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Local leading women share experiences with FSU Panama City students

By By GENEVIEVE SMITH, For Panama City News Herald, On 26 February 2019, Read Original
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PANAMA CITY — Creating a space for several prominent local women to share stories of leadership, passions, successes and experiences as female professionals, FSU PC’s  Contemporary Leadership Challenges class hosted a panel of speakers on Tuesday.

The presenters were Niki Kelly from Girls, Inc. of Bay County, Janice Lucas from the LEAD Coalition of Bay County, Hiba Rahim from CAIR Florida, Phyllis Reppen from Far Horizons Travel, Cecile Scoon from the League of Women Voters, and Arzu Ersoy with Perfect Smiles Dentistry.

Each speaker shared her educational and professional career backgrounds and told stories of challenges faced as women in male-dominated industries and their triumphs against many additional prejudices because of their skin color, religion or age.

“Some of the things I’ve learned, you don’t get in a leadership class or a leadership book necessarily — you have to figure out for yourself,” Lucas said.

One skill Lucas said she wishes she had as she was finishing school was how to read people — a skill that is beneficial both in familial relationships and in the business world.

“What people say and what they mean are not always the same — and that’s not a bad thing,” she said.

All women who spoke during the class offered advice and allowed students to ask questions about their education and career paths and how they have handled difficulties.

Kelly addressed the importance of encouraging girls from a young age to ask questions and find their own voice.

Rahim emphasized the importance of minding what you say, stating that whether it is positive or negative, “the things we say matter.”

Many students enrolled in the class were excited for the special opportunity to hear experienced professionals summarize their vast experiences and life lessons.

“I think it’s amazing to listen to some experiences of women in leadership, which is actually what we’re talking about right now — gender roles and leadership,” said Emma Keller, who is a senior at the college and interested in pursuing marketing as a career. “It’s still only recent for women to be as prominent in the business world as they are now.”

Senior Kyle Salazar said he believed the purpose of bringing in an all-female group of local leaders was to also break the widespread perception that women in leadership aren’t as impactful as men.

“Being able to learn from leaders within the community who have actually experienced this and are now applying it — it’s really cool to get a first-hand account of what you actually use and what will become knowledge for the future,” he said.

Dr. Eren Ozgen, who teaches the class, described the lesson as a multivitamin, and encouraged students to think of what each visitor brought to the conversation and what kind of leadership they exemplified in their lives.

“This is about leadership styles and theories and challenges,” said Ozgen. “We are trying to mix theory and practice with this class. The students will learn different leadership styles and they will get insights of different leadership styles.”

Ozgen said she hopes her students will become energized and motivated in their own lives after listening to the TED-talk style program. Memorization, she said, doesn’t mean anything without applying and growing from what you have learned.

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