Women's Leadership Colloquium header

Women’s Leadership Colloquium to be held virtually

Mar 12, 2021
Kathryne Davis

The Brenau University Women’s Leadership Colloquium is back with three successful women sharing their stories, advice and innovative vision for others who lead or aspire to lead.

Brenau President Anne Skleder and alumnae Antonina Grib Lerch, WC ’03, and Dr. Jessica Herrera, WC ’05, will be speaking at the event at 1:30-3:30 p.m., Friday, March 19. The colloquium is hosted annually by The Women’s College.

This year, the colloquium will celebrate the GOLD Program’s “O Year” theme, “Own your voice, create your community.” The event is free, but registration is required at brenau.edu/wlc. The GOLD Program, designed specifically for The Women’s College, focuses on gender awareness, civic responsibility and professional development, leadership and service, global perspective, and the advancement of women.

“It is especially vital this year, given the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, that we come together to share our stories of challenge and triumph, to advocate for women and their leadership,” said Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College. “We need the strength and sustenance of community. I’m delighted that in our first virtual colloquium we can bring the conversation to participants around the world.”

Skleder, the keynote speaker, is Brenau’s 10th president and the first woman elected to the position. Prior to joining Brenau in July 2019, she served as senior vice president, provost and professor of psychology at Wilkes University. Under her leadership, Brenau signed a partnership with Panama’s financial aid agency that sponsors students abroad, started the Working Group on Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence, elevated the psychology department to the Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling through a gift from Doug and Kay Ivester and launched a new physician assistant studies program.

“I am delighted to be invited to speak at the colloquium,” Skleder said. “It was difficult making the decision to defer the event last year, but I’m delighted that we will continue the tradition this year. I am honored to share the stage with two amazing women who are accomplished and distinguished in their fields.”

Skleder received her bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and her master’s and Ph.D. from Temple University. While working at Wilkes, she was responsible for leading academic programs and initiatives across six schools and colleges, as well as executing the university-wide strategic plan.

Herrera was excited last year when Dobkins reached out about speaking at the event. While she was disappointed the 2020 colloquium was canceled due to COVID-19, she was glad Brenau kept in mind the safety of others and didn’t go through with the in-person event.

“Brenau is very dear to my heart,” Herrera said. “It was important for me to come back to Brenau, many years after graduating and having gone through different life changes, and just reflect on where I am now. I wanted to share my story with the community.”

Herrera earned her bachelor’s in biology and now works as the physician lead in the primary care clinic at the Los Angeles County women’s jail in California.

After graduating from Brenau, Herrera earned her master’s in global health from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. She went on to medical school at the University of Washington and completed her internal medicine residency in Oakland, California. In addition, Herrera has served communities in Mexico, Nicaragua, Nepal and Uganda.

For Lerch, one of the best parts about Brenau was that it felt like home. She was born and raised in Belarus and came to the United States on a tennis scholarship from Brenau. Before graduating with a fashion design degree, Lerch won multiple National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and Intercollegiate Tennis Association “Super Bowl” titles, which features champions from the NAIA, NCAA Divisions II and III and junior college. After Brenau, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in costume design from the University of Georgia.

Out of everything Lerch enjoyed about Brenau, the artistic side stuck out.

“I was really inspired by all the arts located on campus,” she said. “I think I developed an artistic eye while being educated at Brenau because I was surrounded by so much art, including paintings, music and dance. The theatre was such a creative outlet for me that it just took me in and propelled me into my career. Brenau is very lively and full of energy. There is always something creative to do.”

Prior to retiring from the film industry in 2015, Lerch worked on films and television shows such as Mad Men (AMC), Star Trek (2009), Dexter (Showtime), Torchwood (BBC and Starz), True Blood (HBO) and Dollhouse (FOX). Lerch enjoyed her time at Brenau so much that she wanted to give back to her alma mater by becoming a member of the board of trustees in 2014. She said that role and speeches like the one at the Women’s Leadership Colloquium help her stay connected to Brenau.

In addition to the three speakers, guests will also hear from current students Zafyre Sexton, Alexis Trammell, Olivia Pelton, Sydney Hencil, Mel Reily and Amber Simmons. A Q&A session will follow speakers’ remarks. This event is made possible in part by support from Collaborating Sponsor UPS, Onward Reserve, Grace-Gaskins Women’s Studies Endowment Fund and the Brenau Alumni Association Lecture Series.

For more information on the Women’s Leadership Colloquium, contact Emily Stockton at alumni.news@brenau.edu.