asked the attendees to go around the room and find other people with some of the same top five strengths and discuss it within. She also asked people to find others that have different strengths and ask about why they think that was a top five strength from their StrengthsFinder test. 

“We want to focus on what we’re good at and build on that, and look at our potential.” Morris said. “We are at our best when we are fully engaged and aware of our strengths. 

One of the people that were attending the conference was Kassi Coosewoon, who talked a bit about her zoom group and their top talents. 

“I was in a diversified group,” said Coosewoon. “We all had a different top strength, but it was cool to see how many of my group members were surprised at their top 5.”

After the keynote speaker finished talking, attendees were able to go and get food and network with other people. Next, there was a panelist discussion that had woman in leadership answering a variety of questions, both prepared in advanced and impromptu from the audience. 

The panelists consisted of Shelby Morris (an Employee Learning facilitator at OSU), Dr. Christian Morren (an assistant professor at CU and the voice area coordinator), Samantha Leonard (a virtual math teacher with Lawton Public Schools for students in grades 6 through 8), and Nam Do (Senior Manager in Financial Accounting Advisory Services at Ernst & Young).

Morren said that people should try “helping out others as you want others to help you in time of need.”  

Morren said that it helps to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and to really stop and listen to what people are saying because there are multiple sides to every story. 

Do emphasized the importance of communication, being a team player, and on focusing on what you can do instead of what you cannot do.

“My only suggestion is to take 1 step forward and focus on that very next thing that you need to do,” Do said. “Focus on what you can control vs what you can’t.”

Leonard said that she did not see herself as a virtual teacher when she was younger, but she is glad that she is able to rely on her strengths, such as her creativity, to teach virtually during this pandemic. She did not know that she was going to be a math teacher at first, but having a baby changed her perspective on life and her career path. 

“I definitely knew that I needed to have a stable career for my daughter,” Leonard said. “I felt like the most fulfilling and gratifying career that could make my life comfortable and happy is to be a teacher.” 

The panelists were also asked about who their biggest inspiration was. Morris said that hers was her husband, Morren’s was her stepmother, and Leonard’s was her mother. 

Do talked about how to react when someone, male or female, does not feel heard.

“We are moving in the right direction,” said Do. “To be heard, you need to be more assertive and make yourself visible.” 

Morren had to learn how to stop apologizing and to hold your own. Leonard tries to pace herself so that she does not get too overwhelmed. She does things by chunking responsibilities instead of trying to do everything all at once. Do said that you must take things one step at a time so that you are not overwhelmed.  

Cameron University’s Women in Leadership and STEM Conference gave people an opportunity to hear about thriving businesswomen.

Some questions were prepared for the event in advance, but people in the audience were also permitted to ask questions.

The questions ranged from what inspires you to how each panelist perseveres despite stress.

It was an event that allowed people to network with others, learn more about themselves (such as their individual strengths), and hear from successful female leaders.

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