Search Shop
Jul 19, 2022

POWER Experiences Inaugural Leadership Conference

Clemson, S.C. –  POWER, a one-of-a-kind leadership program for female Clemson student-athletes, went to Chicago, Illinois on June 15-18 for its first leadership conference. Eleven talented female student-athletes from six different sports flew in to gain experience in identity, professional presence, self-leadership and community from well-respected women in the Chicago area. Director of Student-Athlete Development, Tori Nieman, and Athletic Leadership Graduate Program Lecturer, Dr. Janna Magette Butler, created an array of opportunities for the student-athletes, both fun and transformative, that made the trip so memorable.

After arriving in Chicago, the group headed to Nordstrom to meet with multiple stylists to help the student-athletes learn to create a business professional look that could be worn in interviews after graduating. With a set budget and the ability to build an outfit they felt comfortable and confident in, all eleven women felt better prepared for the future and energized for the endless opportunities Chicago would provide. 

Later that night, the group met with Shontelle Dodson, Executive Vice President and head of medical affairs, and Nahrin Sapper Marion, Senior Vice President and Legal Head of Commercial, Regulatory and Privacy at Astellas, a successful pharmaceutical company. The student-athletes learned about professional development, what it means to be a woman in a position of leadership and much more. For dinner the group enjoyed a wonderful meal at the iconic Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse in downtown Chicago. 

The next morning the group learned about the incredible ability to gain leadership skills through improv. Led by founder of Learn Improveit, Clemson grad and former Rally Cat, Erin Diehl, and Cristy Mercier, the student-athletes opened up, sang, danced, acted and played, and in the end, became comfortable in their own skin. In the afternoon, POWER met with Erika Fay for a maximum achievement coaching season. The women learned the power of a positive attitude and mindset and how to defeat limiting beliefs to pursue the greatest results in the classroom and on the field.

The night session of day two was a highlight for all of POWER as they had the chance to meet with multiple successful business women in the Chicago area. From athletic directors to lawyers to directors of marketing, these women have achieved incredible success and were able to pass on words of advice, networking opportunities and answer questions for our student-athletes. They were encouraged by the fact that many of the women in the room were former student-athletes, showing that they will have incredible opportunities of their own post graduation. The night concluded with a fun night of competition at SPIN, a local ping pong social club.

On Friday morning, the group took a trip to the Gatorade facility, a generous sponsor of Clemson Athletics, in downtown Chicago for a tour and panel with five women who work in communications, marketing and advertising for Gatorade. The group was blown away by the facility and the opportunities that employees of Gatorade have. Members of POWER asked their staff great questions and ended up answering questions that the Gatorade women needed from the perspective of a powerful, female student-athlete. The trip was incredible, and the whole group received personalized Gatorade water bottles as a thank you for the visit.

The afternoon was spent planning for Clemson’s inaugural leadership summit on July 16th before meeting with the author of “Sidelined,” Julie DiCaro. She discussed her experience as a woman in sports with the student-athletes and pushed them to go outside of their comfort zone and encouraged them to never settle for anything less than. The night concluded with a WNBA game, cheering on the Chicago Sky to an overtime win at Wintrust Arena.

On the last day the group recapped the trip, explained how influential this opportunity was for them and their personal development, and how inspired they felt heading back to campus for another unbelievable year. Tears of joy were shed and friendships were made that will last forever. POWER explored the city and partook in a photoshoot to help them feel confident, beautiful and empowered. 

“Chicago was a trip that I will be grateful for forever,” says senior rower Chloe O’Brien. “We were able to meet with and learn from so many incredible women who have helped pave the path for us in areas of the corporate world where not many women have had the opportunity to walk before. My favorite quote that I took away from the trip was ‘if you can see her you can be her.’ I’m excited to use the momentum I gained on this trip to keep climbing towards my goals and lift other women up with me on the way!”

“It is hard to truly put into words what POWER: Women’s Leadership Academy has meant to our first cohort and what it will mean for future cohorts of young women that will follow,” says Senior Associate for Sports Administration and Senior Woman’s Administrator, Stephanie Ellison-Johnson. “In addition to placing our young women in a position to hone their leadership abilities, this program has provided an avenue for them to build a sense of community within peers here at Clemson that they can take with them forever. To have witnessed the life-long connections this group made with each other and with administration is priceless!”

Without the support of IPTAY and our generous donors Clemson Athletics would not be in a position to provide our deserving young women with leadership and networking opportunities to meet with female industry leaders.  This experiential trip put our women in a position to strengthen their skills but most importantly the chance to connect with their fellow female student-athletes.