Second annual Women’s Leadership Conference inspires personal, professional growth

by Kyle Piercy

Centre College News
Olympic medalist Lauren Gibbs delivered the keynote address at the second annual Women's Leadership Conference in 2024.

Celebrating, honoring and empowering women was the theme as more than 100 alumnae, students, Centre employees and community members participated in the second annual Women’s Leadership Conference, which took place March 8-9 on campus. 

Kentucky’s Lt. Governor, Jacqueline Coleman ’04, provided some brief remarks Saturday morning, helping to officially kick off the event. 

Olympic medalist Lauren Gibbs delivered the keynote address, sharing her seemingly improbable journey from corporate executive to elite athlete — in part because she was open to new challenges. 

“I absolutely enjoyed Lauren Gibbs,” said Maria Sanchez, class of 2026. “Her story is one of courage and perseverance to achieve things she never thought possible, and it motivated me to pursue all the opportunities that come my way.” 

Along with her athletic pursuits, Gibbs serves as vice president of business development for the Posse Foundation. Centre has a nearly 20-year relationship with Posse, which partners with colleges and universities to award full-tuition leadership scholarships to students who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. 

“As a Posse student, seeing her love for the organization is incredible, and she motivated me to change my way of seeing things,” Sanchez said.

Other speakers focused on pertinent issues women face throughout their lives, such as Ashley Vinsel Herd’s session on combatting imposter syndrome. A 2003 graduate of Centre, Herd’s timely message and entertaining presentation especially stood out to fellow Centre alum, Erin Menard Spalding ’09. 

“It was fantastic. She spoke about how we tend to think negatively about ourselves and abilities and encouraged us to tell our friends what we admire about them,” Spalding said. “It’s a simple way to lift each other up and remind our friends and colleagues why they are absolutely fit for their roles.” 

Another relevant topic covered at the conference was work-life balance, a presentation co-led by Brian Briscoe ’00 and Sarah Parsons ’00. 

“Work-life ‘balance’ is a myth we’re all sold, especially as women,” Spalding said. “It was wonderful to sit in on a session addressing it. It’s important for us all to hear we need to prioritize different parts of our lives at different times and to continuously check in to make adjustments.” 

Spalding was more than an attendee for the WLC. As a co-founder of The 1926 Collective, Spalding and her colleagues hosted a networking lunch to promote the newly formed name, image and likeness (NIL) initiative. 

“Our mission is to support female athletes at Centre College through NIL and professional development opportunities,” she said. “Engaging alumni to support that mission through donations and business connections is a huge part of our success. The WLC was a perfect fit for our audience and mission.” 

With The 1926 Collective providing the backdrop, the networking lunch proved to be meaningful for connecting the different groups of attendees. 

“I was able to meet and connect with so many influential women whom I might be able to work with in the future,” Sanchez said. “The networking opportunity was very relevant to my current stage of development and future aspirations.”

When asked about her biggest takeaway from WLC 2024, Sanchez replied, “This conference was filled with great, courageous women who aren’t afraid to pursue every opportunity that comes their way, because in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

The Centre Alumni & Development Office now turns its attention to the 2025 Women’s Leadership Conference, which promises to build upon the previous two events. For any suggestions, comments or other inquiries regarding the Women’s Leadership Conference, email Mackenzie Nichols Tomlin ’17 at