Global Leadership Conference

For Viras, By Viras

The VIH Program is sponsoring its first-ever Global Leadership Conference!  The conference will take place between Saturday, September 26 and Sunday, September 27, in a virtual format.  All of the sessions will be designed and run by Viras! This conference will provide our community with a new forum to share ideas, raise awareness about the excellent work that Viras do, and deepen relationships between and across cohorts.

There are three main types of programs you can submit proposals for:  Sessions, Deep Dive Sessions, and Thematic Panels. In order to submit a session proposal for consideration, fill out the session proposal form by Friday, July 17th at noon. Any questions can be directed to Sarah Wagner at We are looking forward to reconnecting with all of you virtually at our Global Leadership Conference!

When registration goes live, you will be able to access the registration form here.

More sessions and the official conference schedule on the way!

Special thanks to the conference steering committee for all of their dedication to this conference and to VIH!

Conference Agenda

Gender Identity At Home and Abroad: A Crash Course in “Doing” Gender

Time: Saturday

Presenters: Carina Stopenski (Chatham, 2017), Brooke Mead (Temple, 2017), Nicki Kellogg (Pitt Bradford, 2013)

In this panel, participants will provide a basic introduction to gendered terminology, the importance of proper pronoun usage, and the differences between gender identity and presentation; the panelists will explain the ways that this intersection of identity coalesces with other elements of queerness. By exploring the ways that gender minorities face complex decisions as how to “do” gender, how we choose to identify and present in certain situations, this presentation addresses the tightrope-like situation that those with queer presentations of their identity and other intersections of identity navigate, and how some cultures are far more restrictive in their cultural rules about gender. The panelists will express their personal experiences with queer presentations of their gender identities and the way that their presentation has affected them in professional settings. This presentation will close by addressing how we in the VIH program can confront our implicit biases about gender identity and presentation in our everyday life, as well as room for questions or comments.

Sharing Circle

​Time: Saturday

Presenter: Dominique DeSilva (Temple, 2012)

In this session, Viras will have the opportunity to draw on a personal artistic representation or even, perhaps, something that they have found while researching where they would have spent their international experience. This community building and self opening activity will allow Viras to think about how they engage with artistic content and how others represent themselves through the arts. Together we will make a community agreement to accept and encourage one another's choices at all stages of ability. Not all Viras will share (depending upon attendance) but all have the opportunity to engage in reflection over each expression that is shared. We will also all learn a community building song to open and close our "circle."

Finding Your Compass: Creating Culturally Aware Art

Time: Saturday

Presenter: Christine Delphine Hedden (Carnegie Mellon, 2011)

Artists – musicians, dancers, visual artists, theater artists, multi-media artists and more – face unique challenges in creating work that crosses cultures and/or exists in the space between multiple cultural influences. These artists have a deepened responsibility to be aware of how their work is reflects a culture. This session will explore concrete ways for artists to find their creative compass through learning, questioning, and building relationships with mentors and community. With these tools, participants will learn to navigate artistic, ethical and cultural questions about both their art and their identity as artists. The goal of this session is to inspire a desire to create culturally aware art and spark participants’ personal explorations.

Immigration: Media, Identities & the Shaping of a Nation Panel

Time: Saturday

Panelist: Madison Bredice (UPG, 2017)

In my program, I would like to examine a brief history of immigration policy from President Reagan to Trump. I will talk about the policies they past and how they related or currently relate to immigrants, our economy and human rights. After this, I will debunk myths or lies that come across in the media about immigration, talk about how this contributes to racism and hysteria, as well as what is actually true in regards to Immigration Policy and immigrants as a whole. I will then access what is currently going on in Immigration Policy in our current political climate. After this, i will then talk about how immigrants have enhanced and made our country great with examples.

Panelist: Bisi Oyelola (Temple, 2018)

We are living in “unprecedented” times. Everyday life has changed, as we navigate interconnected crises on a global scale. However, while the United States copes with the repercussions of COVID-19, federal discourse frequently leaves out a crucial subsect of the American population – foreign-born residents. Under the current federal administration, previous immigration policies and laws are being struck down affecting refugees, asylees, and immigrants who contribute to the economic and cultural life in the United States. Although executives in local, state, and federal government instilled relief policies, immigrants remain vulnerable to the crises at hand because they are excluded from these policies. Therefore, this conference proposal session will engage attendees in dialogue on what it means to be an “immigrant” during these times, recent federal immigration policy changes, and how we, no matter our positions, can enact change to continue to “welcome the stranger.”


Marketing, Communication, and Professional Development 

Time: Saturday

Panelist: Tiffany Tupper (Chatham, 2009)

In our digital world, basic storytelling, marketing, and communications skills are more important than ever. Moreover, during the COVID-19 crisis, nearly all work has moved online, making clear communication an absolute necessity. This 20-minute communications boot camp will teach you about storytelling and the "Rule of Three," how to maximize exposure for events and publications, and best practices for social media. The goal of this session is to equip you with easy tips that will take your writing, marketing, and public speaking skills to the next level.

Panelists: Sarah B Levine (Temple, 2017) and Crystal Durachko (Thiel, 2017)

We will be dividing our session into five main topics, job hunting, cover letter and applications, interviews, working 101 and leaving your job. Each section will entail main takeaways. For example, what to look for an how to analyze a job posting and find out if it is right for you, how to practice for an interview (a lot of talking in the mirror), transitioning into the working world and how to maintain your portfolio, and how the cycle starts again when you decide it is time to look for your next job. In the cover letter section, we are exploring the idea of an interactive mad libs activity. We are able to speak on our personal experiences ranging from contracted, hourly positions to salaried, even experiences with online interviews. We will be giving solid points that are applicable in a pandemic. We want to set expectations of where you are and what starting off your career looks like in order to get where you want to go.

The Consistencies & Inconsistencies Within the Gender Gap in STEM

Time: Saturday

Presenters: Brianna Billingsley (Washington & Jefferson, 2019), Amanda Fitzpatrick (Washington & Jefferson, 2019)

We will begin by presenting on the gender gap in physics, which is very standard and expected in which there aren't as many women as men in this field. We will also talk about how confidence levels and performance vary across genders. Then we will discuss how biology-related fields have more women than men and do not follow the standard inequality we would expect. However, despite the number of women in these fields, there remains a gender gap in leadership positions, authorship, and awards like the Nobel Prize. This presentation will include personal experiences and the experiences of others gathered by interviews with women professionals in STEM.

Responsible Consumerism: Why Knowing the Supply Chain Matters

​Time: Saturday

Presenter: Laura Gooding (Pitt Oakland, 2018)

Every year, thousands of people are subjected to human trafficking to supply cheap or free labor. Across the world, diverse ecosystems are destroyed in order to plant single crop fields to keep up with global demand for commodity products. Attendees will learn about why knowing the supply chains of the brands we shop is important by examining a case study of an item used in over 50% of products at the grocery store - Palm Oil. Attendees will learn about the harsh realities of trafficked labor and mistreatment of workers, what it means to really read the label, and learn about resources to check the social responsibility of the companies they patronize.

Renewable Energy & Sustainable Engineering Panel

Time: Sunday

Panelist: Mary Hassan (Pitt Oakland, 2014)

Panelist: Nadine Humphrey (Pitt Oakland, 2018)

Panelist: GodisPerfect Eadric (Arcadia, 2019)

More info coming soon...

Level Up: Overcoming Barriers to Student Success

Time: Sunday

Presenters: Maranda Kotchman (Waynesburg, 2016), Caley Glisan (Waynesburg, 2014), Katie Flanigan (Waynesburg, 2013)

Who is the student of today and how can we help them thrive in their pursuit of education and life after school? Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we will dissect the attributes of Gen Z students and assess their particular needs that have an impact on education at the middle school, high school, and college level (as presented by three Viras in these areas). All Viras (especially those in education and youth/young adult-related roles) will have the opportunity to evaluate their own programs, practices, services, or products in their line of work to better support Gen Z students in overcoming barriers towards their ultimate success. This presentation will include breakout discussions on areas such as mental health, creating a Gen Z-supportive workplace environment, and COVID-19 repercussions for the future, and will create a learning space for educators to share best practices.

How They Got Away with Murder: The Impact of Racism on Healthcare

Time: Sunday

Presenters: Trina Van (Temple, 2016), Vanessa LaBryer (Pitt Oakland, 2020)

Systemic racism affects a person’s health even before they are born. For instance, there are twice as many preterm babies born to Black women than to White women, which can severely affect their quality of life. Black women are also four times more likely to die due to childbirth complications than White women. This disparity is linked to racially-charged myths among the medical community, such as the false belief that Black people feel less pain than White people due to “less sensitive nerve endings.” The program will begin with a lecture discussing slavery and segregation and their impact on the Black community and other minorities in terms of access to housing and education, food insecurity, transgenerational trauma, and other socioeconomic barriers. For example, the history of redlining has decreased the number of public services available to minorities, ultimately affecting their health. The lecture will also highlight examples of institutional racism in science and medicine. Institutionalized racism, prejudice, and implicit bias in healthcare can perpetuate social and health disparities and affect patient care. The lecture will also compare the quality of physical and mental health of Black women in Pittsburgh to other U.S. cities as well as discuss how Black and Latinx communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. There will also be a discussion on the Philadelphia Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study as it relates to racism as a social determinant of health. Furthermore, the issue of mistreatment in medicine based on race is seen globally, so the lecture will discuss specific examples. Breakout rooms will be created thereafter so attendees can discuss health disparities they have seen nationally and internationally. Finally, the program will encourage attendees to advocate for anti-racist curricula in education at all levels and in all fields. It will also encourage attendees to learn and teach others while mitigating our own unconscious biases.

Leadership During Crisis: International Reactions to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Time: Sunday

Presenter: Lydia Brewer (Temple, 2019)

COVID-19 has caused great turmoil across international borders, whether it be in economic, social or political aspects. It has been nearly six months since the weight of a world pandemic was announced and understood. Differences in culture, beliefs, government, society and more have led to initial thoughts (Mar-Apr) having changed drastically in comparison to more recent announcements (July-Aug). It is also worth noting that during this overall time period (Mar-Aug), rates of cases, hospitalizations and deaths have possibly risen, plateaued, and/or fallen depending on the state or region; sometimes a combination of all three. This presentation will explore the responses of a number of international actors in their fight against COVID-19. Some states have gone from high hospitalization rates to a return to normalcy, while others may now find themselves in a worse place than they were six months ago. There are many factors in these differing trends per country, yet one of the most important is the government itself. Leadership is important no matter the circumstance, but especially more so in times of crisis. The COVID-19 Pandemic has proven to be a true time of crisis; different countries' systems of leadership have reacted in different ways, whether it be for the better or worse.

Place & Space: Representation & Engagement

Time: Sunday

Panelist: Kelly Wall (Duquesne, 2018)

Intern Tales from the Smithsonian Institution: For this session, cohorts would be open to learning about the women’s history initiative at the Smithsonian Institution. As a past intern, I was fortunate enough to learn from museum professionals, collaborate with various institution projects, and develop curriculum for an upcoming exhibit set to premiere in the National Museum of American History. While historic sites and museums strive to create more inclusive spaces for visitors through programming as well as exhibits, audiences learn that museums are far from neutral and play a significant role in shaping historic narratives in the nation.

Panelist: Sarah Greenwald (UPJ, 2011)

Beyond the Cliché: Place-Based Understandings of Culture: We have all seen the tourist photos: holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal resting in our hand, kissing the Great Sphinx of Giza, and the list goes on. But if we take time to go beyond these clichés, the built environment around us––wherever we are––becomes so much more than a static prop. Vibrant, rich, and full of detail, it reflects the history, culture, and values of the people who use it. As such, historic built environments are the key to gaining a deeper understanding of other cultures and ways of living. Looking up allows the built environment—and the culture it reflects—to come to the forefront of the picture.

FAKE NEWS: How technology is using us and how to fight back

Time: Sunday

Presenters: Laurel Murray (Robert Morris, 2017), Tahmina Ahmed (Chatham, 2015)

This deep dive session will explore how technology has manipulated its users’ data to create outputs of disinformation. We will first give an overview of how the internet has evolved since its creation and the impact on society’s trust in the information that we digest everyday. From there, we will discuss the problematic issues happening currently (data privacy, political sway domestically and foreign, etc) and the future impacts if not addressed through education, action, and regulation. This session will conclude with interactive education to teach the participants how to keep themselves safe and smart while also stopping the spread of disinformation. Additionally, the interactive education will also include teaching the participants how to have conversations online and in person with people in their community to avert disinformation and protect their data privacy.