2023 Summer Retreat Break-out Sessions

Summer Retreat Break-out Sessions: Abstracts and Presenters

Friday, July 28 Sessions

5:00 p.m. Wyndham Hotel – “Cocktail Music Women Composers – Embracing America’s Feminist Voice”

 American women composers have long been innovative on the frontline of cultural issues in our landscape. This ‘cocktail-hour’ honors those piano-jazz women demonstrating how feminist voices have enhanced social justice and cultural diversity. Adaline-Shepherd’s 1908 “Pickles & Peppers Rag” spearheaded political action for a presidential campaign long before women could vote. Black composer, Florence Price’s “Silk Hat and Walking Cane” satirized the antebellum-south. Marian McPartland’s “Piano Jazz”, broadcast from 1978-2011 highlighted both black and white women jazzers. Listeners will enjoy McPartland’s “Twilight World,” and her arrangement of “My Funny Valentine,” Pittsburgher Mary Lou Williams’ “Twinklin,” Alice Coltrane’s, “Turiya”, and Valerie Capers “Portraits in Jazz.”

Susan Wheatley, Indiana County Branch

Susan Wheatley, pianist, has an active interest in women’s music and has performed at music conferences world-wide. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and has served on the faculties of Oakland University (Michigan) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of Indiana County’s AAUW Branch.

 Saturday, July 29 Sessions

10:45 a.m. Atrium – “It Takes a Village: Celebrating Collaborations that Engage K-College Women in Stem”

In this session, we will present models of inclusive, accessible STEM engagement that have been successful with our STEM committee members. We’ll focus on collaborations within the STEM committee, at a major university, and across our county’s schools and businesses. Then, we’ll invite attendees to share their models. Whether you have a lot to share or a lot to learn, this session will lift all boats by helping our imaginations rise to the challenges that are often presented to us in this work.

Michele Crowl, State College Branch

Michele Crowl is the executive director of Discovery Space and The Rivet, a children’s science center and teen/adult makerspace located in State College. She has been growing STEM opportunities for females through the organization since 2011. She currently is the co-chair of the State College Branch STEM Committee.

Candace Davison, State College Branch

Candace Davison has been facilitating STEM opportunities for females for more than three decades. She recently retired from her role as Assistant Director for Education and Outreach at the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor on Penn State’s University Park Campus and remains an active part of the State College Branch STEM Committee.

10:45 a.m. College Union Building (CUB) 260 – “Impacting Community Action on Education, Moderated by AAUW’s County Commissioner Sherene Hess”

Indiana County Commissioner Sherene Hess, who is also an AAUW branch member,  moderated a Town Hall Meeting on the State of Rural Education in our county, with community partners League of Women Voters and NAACP. We were concerned by the recent court decision declaring Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional. The purpose of the event was to involve the whole community in dialogue in order to create ideas at the grassroots level for a new fair funding system that does not leave rural and economically disadvantaged communities behind.

Janice Trusky, Indiana County Branch

Janice Trusky is a professional artist with a studio in Indiana, PA, and an active AAUW member. She is involved in community development in the arts in downtown Indiana and focuses on portraying the beauty of Pennsylvania nature in her art. She has an MFA degree from IUP and teaches art at Penn State and Montgomery County College.

10:45 a.m. College Union Building (CUB) 230 – “Programming for Branch Meetings and a Fundraising Suggestion”

This presentation describes how we achieved a year of balanced offerings for our branch meetings. Some programming relates directly to the mission of AAUW. A concrete example is a branch meeting about our long-standing association with the Women’s Resource Center (WRC). We endeavor to keep it current, despite changing WRC staffing. Some of our branch meetings are cultural, some entertaining or community building, and some are charitable. This presentation includes suggestions for coordinating selected meetings with the sale of live plants. It explains how they are obtained and how much profit they bring to the branch.

Karen Wellin, Valley Forge Branch

Karen Wellin has been a member of AAUW for over twenty years.  She has served her Valley Forge PA branch as President and VP Programs and is now taking on a new challenge as the incoming PA State VP Membership.  Karen is retired from a 30-year career at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia where she was at the very heart of STEM learning.  Karen also has a background working in test kitchens, technical sales, and elementary education.  Her passion at any job was being the mentor for all the young women that she hired, trained, and with whom she worked.  Today, Karen is living in western Chester Co. with her husband and toy poodle and loves to garden

Eleanor Ersking, Valley Forge Branch

Eleanor Erskine has been a member of Valley Forge Branch since 1990.  A retired librarian, she lives in Audubon PA.  Eleanor holds an A.B. from Cornell University and an M.L.S. from Rutgers University. She has served as branch president, and is currently co-vice president for programs for Valley Forge Branch. She enjoys planning programs to interest branch members and reflect AAUW’s mission.

Erlis Wickersham, Valley Forge Branch

Erlis Wickersham, is a Valley Forge Branch member and a retired Humanities professor. She is active in several organizations, including a volunteer committee for the Philadelphia Orchestra, church book club, adult formation, vestry and local garden club. A lifelong amateur musician, Professor Wickersham plays and performs duets with several partners.

11:15 a.m. Atrium in Servo – “Civics 9-1-1 Series: Programs to Promote Informed, Engaged Citizens”

What values do Americans cherish and how can we listen to and learn from each other? AAUW Carlisle’s answer to partisan bickering, gridlock, disinformation and a lack of civil discourse was a 3-part Civics 9-1-1 series, in which we explored our Constitutional foundations and long-held democratic norms, discussed how to constructively share ideas and separate facts from disinformation, and talked about our election system and how we can become engaged in our community.

Marybeth P. Ulrich

Dr. Marybeth P. Ulrich is Professor and Chair, Strategy and Policy Department, U. S. War College. Dr. Ulrich is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and earned her PhD in Political Science from the University of Illinois. She served in Prague, Moscow, and Athens, and her research interests include national security democratization issues.

Kate Elkins, Carlisle Branch

Kate Elkins earned a BA in Sociology/Social Work from the University of Notre Dame. She worked for several years in Austria. A part-time job led to managing lamp stores in Texas and Florida. She started her business, Lamp Doktor, last year. She has chaired the Carlisle Public Policy Committee and currently manages social media for the branch.

Nancy Sigrist, Carlisle Branch

Nancy Sigrist received her BS degree from the University of West Georgia. She retired from the casualty insurance industry and relocated to Central Pennsylvania in 2015. Becoming active with AAUW Carlisle, she currently serves on the Public Policy and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Committees and as co-editor of the branch newsletter, Branching Out.

Mary D. France, Carlisle Branch 

Mary D. France retired as a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge in 2013. She obtained a JD from Dickinson School of Law, an MA (American Studies) from Florida State University, and a BA from Wake Forest University. Mary joined the Carlisle Branch in 2017. Currently, she is on the Public Policy Committee and serves as the Branch’s Co-Finance Officer.

11:15 a.m. College Union Building (CUB) 260 – “Boots on the Ground for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”

This session demonstrates our commitment to DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). Our State College branch has many “boots on the ground” and has made it part of our strategic plan. The DEI committee has a column in our monthly newsletter, listing community diversity programs. Our book group selects books with diversity themes. The committee promoted the National Day of Racial Healing this year with the State College mayor’s proclamation. We help fund the Cultural Empowerment for Women lunch program with the Community Diversity Group. Our Program Committee holds International Perspectives on Women in Society annually and partners with Ten Thousand Villages.

 Naana Nti, State College Branch

Naana Nti is a long-time resident of State College Pennsylvania. She earned her PhD in Agricultural Education at Penn State where she also conducted research to support outreach and online education programs. Currently retired, she has been involved in diversity activities at work and within the community for over a decade.

Sophie Penney Leach, State College Branch

A first-gen student, Sophie earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a PhD from Bowling Green State University. She’s spent most of her career serving high education institutions as an administrator. Sophie is Penn State’s Director of Foundation Relations and is the founder/president of i5 Fundraising.

11:15 a.m. College Union Building (CUB) 230 – “Violet Oakley: Her Brush in Government”

This PowerPoint presentation tells the story of Philadelphia’s 28-year-old Violet Oakley who was invited to paint murals in 1902 fora Governor’s Reception Room in Pennsylvania’s new capitol. As the first female artist to be commissioned to decorate a PUBLIC building, Violet had no idea her gender, historical perspective, and sexual orientation would cause PUBLIC controversy. In spite of controversy, her 43 murals in the Governor’s Reception Room, Senate, and State Supreme Court make her the first woman to have  a voice in Pennsylvania’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government . . . if only with her paintbrush.

Cindy Dlugolecki, Harrisburg Branch

Central Pennsylvania playwright Cindy Dlugolecki has been entertaining audiences in the capital region for 25 years. Her one-woman play, VIOLET OAKLEY UNVEILED, has been performed in theatres, art galleries, and a Germantown mansion. Her latest work, THE HAND THAT HOLDS THE QUILL, is a musical about the Constitutional Convention.

1:45 p.m. Atrium in Servo – “PANEL: Scholarships for Minority and Women with Financial Need”

This panel discussion is offered jointly by the York and Doylestown Branches. York had a presentation recently on the roots of racism beginning very early in human history, and they pondered how to raise community awareness through scholarships and perhaps enhance Branch growth. The Doylestown branch also has discussed a possible panel discussion about awarding scholarships to a minority population. This panel presentation will consider how we might raise scholarship funds and raise community awareness for minority women and women with financial need.

 Susan Shenberger and Ardith Talbott, Doylestown Branch

As members of the Doylestown Branch, Co-Presidents Susan Shenberger and Ardith Talbott are interested in enhancing branch growth through grass roots advocacy for women’s issues, specifically on projects which address AAUW’s mission for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In this collaborative session, she is joined by Ardith Talbott and York Branch member leaders Carol Anderson, and Nancy Buckley.

1:45 p.m. College Union Building (CUB) 260 – “Social Media and Celebrations”

Like most branches, the Johnstown Branch has celebrated Women’s History Month for years. Last year we decided that in addition to honoring women from history, we would celebrate today’s women who are doing the hard work of growing businesses in our local community. During the month of March, we featured Women Business Enterprises on our Facebook page. We received inquiries from other branches on the process. In this session we will share the details and results of setting up this project. We also will present some ideas that we are using for our Branch’s 100th Anniversary.

Georgia Yeager, Johnstown Branch

Working with AAUW Johnstown Branch has been Georgia’s passion for the last 23 years during which time she has served as Co-President, Education Chair, Membership VP, and Book Sale Co-chair.  Georgia is a retired English teacher, school principal, and vocational school director who enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband, sons and their families.

1:45 p.m. College Union Building (CUB) 230 – PANEL: “Invited Student Affiliates Present Their Research”

Sarah Cisney, Student Affiliate

Sarah is a music education and trumpet major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on diverse repertoire for the trumpet composed by women composers. She plans to create a database of these musical titles, scores, and recordings. Her articles published in the International Trumpet Guild Journal include “Chloe Swindler lecture recital – Five Works for Trumpet by Black Female Composers”; and a review of the “Female and Non-Binary Identifying Trumpet Summit.”

Colette Costlow, Student Affiliate

Colette is a Saint Francis University student pursuing a degree in Literature with a minor in Women Studies. Her goal is to better understand the power struggle women have faced throughout history and today.  At SFU, she has served as a Dramaturg, conducting background research for historical productions to accurately portray historical time periods on stage, specifically studying the social cultural struggles of women through history.

Jasmine Jasmine, Student Affiliate

Jasmine is a PhD Candidate in English Literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her study of Mary Wollstonecraft and Simone de Beauvoir awakened her passion for women’s empowerment motivating her to bring reform to Indian societies. She has worked in 7 villages focusing on women’s empowerment and demanded justice for rape victims in front of the India Parliament. Her career goal is to use her degree to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment globally, especially through digital media.

2:15 p.m. Atrium in Servo – Town Hall Meeting with Gloria L. Blackwell

Gloria L. Blackwell

Gloria L. Blackwell is the Chief Executive Officer of the highly esteemed American Association of University Women (AAUW) in Washington, D.C.—a 140-year advocate and leader for gender equity. AAUW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with more than 170,000 members, donor and supporters, 1,000 local branches and 800 college and university partners. Its mission is to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy.

Blackwell, a leader in the nonprofit, global education and gender equity sectors, has more than 30 years of nonprofit, international and government experience. Among her many accomplishments is the 17-year management of AAUW’s highly-esteemed fellowships and grants programs—during her tenure awarding more than $70 million in funding to women scholars and community programs globally. Media engagement includes the Washington Post, Miami Herald, MSNBC, the Chronicle of Higher Education, ABC News, Market Watch, Yahoo! Finance and Politico.

She was the driving force behind AAUW’s signature programs, including the award-winning salary negotiation training, which has reached over 190,000 participants. She also initiated and built partnerships with major funders and launched pay equity initiatives with state and municipal partners including Washington D.C., New York City, Boston, and Pittsburgh. Blackwell also led AAUW’s National Science Foundation grant efforts to increase girls’ participation in STEM and significantly expanded AAUW’s outreach to girls and women of color across all programmatic initiatives, including partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL).

Prior to joining AAUW, Blackwell worked at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in Washington D.C., leading and managing girl’s education programs in Africa, and mid-career fellowships for global professionals. Her lifelong desire to make a difference through international education and gender equity was inspired by her service as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.

Blackwell is the recipient of multiple honors and awards and has led and served on numerous boards and advisory groups, including the UNA-USA Council of Organizations Executive Committee, the International Book Bank, Latina SciGirls and the Canadian Organization for Development Through Education (CODE). She holds a master’s degree in education and human development from The George Washington University, and bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from the Walsh School at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and also studied at the American University in Paris, France.

3:00 p.m. Atrium in Servo – Afternoon Plenary Presentation and Reception

2023 AAUW Pennsylvania Gateway to Equity Award Winners Kate Elkins, Nancy Sigrist, and Mary D. France, Carlisle Branch. “The Path to Our Economic Security White Paper: What We Learned”

 We are “Women Together – Fighting on the Front Line!” From our women’s economic security forum “Beyond Suffrage: Reclaiming the Future,” came the promise to share what we heard, discussed and learned. We accomplished this with a white paper intended to provide insights with a focus on Childcare, Paid Family Leave, Pay Equity and Living Wage. That paper was delivered to PA lawmakers, local leaders and community partners. Our presentation speaks to our process, objectives and experiences during this journey. We also will have tips and suggestions on how other branches might leverage our ideas and product.