Women’s Leadership Academy completes second cohort

2023 Women’s Leadership Academy cohort
photo credit: Yennifer Lopez Photography, LLC

The Women’s Leadership Academy at the University of Central Arkansas recently completed its second cohort with a graduation ceremony at the Willow Event Center in Conway. 

The Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA) is dedicated to empowering, enriching, and embracing women in our region, facilitating their leadership development. The academy is an initiative through the Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) at UCA. 

Fifteen women leaders completed the six-month academy. The cohort members were announced in December, and sessions began in January with a two-day retreat. The academy is committed to reaching women in a variety of pathways in life and assisting women in embracing their voice, elevating their leadership capacity and empowering them for a lifetime of leadership. 

During the graduation ceremony, Michelle Talley, UCA computer science and engineering lecturer, was recognized as the 2023 Shelley Mehl Empowerment Award recipient. The award was established in 2018 in honor of Shelley Mehl, a WLN founding member and UCA retiree.

“I am honored to have been nominated for the Shelley Mehl Empowerment Award. For many years, one of my passions has been working to empower women, particularly young women, by encouraging them to pursue STEM careers. While a great path, STEM careers offer only one means of empowering women. Empowering women is a collaboration, a team effort, with many strategies and many team members. I gratefully accept this award on behalf of all the amazing nominees,” Talley said. 

For this year’s award, more than  20 nominations were submitted, and an external review committee made the award selection. 

WLA graduates are listed below:

  • Ashley Bibby, Glow Party Rentals
  • Charmaine Cook-Johnson, Your Fashion Modest
  • Monique Davis, Arkansas PBS
  • Mary Margaret Debow, University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College
  • Kennedy Hughes, True Holiness Saints Center
  • Anushree Jumde, Office of Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin
  • Sherita Kern, UCA Career Services
  • Rachel Lovelace, Young Designers Academy/RayLoveThreads
  • Victoria Mays, Pen to Print Editing & Publishing, LLC
  • Amber Murphy, NTT Data
  • Vernice Nazare, PlaceForResources
  • Mollie Parks, Conway Regional Health System
  • Aniya Polite, UCA student
  • Maleeyah Stacy, UCA student
  • Brandi Tyiska-Hawkins, Ensono

“WLA has empowered me to continue pursuing future endeavors that promote leadership growth and empower women and youth within this community,” said Sherita McGee Kern, associate director of UCA career services and 2023 cohort graduate. “I’m really eager and excited to find ways to be more involved in the city of Conway and the experiences to come.”

The underwriting sponsor for the academy is the Central Arkansas Open. 

About the Women’s Leadership Network
The University of Central Arkansas Women’s Leadership Network is a network created for women, by women, to support women who are seasoned or aspirant leaders in the home, at work or in the community. The purpose of the network is to provide opportunities for women to connect from various backgrounds in Conway and surrounding areas. For more information, visit uca.edu/outreach/women. 

About the Central Arkansas Open
The Central Arkansas Open is a professional women’s golf tournament played at Centennial Valley Country Club in Conway, Arkansas each Spring beginning in 2020. The event is part of the Women’s All-Pro Tour (WAPT), the official qualifying tour for the LPGA’s Symetra Tour.  The Central Arkansas Open has partnered with the Women’s Leadership Network since 2020 to capitalize on the common goal of each organization, to empower women to Dream Without Limits. For more information, contact Pete Tanguay at 501-908-3876 or pete@rockpondpros.com