From left, Brenau Women's Leadership Colloquium speaker Belle S. Wheelan, Robin Dudley and Cay Drew; and Dean of The Women's College Debra Dobkins

Women’s Leadership Colloquium focuses on the ‘joy in doing’

Mar 1, 2022
Alyson Shields

The power of female leadership will be discussed at Brenau University’s eighth annual Women’s Leadership Colloquium on Friday, March 18. The colloquium celebrates the “L” year of The Women’s College GOLD Program, which focuses on “Leadership: The Joy in Doing.” Conversations will examine the unique potential and challenges of women in leadership positions and feature the stories of three successful women.

Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, will be the keynote speaker for this year’s event. She will be joined by Alumni Association speaker and Brenau trustee Robin Dudley, WC ’78, and featured speaker Cay M. Drew,  a leadership development facilitator for IBM.

Wheelan is the first woman and first African American to serve as SACSCOC president. She previously served as the Virginia secretary of education and held other higher education roles; in many cases, she was the first African American and/or woman to serve in those positions. 

“I am flattered to think that my career has been positive enough that others want to know my story, including how I progressed in my own career and any advice I might share with them,” Wheelan said about speaking to The Women’s College. “We can all learn from others, and since I’m a teacher from way back, I would like to influence future leaders like I was influenced by those who came before me.”

Wheelan has a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University, a master’s from Louisiana State University and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. She also holds six honorary degrees and is active in numerous local, state and national organizations.

Dudley, a Brenau trustee since 2008, is a retired teacher and owner of R.A. Dudley Nurseries in Thomson, Georgia.

“Since graduating from the Hall County School of Nursing and Brenau in 1978, I have made an annual trip to step back on campus to my former dormitories and the halls of Northeast Georgia Medical Center,” Dudley said. “With each trip and season of life, I have treasured the sense of comfort, joy and gratitude that is deeply rooted in my nostalgia. I am honored to share how Brenau helped me live my life with meaning and purpose.”

Dudley received a teaching certificate in health care science from the University of Georgia and taught health care science at Thomson High School for 30 years. She and her husband, Mike, established the Mike and Robin Smith Dudley Nursing Scholarship in 2000. Dudley is a 2015 Masters in the Art of Nursing honoree and winner of the 2016 Alumna Service to Brenau Award. She was inducted into the Brenau University Alumni Hall of Fame in 2020. 

In her role for IBM, Drew hosts courses, workshops and one-on-one training for high potential women, executives, managers and MBA students to help them build their leadership strengths with new skills. 

“I’m a passionate supporter of women in leadership. It’s what I pursue through my work at IBM and what I enjoy doing on my own time,” Drew said. “I love to see the spark of engagement and action that ignites as women recognize their power and capabilities.”

She looks forward to sharing her experience as a woman in business with future leaders. 

“I imagine there are many participants in the colloquium who will join or start businesses and I hope to share some lessons I’ve learned that will be helpful as they pursue their dreams,” Drew said. 

The colloquium will be hosted by Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College and interim vice president for student services The event is made possible in part by support from Onward Reserve, Grace-Gaskins Women’s Studies Endowment Fund and the Brenau Alumni Association Lecture Series.