Saint Mary's Hosts Women’s Higher Ed Conference

ACE conference 2019Evette Castillo Clark, dean of students, proudly serves on the board of the Women’s Northern California Network of the American Council of Education (ACE), an organization that has been supporting the advancement of women into executive positions in higher education for more than 40 years. When the opportunity arose to reinvigorate the local chapter by having a long-overdue conference, Clark was thrilled to offer up Saint Mary’s as the perfect location. Of course, holding the conference at SMC also meant that she would serve as co-chair of the conference.

“I suggested to the board that they come to Saint Mary's College and explore the beautiful campus that we have,” said Clark. “I actually hosted a board meeting here and led a site visit. Everyone fell in love with the College right away and said, ‘Yes to Saint Mary’s!’ " Clark loves Saint Marys’ campus and welcomes any opportunity to share the beauty of the school with others.

The ACE Women’s Network of Northern California conference is being held on Friday, Nov. 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Soda Center. The conference is described as “An opportunity to explore your power, reinforce your purpose, and create progress for women in leadership roles.” More than 225 women have already registered for the event. The conference serves to reinforce the goals of the ACE network to empower women in higher education to assume leadership roles. Whether they aspire to be college presidents, provosts, deans, or other leadership positions, the conference is for women who are trying to find their way within higher education to move up the ladder.

“National data and trends  show that the college/university presidential seat is slowly diversifying. Most of today’s college and university presidents are men,” said Clark. “What we [ACE] want to do is to groom the pipeline of women leaders so women can be inspired to assume more presidential roles in the next decade.” The Northern California ACE conference helps by providing leadership workshops, panel discussions, mentoring, and more. 

The conference includes three exceptional breakout sessions, a panel discussion with current women college presidents, and a keynote address by Judy K. Sakaki, president of Sonoma State University. President James Donahue will give the official welcome to kick off the conference. “Our keynote, Judy Sakaki, is the first Japanese American woman to lead a four-year national college or university. She is also  a nationally respected leader in the field of Student Affairs having served as Vice President of Student Affairs at several campuses, and a survivor of the Tubbs Fire back in 2017, so it's huge to have her here to tell her story,” shared Clark.

The presidential panel is a unique opportunity to hear from women leaders who are overseeing colleges and universities, and the breakout sessions include topics such as cultivating mentors, creating a career portfolio, networking, negotiations, how to create change, inclusive leadership, helping others find their power, leadership in the Academy, navigating unconscious bias, and discovering your strengths. All of the aforementioned reinforce the conference theme of power, purpose, and progress. There will be a reception and closing toast at the end of the conference.

Clark is also excited to expose other women in higher education to Saint Mary’s College. “I want others to see what makes our College special and to have them experience  the beauty of small faith-based liberal arts institutions,” said Clark. “Past conferences have been held at predominantly large public institutions, so one of my goals is to really highlight the small college experience so our attendees can expand their reach to include potential opportunities at and exposure to small, private institutions.”

Clark shared that Nov. 8 is also National First-Generation College Student Day. This will be acknowledged during the conference, and attendees who were first generation students will be provided with  a special badge in recognition of this important milestone.

“The ACE Women’s NorCal conference would not have been possible without the unwavering assistance and support of my onsite team: Tracy Pascua Dea, Holly Dusenbury, Kathy Littles, Karin McClelland, Jenee Palmer, Dai To, Jennifer Weiland,” said Clark.

The conference is sold out and registration is closed; however, Clark would still love to see more participants from Saint Mary’s in attendance. The fee to attend is $100. If interested, please contact Evette Castillo Clark, by or on Thursday, October 31, for late registration.