Penn State alumnae to return for women’s leadership panel and networking events

Kirsten Schlorff
September 16, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State College of the Liberal Arts will hold its fifth annual “Penn State Women:  Leaders of Today and Tomorrow” panel and networking reception Sept. 25, followed by one-on-one meetings with the alumnae participants the next morning. Students of all majors are invited to attend.

Focused on the theme of empowering young women to aspire to leadership roles, the event gives current students a unique opportunity to network with successful Penn State alumnae and fellow student attendees.

Six alumnae will participate in a panel presentation and question-and-answer session beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25, in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium. They will discuss their successes in their respective fields and the challenges they have faced along the way. The women come from a variety of fields and provide a broad perspective of leadership. Nancy Tuana, DuPont/class of 1949 professor of philosophy and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and founding director of the Rock Ethics Institute, will moderate the discussion, which is free and open to the public.

Following the panel, a networking reception will be held in the Mann Assembly Room, 103 Paterno Library, during which students can socialize with the alumnae participants and enjoy refreshments.

Students who sign up in advance online will have the chance to individually meet with a specific alumna during their selected 25-minute time slot between 9 a.m. and noon on Thursday, Sept. 26. These meetings will be held on the second floor of the Bank of America Career Services Center. During these meetings, students will be able to share their career and leadership aspirations, as well as get résumé suggestions and interview tips.

The following Penn State alumnae are scheduled to participate in this year’s events:

— Liz Bower, class of 1997 in history, is a partner in the Litigation Department and co-chair of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Practice Group at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in Washington, D.C. She specializes in complex commercial litigation and investigations, with a focus on the accounting profession concerning data privacy and security matters.

“Our paths are carved by those who came before us,” Bower said. “Learning about our predecessors’ experiences and hearing about their mistakes and rebounds provides not only guidance on how to do things right, but also the confidence to know that you too can succeed.”

— Frances Burden, class of 2009 in crime, law, and justice (doctorate), is principal and co-founder of Ad Hoc Analytics in Washington, D.C. She helps clients make sense of their data through program evaluation, predictive modelling, and root cause analysis work. Some of her current and past projects are focused in the areas of criminal justice and public policy.

“I feel that students get the best data about jobs and careers from those that have gone before them,” Burden said. “This is a real benefit from interacting with alumni.”

— Patricia Butler, class of 1983 in general arts and sciences, is CEO and co-founder of ArtistWorks in Napa, California, who crafts and helps her team execute the strategic vision of the company. Her goal is to drive and accelerate the growth of the company by effectively reaching its target audience who love to play and learn music.

“The sharing of direct experience with successes and failures gives students valuable perspective that can be used by the next generation to make faster and more effective progress toward their goals,” Butler said. “Knowledge gained from books and academic lectures don’t typically include the life lessons that, if passed on, can hold the key to successful navigation of the business world for young professionals.”

According to Butler, entrepreneurs often feel their struggles are unique, especially in the start-up arena. Having candid conversations with business “veterans” provides the opportunity to ask fear-based and curiosity-based questions that may help students more clearly decide on a career direction.

— Sandy Hillman, class of 1963 in arts and letters, is president of Sandy Hillman Communications in Baltimore, Maryland, and will host this year’s panel presentation. She is a hands-on manager of her own communications firm, where she is responsible for maintaining high-level client service and for motivating her team to perform at their best.

“I believe there is no substitute for the voice of experience, and that those of us who have been able to enjoy richly rewarding careers have an obligation to pass on a positive message and inspire future generations,” Hillman said. She also noted a personal commitment to mentoring and supporting women in the workplace, as a first-generation college student who wants to pass on the message of empowerment that she was raised with.

— KerriLaine Prunella, class of 2001 in international politics, is a specialist leader in Deloitte’s Human Capital Practice in Washington, D.C., where she leads teams to develop and strategically align human capital programs and administrative operations enabling clients to achieve results. Her areas of expertise include talent development, organizational performance management, talent acquisition, and human resource operations.

“I cannot emphasize how supportive the Penn State alumni are at all stages of navigating a career,” Prunella said. “They are always willing to help serve as a sounding board for ideas, to become a formal mentor, or to make additional referrals. Building a lasting network beyond a social media connection — though those are helpful for staying connected — is so important.”

— Cindy Southworth, class of 1993 in health and human development, is executive vice president and interim CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence in Washington, D.C. She leads the organization’s signature projects that address public policy, capacity building, housing, technology, legal issues, HIV and domestic violence, and economic justice. Having worked to end violence against women for more than 25 years, she also trains corporations and works collaboratively with nonprofits around the world.

“My mentors helped me navigate my own career path, and I enjoy giving back and helping other students brainstorm about directions they might take to achieve their own career goals,” Southworth said. “When I look back at my own path, I have concrete advice about the power of getting hands-on experience. Whether that be by answering hotline calls one weekend a month or helping plan an annual event, tangible experience has been as important as the history and theory that I once learned in the classroom.”

Additional details, including alumnae biographies, stories, and the one-on-one meeting registration form, can be found online at

  • 2019 Women in Leadership Event Information

    The Penn State College of the Liberal Arts will hold its fifth annual “Penn State Women:  Leaders of Today and Tomorrow” panel and networking reception Sept. 25, followed by one-on-one meetings with the alumnae participants the next morning (Sept. 26). 

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated September 03, 2020