For God, for Country, and for Yale: A Recent Grad’s Reflections on Her Undergraduate Experience as an Air Force ROTC Cadet
One of the truly beautiful things about the Yale experience is that it affords students of diverse backgrounds and interests the opportunity to fully express and realize their dreams. ROTC returned to the Yale campus in the fall of 2012, and Juliette Dietz ’19 – daughter of current YaleWomen secretary and soon-to-be vice-chair Sue Pepin ’87 – very graciously shared her reflections on her undergraduate experience as an Air Force ROTC cadet. Thank you, Juliette, for sharing your unique perspective as a woman undergrad and woman ROTC cadet! And thank you for your service!
What inspired your decision to attend Yale as an Air Force ROTC cadet? (I know you're a third-generation Air Force officer, so I'm sure your family's service had a lot to do with your decision!)
A: My dad and grandad were both in the Air Force in Australia, so I grew up listening to my dad's stories about the funny and wacky things he got up to back in the day. He would talk about being put in charge of experts twice his age at 21, of getting to fly in fighter jets as an engineer, of the pranks he and his buddies pulled on each other at training. I also grew up hearing about my mom’s time at Yale, where she took every class she laid eyes on and graduated with 52 credits. I am not sure when exactly the idea of joining the Air Force took hold in my mind, but by the time the summer before senior year of high school rolled around I knew I wanted to apply. The idea of service, of giving back to my country, of following in the footsteps of the incredible people who have served, and of adding a little bit of adventure to the looming concept of a liberal arts education all appealed to me. I also knew that, while I was heavily considering the Air Force Academy, Yale was my dream school. I applied to both ROTC and Yale, and when the two overlapped and I had the option to do Air Force ROTC at Yale, my decision was clear.
Describe your experience at Yale as an ROTC cadet. How did your experience differ from that of your non-ROTC classmates?
A: My first experience with the ROTC detachment at Yale (Det 009) was during Bulldog Days in 2015. I remember feeling very nervous (it was my first real encounter with the U.S. military, which I had somehow decided to join) not just about meeting some of the people I would spend four years with but also about seeing what I had gotten myself into. Immediately I was told, by students and cadre, that ROTC would not consume my life. The Air Force had specifically decided to send me and my fellow cadets to get a Yale education; why would they then make us spend all of our time at Yale doing ROTC? This point proved very true over the course of the next four years. We did, of course, spend a lot of time on ROTC. We were up by 5:30 am twice a week to work out in the Lanman Center, and on Thursdays, we followed our workouts with two hours of leadership exercises and training, followed then by our Aerospace Studies classes. We often had events to fill our free time, from trips to nearby bases to barbecues and football games with the Veterans Association to volunteer projects at local shelters. However, added up, the time we spent doing ROTC never exceeded the time that other students spent doing their extracurriculars. There are ROTC cadets who are also varsity athletes, cadets who are in a capella groups and dance groups, cadets who are FroCos and college aides. I consider my fellow ROTC cadets to be some of my best friends today, those life-long friends from college everyone always talks about, and I made them doing what I love at Yale just like every other Yalie does. The fact that my extracurricular forced me to learn the skill of easily waking up early is just an added perk.
How did the Yale community respond to you, as an ROTC cadet, and as a woman cadet?
A: The Yale community in my experience has been very welcoming of and receptive to our ROTC detachment. The campus is actually quite rich in military history if you know where to look - from Hewitt Quadrangle, which centers around the Yale Alumni War Memorial, to Woolsey Hall’s dedications to Yale veterans reaching back to the Revolutionary War, to the statue of Nathan Hale that stands outside of his old dorm room on Old Campus. On the walls of our detachment are photographs of soldiers marching through Phelps gate and doing exercises in the Branford courtyard during the lead-up to World War II, when Yale opened many of its campus spaces to the military. Walking around and seeing those constant reminders of Yale’s longstanding commitment to military service has always made me feel that being a part of ROTC at Yale made me a part of a proud and longstanding legacy rather than someone who was out of place or unwelcome. The only time I felt that being a part of ROTC made me different from other students was on Thursdays, when we wore our uniforms all day to our classes. As a political science major, my classes often involved heated discussions of the past and present actions of the U.S. military, and of course sitting there in uniform changed the dynamic of how I felt and was perceived in those discussions. However, ROTC official rules make it clear that we have academic freedom in settings such as that, and we are able to participate fully with our own opinions. I was never personally attacked or questioned about my involvement with the military in any academic settings, and walking around campus I received nothing but friendliness from fellow students.
If you encountered any skepticism - I'm hoping you didn't - how did you respond?
A: I am very happy to say that I have received very little skepticism for joining the military, and I know that I am able to say that thanks to the constant support and respect of the Yale community. My interactions with the cadre, fellow classmates, professors and the administration have been overwhelmingly dignified and centered on a fundamental desire for equal treatment. Of course, being a woman in a male-dominated field always comes with many challenges and obstacles, but the strong and close cohort of female cadets, as well as supportive female cadre and classmates, has for me always overpowered the setbacks. Unfortunately, my experience, particularly outside of the Yale community, is sometimes less than encouraging. I have been told I “seem too sensitive” to be in the military, that women-free units are much more fun because they “can say anything”, and I was asked just this past May if I didn’t wish I could be wearing a dress instead of my uniform at our formal Dining Out event at the end of the year. What was my response? I became a second lieutenant in the world’s greatest Air Force.
How, in your opinion, does Yale benefit from having ROTC (back) on campus?
A: Yale is an institution that prides itself on its diversity as well as its commitment to service in all its forms. Neither of those key aspects of the Yale community would be complete without the military. I do not hold many opinions that are often seen as typical for military members, and I grew up in a small college town that did not really think about the military at all beyond vague opinions in support of pacifism. But for me, that hasn’t led me to want to avoid the military or criticize it from the sidelines, it has led me to want to take on the challenge, to do what I can to make change. If people want to change the way that the military is operated, they need to get involved, not turn their backs. Ultimately, Yale and Air Force ROTC have the same mission: to build leaders. I think allowing people who will go on to serve in the United States military to have access to a Yale education, to have their views challenged and to challenge the views of Yalies who will go on to other professions, as well as to form lifelong friendships with Yalies from all over the world, is an incredible advantage to both the ROTC and non-ROTC students as well as to the future of the university and of the U.S. military.
How, in your opinion, does the military benefit from having women in leadership roles?
A: I will answer the women in leadership question by giving you a quote that every cadet in the Air Force had to memorize this year as part of learning our ‘Warrior Knowledge’: “Gender, race, religion, none of that matters. What matters is how you perform.” — Brigadier General Jeannie M. Leavitt, USAF, the first U.S. female fighter pilot. Excellence comes from everywhere and everyone. If an institution limits who it allows to do certain things, it is only limiting its own potential for excellence. But it is not enough to just say this - increasing the diversity of leadership is the way to truly increase diversity and tolerance. If a young girl can look at the Air Force and see women leaders, women warriors, women entrepreneurs, she will be able to see herself becoming one as well, and then as she fights her way through resistance to her dreams, the women at the top can reach down through policies, through guidance, through example, to help her up.
What did you study, and what other activities did you participate in, at Yale?
A: I studied Political Science, particularly focusing on different forms of political collective action. My thesis examined how women perceive themselves as a politically significant group and how their gendered identity informs their political opinions, seeking a better understanding of how and why women might engage in collective action. In addition to ROTC, one of the most rewarding activities I participated in at Yale was FOOT (First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips) where I got to lead small groups of incoming first-years on hiking trips every fall. I was also a part of RALY (the Reproductive Justice Action League at Yale), a women-led group that focuses on reproductive justice activism on campus and in Connecticut, as well as RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Student Education), a group that reaches out to the refugee and immigrant community in New Haven to help families adjust to the city through tutoring and community events. I also volunteered with the local organization New Haven Reads, tutoring young students to help them reach their recommended level of reading comprehension.
What are your plans for the future? Where and how will you serve?
A: I will start my Air Force service this September at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas, where I will enter training to become an Intelligence Officer.
Anything you'd like to add?
A: I also want to add that I am of course not an official spokesperson for the Air Force or U.S. government in any way - all of this is just my own experience and opinions.
— Jennifer Ebisemiju Madar ’88
In early April, YaleWomen Connecticut hosted one of its signature events, Curiosity & Conversation. The three alums leading us in a conversation about homelessness in Connecticut were from the Schools of Management, Nursing, and Public Health: Madeline Ravich ’09 MBA (Development Advisor and Director of the be homeful project of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness); Katherine McCormack ’81 MPH, RN, MEP (former Director of Emergency Management and Director of Health for the City of Hartford); and Linda Schwartz ’84 MSN and ’98 DrPH (former Commissioner of Veteran Affairs for the State of Connecticut and Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning for the US Department of Veterans Affairs). Building capacity through collaboration with alumni offices and alumni associations of the presenters’ schools, as well as the Divinity School, YANA/New England, and the Yale Club of Hartford, it was standing room only. For nearly half of the attendees, this was the first YaleWomen event they had attended. To learn more, contact the chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In late April, YaleWomen Philadelphia hosted an event with Hidden City Philadelphia of Cultural Trust. (“Hidden City Philadelphia of Cultural Trust pulls back the curtain on the city’s most remarkable places and connects them to new people, functions, and resources (celebrating) the power of place and inspir(ing) social action to make our city a better place to live, work, and play.”) On this guided tour of North Central Philly, attendees explored a part of the city and sites with which many people are not familiar. The crowning jewel of the tour was the Church of the Advocate. Attendees feasted their eyes on the stunning beauty of its Gothic Revival architecture, as well as murals, painted between 1973-76, depicting the "stations" of the African American experience in this country. The Church of the Advocate is significant for its place in the history of both Philadelphia and the United States, not only as a church built on a grand scale for the working class where the founding principal of "free for all" translated into abolishing a pew rent, but as a hub of activism during the Civil Rights Movement, when it hosted the National Conference of Black Power (1968), the Black Panther Conference (1970), and the first ordination of women in the Episcopal Church (1974). The Church is a vibrant anchor in the North Philly neighborhood. The Yale Black Alumni Association-Philadelphia chapter and the Yale Club of Philadelphia co-sponsored the event, which attracted Yale women alums from Yale College and the Graduate and Professional Schools, as well as Yale men alums, family, and friends. In keeping with the chapter’s successful practice of pairing the cultural with the social, many attendees continued the conversation over lunch. According to chapter head Susan LaPalombara ’83, “It is often during these times that we really make and cement connections.” To learn more, contact the chapter at email@example.com.
In early May, Susan Asam ’00 and Hope Tyron Bennett ’00, the chapter heads of YaleWomen Hawaii, convened Yale women alums and Harvard women alums to “talk story” about Authenticity. Modeled after YaleWomen DC’s enormously successful Salon series, which was developed by Ellen Fox ’81, this is the second “talk story” event the chapter has hosted. (The theme of their first “talk story” focused on Gratitude.) “Talk story” is grounded in the oral traditions of the Polynesian culture and in building relationships in the Hawaiian culture. The events evoke thoughtful conversations on relevant and meaningful themes with local applications. To learn more, contact the chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
YaleWomen Hong Kong
In late May, YaleWomen Hong Kong hosted one of its popular quarterly lunches. This one was a little different, offering dim sum at a convenient restaurant and conversation about how the chapter could join in the 50 Women at Yale 150 celebrations. It attracted the largest group of alums ever, from Yale College and the Graduate and Professional Schools, with class years spanning 1977 to 2015. In sharing information around the table about their professional and personal lives, the alums learned that 80% of the attendees had worked in Hong Kong at a bank or financial institution, in finance, law, or human relations. Many have gone on to become entrepreneurs. Only three of the attendees were natives of Hong Kong. They talked about ideas for future, possibly pan-Asian gatherings, including 50 Women at Yale 150. They found that they quickly connected with one another and left the lunch with a feeling of joy! One alum said, “It’s wonderful to meet so many talented and accomplished women. It reminded me of why it's so fun to hang out with Yalies. The breadth of interests and knowledge makes conversations so lively!” To learn more, contact the chapter at email@example.com.
YaleWomen Los Angeles
What happens when eight Yale women alums from Yale College (including a member of the class of 1971, the first class of women to graduate from Yale College) and the Graduate and Professional Schools, across class years, go hiking? They engage in conversations about issues ranging from feminism and choice, to the early days of the coeducation of Yale College and elder care, to urban issues, including housing, homelessness, green space, transit, TOC (Transit Oriented Communities: building homes and communities around transit such as along the new metro line that runs from Santa Monica to Downtown), SB 50 (proposed transit/housing legislation), and public education. In early June, YaleWomen LA hosted its popular annual hike to Inspiration Point in Will Rogers State Park, followed by a picnic lunch. The date competed with many graduation celebrations, and attendance was lower than in previous years, which made for an intimate gathering of alums reflecting a delightful mix of opinions and perspectives, sharing a passion for community involvement, for making the world a better place, for healthy, happy lives, for seizing opportunities for new adventures, and for new friendships and connections. To learn more, contact the chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The key engine of change is conversation."*
During my three years as chair of YaleWomen, I have had the great honor of writing the piece that opens our quarterly enewsletter. June 30th marks the end of YaleWomen’s fiscal year, my term as chair, and my penning of these pieces. This has been an extraordinary year, marked by many different conversations — some seemingly simple, some on a larger scale, but all thought-provoking — through which Yale women alums have connected, ideas have been ignited, and the world has been transformed.
In her remarks at the March 2019 Award for Excellence celebration, Ellen Gibson McGinnis ’82, inaugural chair of YaleWomen, said, “Reflecting on what YaleWomen means to me, I have come to believe that building community is the heart of what we do and is at the intersection of all of our goals. Yale women can change the world. The women to whom we are about to give our awards have changed the world.…You can change the world, and my challenge to you is to take action in your own life, to use your power, and our collective power, to do the same.”
The stories this issue tells are about conversations and change, including one in which we say goodbye to Council members whose terms of service will come to an end on June 30th and hello to others whose terms will begin July 1st. Our new chair, Jennifer Ebisemiju Madar ’88, will lead YaleWomen into and through the pivotal years ahead as we move towards and into our second decade.
Read on! Let us hear from you at email@example.com.
With many thanks to you for helping YaleWomen be all it has become in eight short years,
Susan E. Lennon ’85 MPPM
* Evan Wolfson ’78, Founder and President, Freedom to Marry, in conversation with Linda Greenhouse ’78 MSL at the Yale Alumni Association's March 2019 conference, Impact: Advancing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Through Social Change
Much hard work and the commitment of many hands and hearts make the increasingly important work of YaleWomen possible. As the 2018-2019 year closes, we are especially grateful to Council members whose terms of service have come to an end.
Ellen Gibson McGinnis ’82, Laura Thomson Grondin ’85, Eve Rice ’73, and Toby Richard ’82 have served on the Council since YaleWomen’s founding in 2011. What YaleWomen is today is a testament to their vision and the solid infrastructure they created and that we continue to build upon.
Ellen, Laura, Eve, and Toby, as well as Beth Axelrod ’89 MPPM, Gayatri Bhalla ’97 MBA, Elizabeth (Eli) Gerard ’79, and Beverly Jurenko ’86, leave with our deep and heartfelt thanks and best wishes.
As YaleWomen’s visibility and reputation have grown, so, too, has interest in serving on the Council. This year, we had a rich pool of talent to draw on. We are thrilled to announce the results of this year’s election for Council members and officers, for terms that begin July 1st:
Chelsea Doub ’14 MPH
Akosua Barthwell Evans ’90 JD*
Shannon Foucault ’06*
Lauren Graham ’13 MEM
Priscilla Morales ’00
Nancy Furman Paul ’91
Lisa Beth Friedman Savitz ’88
Laura Teller ’77
Lydia Temoshok ’72**
Carol Reis Whitehead ’72**
* Current Council members who have been re-elected for another term.
** As members of the class of 1972, Lydia and Carol are among the first women to graduate from Yale College. The University will shortly kick off a celebration of the 50th anniversary of women at Yale College and the 150th anniversary of women at the Graduate and Professional Schools Learn more about 50 Women at Yale 150 here.
Jennifer Ebisemiju Madar ’88, Sue Pepin ’87, Dana Sands ’83 and Susan Lennon, ’85 MPPM have been elected to serve as chair, vice chair, treasurer and secretary, respectively.
We open this issue of the YaleWomen e-newsletter with the question we asked when we opened the YaleWomen Award for Excellence celebration on March 7th.
“What is it that brought YaleWomen to this day?”
It’s our vision – Connecting Women, Igniting Ideas, Transforming the World – which emerged from our inaugural conference in 2013, when several Council members shaped what they heard into this call to action. What’s in a vision? It’s the ability to appreciate what is there and imagine what more there might be.
YaleWomen’s bold vision – along with the "why?" of our purpose and beliefs – grounds and guides us in our work toward gender equity. The opportunity to celebrate, learn from, and work with Yale womenalums who are transforming the world is both extraordinary and humbling.
This year’s Award for Excellence celebration exemplifies whyYaleWomen was founded just eight short years ago and underlines the importance of our work. YaleWomen is a community of Yalewomen alums, across Yale College and the Graduate & Professional Schools, across generations, across personal and professional interests, opinions and perspectives, around the world. Some of our best work is in opening the aperture and shining a light on women’s issues across these multiple dimensions.
Read on! Let us hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan E. Lennon ’85 MPPM
YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2019
- Letter from the Chair
- YaleWomen Award For Excellence Special Feature:
- YaleWomen Hosts Award for Excellence and Working Toward Gender Equity Panel Discussion at the National Press Club
- Joanne Lipman ’83 Moderates Panel Discussion on Working Toward Gender Equity with Anita Hill ’80 JD, Catherine Lhamon ’96 JD, and Ann Olivarius ’77, ’86 MBA, ’86 JD
- Inaugural YaleWomen Chair Ellen Gibson McGinnis ’82 Delivers Remarks at the YaleWomen Award for Excellence Event
- YaleWomen Award For Excellence Award Citations
- A Conversation with Tamar Gendler ’87, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
- Career Transitions Webinar Sparks a Conversation About How to Adapt to Career and Life Challenges
- Spotlight on YaleWomen Atlanta: The Opioid Epidemic – Lessons from the Field
- Women’s Leadership Initiative Hosts Women Empowering Women Conference
- Equal Pay Day is April 2
Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into a subsequent year women need to work to make what men earned in the previous year. This year, in the US, Equal Pay Day falls on April 2nd. While the day differs by year and by country, historically it has been characterized by grassroots organizing in local communities to raise awareness about how to solve wage inequality.
The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) first organized Equal Pay Day in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. The Committee was a coalition of women's and civil rights organizations, labor unions, professional associations and individuals working to eliminate sex and race-based wage discrimination and achieve pay equity.
YaleWomen is similarly committed to changing the story of pay and gender equity. Our vision: a future where parity is the norm. Our programming, events, and community building support this vision through learning about, recognizing, promoting and addressing the fight for gender equality.
On April 2nd, amazing.community, an organization dedicated to broadening the work horizon for women, will host a half-day conference, Inclusion By Design: Equal Pay Day, in New York City. The event will focus on pay equity in the workplace. Experts and policy makers will share thoughts on “Closing the Gap for Good” and “What Works.” Participants will engage in dynamic workshops on public speaking and influencing and negotiating skills to achieve wage parity.
"It's 2019 and the U.S. gender pay gap currently stands at around 20%. At this rate, it will take nearly a century for women to earn equal pay for equal work,” explains Dr. Leslie Faerstein, executive director of amazing.community. “We’re working to speed up equal pay with the goal of making Equal Pay Day obsolete in the near future – not in another 100 years!" Join in the effort to shorten the pay equity horizon – and make Equal Pay Day obsolete. Register here.
-- Amy Armitage ’86 MBA
On February 23rd at the Omni New Haven Hotel, two undergraduate organizations – the Yale College Council (YCC) and the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) – partnered to host the 11th annual WLI Conference, entitled “Women Empowering Women.” With panel events tailored to various industries such as finance, activism, medicine/healthcare, and entrepreneurship, as well as opportunities for networking, resume workshops, and LinkedIn headshots, the conference drew approximately 350 participants.
Conference co-director Sue Chen ’20 described attendees as a mix of Yale students, Yale faculty/staff, New Haven residents, and attendees from all over the tri-state area. “So much of women's empowerment and leadership relies on the ongoing conversations between like-minded people who share similar passion and dedication to the same cause,” she said, emphasizing the power of having so many women together exchanging ideas and supporting one another.
Rachel Vogelstein, director of the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC, counselor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and professor of Gender and U.S. Foreign Policy at Georgetown University Law Center delivered the keynote speech. While the panel topics remained relatively similar to previous years, the 2019 committee brought in a new set of speakers from diverse backgrounds to share their ideas. Speakers this year included: Themis Klarides, Republican minority leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives; Caroline Simmons, Connecticut state representative; Tema Staig, executive director of Women in Media, and Andrea Aldrich, lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Yale.
“The more I talk with women who have accomplished amazing things in their careers and with students who are just starting out, I realize how many similar experiences in terms of sexism, confidence, and perception we have in common,” said conference co-director Avery Arena ’21. “Navigating competitive professional environments as a female is hard to do, and I think in-depth conversations like the ones at the conference really go a long way towards helping us all be better prepared to pursue our goals with confidence.”
After almost nine months of planning, the co-directors described a major challenge they faced: marketing the event to a wide variety of campus organizations to garner interest and maximize registration and attendance. “We really doubled down on publicity and marketing for the conference this year, and we tried really hard to reach as many interested groups as possible, but sometimes we just don't know if we got everyone,” said Chen
Founded in 2006, the Yale Women’s Leadership Initiative has also recently modified its membership structure. Students who are interested in becoming formal WLI members must attend two functions, however most events such as the annual conference remain open to the public.
“I think it is so inspiring to see such a large group of accomplished women come together and talk about what works and what doesn't, and I think that is a great catalyst for motivating others,” said Arena. She hopes attendees left the conference feeling energized to work towards their own goals.
-- Veena McCoole ’19
How do chapters develop the events they host? Some chapter events emerge at the intersection of various “dots” – that is, alums of Yale College and the Graduate & Professional Schools who can bring different bodies of knowledge and experience to conversations. This is how the event YaleWomen Atlanta hosted in January, “The Opioid Epidemic: Lessons from the Field” emerged.
Tari Owi ’09, who coordinated the event, is administrator of the neurology practice for Emory University School of Medicine faculty physicians and nurse practitioners who practice at the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center. She is also program director of the Marcus Telestroke network. Owi describes the members of the YaleWomen Atlanta planning team as diverse, interesting, and curious, and said that the idea for the event emerged organically.
One alum knew Amy Baxter ’91, MD founder and CEO of Pain Care Labs. She thought that an event featuring an alum who is an innovator and entrepreneur working on the cutting edge of tackling the issue of pain management would be compelling to other alums. Coincidentally, Owi’s department at Emory, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, had recently hired Justine Welsh, MD who is a child/adolescent addiction psychiatrist and director of Emory Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Services.
Together in conversation, Drs. Baxter and Welsh offered two different perspectives on understanding and addressing the opioid crisis – an issue that is relevant and personal to many – in care-delivery settings. Of note to the audience of the nearly 30 attendees, which included alums, family, and friends:
- Georgia is among the top 10 states in the country with a growing incidence of opioid deaths.
- Most youth addiction cases begin when youth take medications from family members or are given them by friends. Many don't even know what they're taking.
- Many physicians are engaged in a comprehensive effort to standardize post-op diagnosing patterns and offer alternative pain management methods.
Owi noted that her time at Yale offered her many opportunities to grow and develop. Most important, though, it exposed her to a community of intellectually curious individuals who were interested in the world around them and how they could make their mark. YaleWomen Atlanta has offered her the same opportunities to engage with women from all walks of life who easily fall into a rapport. Many of these alums have become friends outside of YaleWomen Atlanta, providing support and career advice as well as camaraderie.
You can reach Owi and YaleWomen Atlanta by email at email@example.com.
For more information on the opioid issue through a gender lens, see Women’s Health Research at Yale's “Opioid Crisis Roadmap Overlooks Gender.” To learn more about Dr. Baxter’s work, go to A Needle Pain Awareness Booster and Pain, Empathy and Public Health. Tari earned her MSc at the Harvard School of Public Health – you can hear more about her career path and work here.
Photo: Sharon Braunstein ’82 MFA
Webinar on Career Transitions Draws Nearly 1,000 Attendees and Sparks a Conversation About How to Adapt to Unexpected Career and Life Challenges
“The lives we lead are rarely as streamlined as we thought they’d be when we graduated, or what we present to the world,” said Jennifer Ebisemiju Madar ’88 who organized and led a January webinar on career transitions that drew nearly 1,200 registrants and nearly 1,000 attendees.
Indeed, the six panelists who joined Madar shared stories and insights far richer and dynamic: of unexpected career and life challenges, and the consequent need for self-discovery, resilience, learning, adaption, and reinvention.
A partnership between YAA’s flagship Careers, Life, and Yale program and YaleWomen, the hour-long webinar was designed to address specific career challenges such as returning to work, switching careers, and job loss. But the broader life stories proved equally illuminating.
“We worked hard to create a relevant and appealing program, with a storytelling format. But we never dreamed that 1,200 Yalies would want to join in,” said Madar, a member of the YAA Board of Governors and vice chair of YaleWomen. “And it’s exciting to know that hundreds or thousands more will be able to watch this webinar and others like it in the future.”
Opening panelist Catharine Gately ’89 traced her journey through a career in journalism, motherhood, and, then, a self-described “midlife crisis” while living in Seattle. “I had to dig deep to figure out what I was going to do next,” she explained. Now heading a company that helps businesses create narratives through storytelling, she stressed the importance of reaching out to others for help, while finding one’s own authentic story and “pushing through the fear.” She described a process of “getting comfortable with what I value, who I am, what I love to do, and what the world needs.” Often this process can begin with a strength assessment and becoming familiar with online tools to get work in the gig economy.
“It can be tremendously scary,” confirmed Katy Kincade ’85, who launched a whole new career as a costume designer after raising her children and returning to art school. “Be aware of what a life-changer kids are,” Kincade advised younger members of the audience, and “work through what you need to be happy.” She cautioned her audience that it is “really hard to make major structural changes in your life” such as a different family situation or a move to a new city. These bigger changes often require the support of others, including professional help. “But even if you are in a little rut, do what you can to get out of it.”
“Everybody told me I could have it all and do it all, and I found out I couldn’t,” acknowledged Cristina Thais Vittoria ’93, who left a successful New York magazine career to raise her children in Connecticut. Now vice president of development at Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Vittoria leveraged her community volunteer work and skills back into paid work. “When you are looking to go back, talk to people,” she advised. “Network with a passion. Tailor your resume and be flexible.” And finally, she advised, “Don’t under-estimate the skills you have developed while taking time off from paid work.”
“I never thought I would encounter the struggles,” acknowledged Wendy Maldonado D’Amico ’93, who described her journey, growing up as undocumented child, through Yale College, the Harvard Kennedy School, the MIT Sloan School of Management, jobs, and job loss. “When I got into Yale, my mother thought I won the Willy Wonka ticket.” But the wrong job, work environment, and people around you can take its toll. “A valuable lesson is learning where you don’t belong and then finding your people and the values you share with them,” she said. “Learn to play to your strengths and what you do well,” And finally, “get help when you need it if you find your mind and spirit are broken.”
Resilience and identifying one's unique strengths was a common theme among the panelists. “Nearly every profession is undergoing rapid change,” noted Amy Armitage ’86 MBA, founder of Nexus Peer Groups and a member of the YaleWomen Governing Council. “Career transitions are not just for those who are unemployed or otherwise out of work. Career transitions are the new normal.”
“You need to define success on your own terms,” said Yale SOM career coach Cindy Cornell, who explained that success looks different for each of us. “Set your intention and then live by it. Set the vision you are excited about, prioritize yourself, and keep moving.”
“That steadiness that we might have expected doesn’t exist in the world anymore,” Cornell said. “It is up to us to understand that we need to reinvent ourselves consistently as the world is reinventing itself.” We need ask, “In what ways can I be relevant today?” And as Armitage stated, “Your impact is ultimately about identifying the problems that you – uniquely – can and want to solve,” said Armitage. “To be a leader, you must act into the opportunity.”
The webinar generated quite a bit of excitement and engagement among alums, starting with a lively “in the moment” discussion that inspired the formation of several online communities, the establishment of new friendships, and the setting of new personal and professional goals. YaleWomen and YAA will also use suggestions from webinar participants to inform their programming going forward.
To view the webinar and the career transitions resource list, visit the YaleWomen website at www.yalewomen.org/yalewomen_webinars.
-- Amy Armitage ’86 MBA