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BW student-launched program focuses on female empowerment, mentoring

Bella Doyle '24 had a vision. She wanted female-identifying students to be in a room where incredible women motivated, supported and coached each other to achieve their leadership potential. She turned that ambition into action.


Fall 2023 cohort (l-r) — Emily Lesko '26, Leah Kania '26, Naqa Thaher '26, Ella Powell '26, Matti Putzer '26, Bella Doyle '24 and Alyson Hand '25. Mackenzie Blum '26 is pictured to the right of the poster.

She launched the Sophomore Women's Empowerment and Mentoring Program, a semester-long experience where female-identifying students meet weekly to develop and hone personal and professional skills. It is a proud accomplishment for the resourceful communication studies major from Akron, Ohio, who not only initiated, developed and implemented the experience but also created a channel for it to continue after her 2024 spring graduation.

Inspired by Incredible Women

(l-r) BW alumna and trustee Susan Zanetti '91, MAEd '96, is a mentor to Steffi Burdick '26 and Ursula Saadeh '25.

According to Doyle, the program is designed to bring together individuals of varying majors, backgrounds and interests. Student development and mentoring are the main components of the program, which welcomes 6-10 students for each cohort.

Accomplished women from diverse career paths are invited as guest speakers to discuss topics like networking, financial wellness, communication, conflict management and team-building.

Also invaluable to the experience are alumnae mentors who are paired with students based on major and career plans. In addition to one-on-one monthly meetings with their mentor during the semester, students benefit from developing a network they can tap into in the future.

"My inspiration for the program came from a women's summit I attended my first year at BW. There were so many BW graduates accomplishing incredible things in their careers. I wanted other students to feel the overwhelming support I did at that summit," recalled Doyle, who credits both Claudine Grunenwald Kirschner of Student Life and Marsita Ferguson of the Brain Center for Community Engagement for providing guidance.

Providing Support During a Pivotal Time

The spring 2024 cohort is benefiting from the mentorship of alumna Karen Kannenberg '86 (pictured top row, far right).

With the first cohort launched in spring 2023, Doyle wanted to ensure the program's continuity would go beyond her BW tenure. She found her next leader in Alyson Hand '25, who is leading this semester's cohort and will pass the reigns to Emily Lesko '26 for the fall 2024 semester.

"Supporting sophomore women during a pivotal stage of their college lives is important to me," explained Hand, an arts management & entrepreneurship major from Reading, Pennsylvania. "This includes helping them build meaningful connections, shaping their development and being a positive role model. On a professional level, this project also allows me to develop my own leadership, communication and program management skills.

"At the end of the program, we hope participants will gain skills like confidence, resilience and leadership and can expand their networks. The sophomore 'slump' is real. This program acts as a 'therapy' of sorts to equip them with a reliable peer and mentor community," said Hand.

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