Inspired by a financial challenge from members of the Board of Trustees, Susquehanna University launched the Women’s Leadership Initiative in 2017.

The initiative supports a robust, four-year preparation plan for every female student — nearly 1,300 — that includes career treks to major cities and job-shadowing experiences that connect them with Susquehanna alumni. Additionally, the initiative provides opportunities for students to attend professional conferences and to secure summer research, internships or other experiential learning opportunities.

Women’s Leadership Fund

The Women’s Leadership Initiative is supported by the Signe S. Gates ’71 and Dawn G. Mueller ’68 Women’s Leadership Fund, which was endowed in 2019 and connects female students with alumnae who inspire them to pursue leadership positions within their chosen fields.

Gates ’71, chair of the university Board of Trustees, and Mueller ’68, board vice chair, launched the fundraising campaign in 2017 with a combined $1 million pledge to provide financial support to female students at Susquehanna University. Their commitment was contingent on a challenge to other donors to contribute an additional $2 million. The challenge was met three years ahead of schedule, after receiving additional significant support from Judy Hanson Mathis in memory of her mother, Marjorie C. Hanson ’39, as well as from Mary Cianni, vice chair of the Board of Trustees, former Susquehanna associate professor of management and senior client partner at Korn Ferry.

Women’s Leadership Symposium

Susquehanna University hosts an annual Women’s Leadership Symposium where nominated female students have a hands-on opportunity to build practical experiences from women business leaders who are Susquehanna graduates.

Alumnae share their experiences as corporate professionals, conduct tours and answer students’ questions. With up-close and personal access to business leaders, plus personalized feedback and advice, students enjoy invaluable networking experiences.

The 2024 symposium will head to Philadelphia on April 3–4. This year’s event includes a keynote address by Bernadette McKenna ’95 Horvat, vice president of talent and culture for the American Board of Internal Medicine, networking sessions, visits to local employers and cultural experiences.

Group of participants at the 2023 Women's Leadership Symposium in Washington D.C.

Women’s Leadership Initiative Panel

Since 2018, the Women’s Leadership Initiative panel discussion features alumnae who have made significant contributions to their chosen fields and industries.

Past panel discussion topics have included succeeding in business and medicine and maintaining leadership under pressure – particularly pressure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year’s panel was Celebrating Authenticity. The discussion, moderated by Christiana Paradis ’11, director of Title IX compliance, highlighted the ways women excel in leadership roles while remaining true to themselves. Alumnae panelists included Dr. Courtney Allen ’08, Megan McMullen ’02 Blue and Ashley Spoto ’17.

2023 Image of panelists.

Related News

Students Connect With, Inspired by Alumnae in Nation’s Capital

April 13, 2023

Susquehanna’s Women’s Leadership Symposium took more than 30 students to Washington, D.C., for two days of networking and learning alongside alumni.

From left are Jennifer Thorsheim '18, Ariana Stowe '13, Amber Wagaman '03, Bernadette McKenna '95 P'25 Horvat and Emily Hibshman '15.

Alumnae Panel Offers Career Advice

September 22, 2022
A panel of alumnae returned to campus to share with students how they have navigated their careers and responded to change. Stories of Transformation and Renewal was the theme for the discussion, which was sponsored by Susquehanna University’s Women’s Leadership Initiative.

Alumnae Gather to Support Students at Women’s Leadership Symposium

April 6, 2022
More than 30 current students and alumnae gathered for Susquehanna’s annual Women’s Leadership Symposium, supported by the Signe S. Gates ’71 and Dawn G. Mueller ’68 Women’s Leadership Fund.


2023 Women’s Leadership Initiative Panel Discussion 

Women's Leadership Initiative Panel Discussion | "Celebrating Authenticity"