Women of Color Summit emphasizes education, leadership

More than 550 women gathered at Mississippi State in March to participate in the university’s 2014 Women of Color Summit: “Changing Lives: Destination Success.”

“We had ladies from all regions of the United States to attend: California to Washington, D.C.,” said NaToya Hill, recruitment, retention and program specialist for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. “We had to close registration approximately three weeks before the actual summit, and I believe we had representation from each county in Mississippi.”

With more than 10 sessions held in Colvard Student Union and better than 20 speakers, women at the summit explored a variety of topics, all of which related to the importance of empowering themselves as leaders and graduating from an institution of higher learning.

RoSusan D. Bartee, professor and program coordinator of leadership and counselor education at the University of Mississippi, focused on leadership. Whether in classrooms, workplace or homes, leadership can expand the numbers of better educated women of color who are economically competitive with their peers, she said.

“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others,” she said. “Be awakened to the light and the genius that is in each of you.”

Pearl Pennington, director of student affairs for Institutions of Higher Learning, the governing body of Mississippi public colleges and universities, discussed data trends related to degree completion, as well as the numbers of women in administrative and faculty positions.

“We’re still not reaching the goals that we need to reach for women of color,” she said. “We’re enrolling in record numbers; we’re just not graduating. You can only improve the condition of education if you engage in education.”

Pearl Pennington, left, director of student affairs for Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, and RoSusan D. Bartee, professor and program coordinator of leadership and counselor education at the University of Mississippi, were the two feature speakers at Mississippi State University’s 2014 Women of Color Summit.