Hartford, Connecticut, February 23, 2017 – Trinity College’s Women’s Leadership Council recently hosted a celebration of the first four years of Venture, a pre-orientation women’s leadership conference for incoming first-year students, as the inaugural cohort of Venture participants prepares to graduate this spring. The event on February 11 brought together all four classes of Venture students and other women involved with the program to acknowledge its success thus far and to honor the seniors who are about to begin their next chapter after Trinity.
Venture is a three-day pre-orientation conference held in August during which incoming first-year women can explore their leadership skills and meet fellow female classmates, upper-year mentors, faculty and staff members, trustees, and alumnae. Vice President for Information Services and Chief Information Officer Sue Aber, one of the program’s founders, said Venture was designed to create an opportunity for highly motivated women to begin their college careers at Trinity on a positive note, as they make the transition from high school to college.
During the event Barbara Walden
, associate professor of physics and one of the founding members of the Venture Planning Committee, shared statistics about the accomplishments of participants. A survey of Venture participants showed that 85 percent lead a campus organization, serving as president or on the executive board. Venture women participate in 107 different extracurricular groups including sports teams, Greek life, a capella groups, cultural houses, academic clubs, and community service clubs, and work for organizations such as the Office of Enrollment and Student Success and the Writing Center. After Walden cited these statistics, she noted that 45 percent of Venture participants are roommates after the program, which speaks to the level of connections made during this three-day conference.
Hadley Queiroz ’20, the first-year class president, said, “Not only did [Venture members] help me get elected and help me with my campaign, they gave me the confidence to go for it.” Originally from Brazil, Queiroz was raised in Iowa and Venture was her first introduction to campus. “Venture really set my expectations for the rest of my year, as well as the tone for the semester, and it was the best introduction to Trinity College that I could have received,” she said.
Another participant, Caroline McKenna ’19, spoke about how her experience in Venture led to her involvement in the Mock Trial team, the Moveable Joints comedy improvisation group, and the Writing Associates Program. “A lot of the things I’m involved with on campus all come back to Venture,” she said.
Joan Hedrick, Charles A. Dana Professor of History, one of the founders of Venture, was recognized for her work on the program. Hedrick was presented with the book, The Firebrand and the First Lady: A Portrait of a Friendship, which has been added to the Trinity Library Collection in Hedrick’s honor as a symbol of her dedication and leadership to the program and the College. Hedrick, who was the first program chair, recently stepped down from that role as she enters phased retirement after 36 years at the College.
The seniors who were among the first Venture class and continued with the program as mentors through their senior year were presented honor cords to wear at graduation (see photo above). Maggie Elias ’17, one of the senior mentors honored at the event, said, “I decided to become a mentor because I wanted to give back and help the program that was so incredibly beneficial to me.”
Elias’ mentor when she was a first-year Venture participant, Serena Elavia ’14, attended the event as well. “What this program really teaches you is how to put yourself out there, how to network, how to be ambitious, and also to celebrate that ambition,” Elavia said. Reflecting on her involvement with the students in the program, Elavia said, “It has been an amazing journey these last four years to watch them grow into the women that they are today.”
Among the event attendees were Trinity Board of Trustees members Nina McNeely Diefenbach ’80, P’18, Elizabeth Elting ’87, and Vice Chair Jean M. Walshe ’83, managing director at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Walshe said, “Four years ago when I was asked to be on the panel to present to the Venture students, I was really excited by the opportunity for incoming freshmen to gather together and hear from women leaders and become inspired to network and empower each other to get the most out of the experience at Trinity.” Walshe has attended the conference every year since.
The planning committee and current mentors are pleased with the program’s success thus far and are optimistic about its future. Naty Bush ’19, one of the mentors for the Class of 2020, spoke about the program’s advancement. “Even though the program is only four years old, it’s already so well organized and transforms the lives of 40 girls in just three days, which shows just how powerful it is to be surrounded by leaders like yourself,” Bush said.
Aber said, “The program evolves over time so as we see a need and feel like we can help the students, we try to bridge that gap.” The Venture Planning Committee had a dinner in December with Venture’s seniors to help get a better understanding of their career aspirations and connect the students with Trinity’s vast network of alumni. Aber hopes that graduating Venture women will return to the campus as part of the Women’s Leadership Council to create a lasting connection to Trinity.
For more information about Venture, click here.
Written by Sophia Gourley ’19