Pennsylvania Western University will host the Women in Focus conference from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 14 at Cranberry Regional Learning Alliance. The goal of the conference is to bring together a network of women to discuss their identities and experiences in higher education, including highlighting common barriers women face in university leadership, classrooms and departments.

The daylong event will include guest speakers, an interactive panel discussion and breakout sessions. Dr. Laurie Bernotsky, acting president of PennWest, will present the keynote address.

Dr. Stephanie Adam, associate professor in PennWest Department of Management and Marketing, developed the conference. She selected speakers who are diverse in age, stage of career, ethnicity and position.

“Every speaker is someone whose dynamic style of engaging audiences I have experienced,” Adam said. “I want us to laugh, interact and find commonalities.”

She hopes to foster an environment of empathy.

“For example, I am a professor. I know the struggles I face, but I don’t always know the struggles an administrator or staff person faces. And I certainly think we all have room to grow in understanding students,” Adam said.

Although the conference focuses on empowering and equipping women in the modern era of education, men are welcome to attend.

In addition to Bernotsky, speakers include:

• Dr. Deborah Calhoun, professor emeritus at Notre Dame of Maryland University and a management consultant, who will present “Dancing Backwards in High Heels: Men are Professors and Women are Female Professors,” and

• Lisa Hernandez, chief human resources officer and Title IX coordinator at Robert Morris University, who will present “Good Enough – The Delicate Art of Balancing Obligations and Avoiding Burnout.”

The PennWest Panel will present “The Struggle Can Be Real: Finding, Keeping and Growing a Career,” in which students, faculty and staff address questions related to interactions in their professional and educational lives. Panelists include:

Dr. Candice Riley, assistant professor in PennWest Department of Management and Marketing;

• Rhonda Gifford, executive director of Experiential Learning & Employer Engagement with the PennWest Center for Career & Professional Development;

• Lynne Fleisher, director of Online Student Services and Support, Clarion lead success coach; and

• PennWest students Tamiya Thomas and Grace Hansmann.

Mattie Sloneker and Marcia DePaula will lead breakout sessions.

Sloneker will present “Building Leadership Potential through the College Experience: A Student Perspective.” She is a 2022 PennWest California BSBA graduate and current student in the Master of Accountancy program. She is a graduate assistant for the Department of Management and Marketing and the Department of Finance, Accounting and Economics, and a tax intern for Deluzio & Company.

DePaula, an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, Pittsburgh, will present “Legal Obstacles Faced by Women in Higher Education.” DePaula’s practice focuses on labor and employment law and higher education. She earned her juris doctorate at University of Pittsburgh.

Registration cost is $30, which includes a light breakfast and lunch. To register or for more information, click here or visit More information is also available by contacting Adam at