Mount St. Mary's College - Women's Leadership Conference
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Speakers and Sessions

Susan Feniger, Keynote Speaker

Susan Feniger's passion for food has propelled her into a three-decade career as a successful chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and media darling, with the Los Angeles Times recently saying, "She deserves an Emmy for energy." She spends most days dividing her time between her first solo venture, Susan Feniger's STREET, and the Border Grill restaurants in Santa Monica, Downtown LA, and Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, as well as the Border Grill Truck--all co-owned with Chef Mary Sue Milliken. A veteran of nearly 400 episodes of Food Network's "Too Hot Tamales" and "Tamales World Tour" series along with Milliken, Feniger also co-authored five cookbooks including City Cuisine, Mesa Mexicana, and Cooking with Too Hot Tamales. After a recent stint on season two of Bravo's "Top Chef Masters," a feature story in Oprah Magazine, and a wide range of media including "The Today Show," "Chef vs. City," "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," Gourmet, Sunset, and Bon Appetit, she was also a featured chef at the U.S. Open and cooked for the "Real Housewives of Orange County." Susan shines a light on a number of worthwhile organizations and has been on the board of the Scleroderma Research Foundation for 17 years and the board of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center for three. In all her endeavors, Susan's genuine love for the authentic flavors of street and home cooked food has been her driving force and she shows no signs of slowing down.


Lori Nishiura Mackenzie

Lori Nishiura Mackenzie will lead two sessions. The first is "The Language of Leadership" followed by "The Dynamics of Hyper-Effective Teams". Ms. Mackenzie is Executive Director of Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Her work has been published in numerous outlets, and she speaks widely on the topics of Bias 2.0, leadership and creating effective workplaces. She is executive editor of Gender News and the annual research magazine, upRising. Ms. Mackenzie is the founder of the online Voice & Influence program aimed at providing people with the skills, information and inspiration to be as effective as possible. She has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

The Language of Leadership

Language can influence our perceptions of men and women, and the potential each has to lead. In this session, we discuss the language of leadership and the role bias can play in shaping different leadership outcomes for men and women. The session will offer strategies for individuals and managers to examine and sharpen their own voices and their advocacy of others, with an aim to advance women's leadership and create effective organizations where all employees thrive.

The Dynamics of Hyper-Effective Teams
From team projects to the next breakthrough product or movement, assembling and motivating the best team possible is critical to success. Hyper-effective teams harness the talents of every member to move beyond group think to maximize creativity and innovation. This interactive workshop is designed to have every person in the room take what's discussed and apply it to their work, lives and passions.


Joumana Silyan-Saba

Joumana Silyan-Saba will lead "Conflict Management: Tools for Successful Leaders." Ms. Silyan-Saba is a Senior Policy Analyst for the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. She works directly with communities to promote healthy inter-group relations and create collaborative templates to encourage civic engagement. Ms. Silyan-Saba obtained her BS in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement with a minor in Business Administration Human Resources Management at California State University Long Beach. She completed her MA in Negotiation and Conflict Management at California State University Dominguez Hills.

Session: Conflict Management: Tools for Successful Leaders
Conflict management skills and emotional intelligence have directly been linked to effective leadership practices. However, navigating conflicts and building healthy relationships can be challenging tasks. In this session, we will explore the relevance of conflict management techniques and share tools to effectively apply them.


BJ Gallagher

BJ Gallagher will lead "It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been." Ms. Gallagher is an inspirational author and speaker. She writes business books that educate and empower, women's books that enlighten and entertain, gift books that inspire and inform, and kids' books that charm and delight. Whether her audience is corporate executives, working women, or a group of giggling youngsters, her message is powerful, positive and practical. She motivates and teaches with empathy, understanding and more than a little humor.

Session: It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been
Are you struggling with discovering your purpose in life? Whether a nervous college graduate facing the future, a 40-something mom seeking renewal, or have been recently laid off, this session will educate you on how to listen to and honor your inner voice because it's never too late to revisit, and relive, one's deepest desires to become what you want in life.


Sande Smith

Sande Smith will lead "Communicate with Confidence: Gain Credibility and Influence." Ms. Smith is the Senior Director of Communications and Advocacy for the Women's Foundation of California. Ms. Smith combines strategic communications, creativity and aspirational storytelling to support the Foundation's mission. Ms. Smith leads the Foundation's communications efforts which combine donor communications, public policy communications, media relations, online communications and rallying support for legislation. She holds a BA in Portuguese and Brazilian studies from Brown University.

Session: Communicate with Confidence: Gain Credibility and Influence
Too often, we find ourselves in important situations where we need to speak off the cuff, and what we say falls short. It doesn't have to be that way. Learn how to prepare for those times - whether in the workplace, boardroom, or with family and friends - so that your words reflect your values and help to move others to action.



Beyond the Boys Club: Achieving Career Success in Male-Dominated Fields
In this session, a panel of senior women who work in a range of male-dominated fields will provide practical insights into achieving success and moving beyond the boys club in the workplace. They will share key strategies on overcoming stereotypes that exist today, and moving up the ladder while retaining your sense of integrity as women.

Tess Vigeland

Moderator: Tess Vigeland is a national award-winning, veteran journalist, and a well-known voice to millions of American radio listeners. She is CEO of Tess Vigeland Productions, a Los Angeles-based multi-media company. Ms. Vigeland spent 11 years as an anchor for public radio's Marketplace, including 6 hosting the personal finance show Marketplace Money. Ms. Vigeland is currently writing her first book under contract with Random House.


Judge Michelle Williams Court

Panelist: Judge Michelle Williams Court was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2011. She currently sits in a family law assignment in downtown Los Angeles, where she hears a wide variety of custody, visitation, property, domestic violence and other family law matters. Judge Court currently sits on the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles Law Library and serves on several court committees, including serving in a leadership capacity on the court Technology Committee. Before her appointment, Judge Court was Vice President and General Counsel of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, one of the nation’s premier public interest law firms. Judge Court represented Bet Tzedek on a statewide level and was responsible for the management of its legal program which served more than 10,000 clients annually. Prior to joining Bet Tzedek, Judge Court worked as a civil litigator focusing on complex civil rights litigation and also completed a civil rights fellowship with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. She has served on the boards of California Women Lawyers and Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and has served as a Commissioner on the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and as a member of Senator Barbara Boxer’s Federal Judicial Advisory Committee. Judge Court is a graduate of Pomona College and Loyola Law School.


Annie Chu

Panelist: Annie Chu is a founding principal of CHU+GOODING Architects in Los Angeles, focusing on projects for arts-related and higher education clients. She is a licensed architect in California, with NCARB certification. She has also held licenses in Kentucky and New York. Ms. Chu received a MS in Architecture & Building Design degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Southern California Institute of Architecture. In 1989, she received the Skidmore Owings Merrill Traveling Fellowship to conduct research on Mayan and Incan architecture in Central and South America. In 2004, she received the First Place Award representing the US in RIBA's Diverse City Competition, and joined the RIBA delegation to China. Her current work includes a Mexican Cultural Center LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles, an upcoming exhibit design for the Hammer Museum, a new headquarters for Southern California Public Radio (KPCC 89.3) in Pasadena, the Culver Center of the Arts, a University of California Riverside graduate arts facility joining the California Museum of Photography by housing the historic Keystone Mast Stereoscopic slide collection in downtown Riverside, California. Ms. Chu lectured and taught at various schools of architecture across the country for over 16 years and is currently a lecturer at USC's school of architecture.