Coffee With Cool Women series begins today

Women’s Studies program chair Catherine Seltzer started bringing real-world conversations to campus about a year and a half ago when she created the Coffee with Cool Women series.

“I was talking with colleagues and friends and asking my successful friends how they got to where they are, and part of what they said was it wasn’t necessarily all classroom experience,” Seltzer said. “It was seeing someone in the field that they were interested in and just thinking that they were really fantastic and wanting to be that wonderful themselves…”

Seltzer said students mostly have access to faculty – the “academic arm” of fields they may be interested in.

“So [the idea behind Coffee With Cool Women was] bringing a number of women in who have done really wonderful things to sort of talk about their experiences, highs and lows, challenges and struggles and joys to really tell their real-world stories,” Seltzer said.

The first Coffee With Cool Women event of the semester occurs, today – Monday, Jan. 28 – at noon in Peck Hall 3417 with Nancy Cambria, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cambria said she plans to talk about her beat, which is children and families reporting. She covers issues regarding at-risk children and families and children in foster care. Cambria said she tries to get into areas the general public does not “necessarily see where policies have a lot of impact.”

“I think journalism is still a really vibrant career and an important one,” Cambria said. “I really want to encourage women to take a look at it [and] see what they can do with it.”

Jennifer Horney, director of the University of North Carolina Center for Public Health Preparedness, is a former Coffee With Cool Women speaker who discussed her career in public health.

“I agreed to participate to share my path to a career that I really love. It wasn’t a straight line by any means,” Horney said.

Horney has a master’s in art history and worked for roughly six years before discovering public health “by reading a book by Laurie Garrett, a public health advisor to President Bill Clinton.”

Horney said she thinks the series is a “great idea.”

“Often what we learn in the classroom doesn’t prepare us for the world we have to deal with when we start looking for a job,” Horney said, “and we might find our life’s work in a place that we didn’t even know about.”

Seltzer said Coffee With Cool Women has balanced the Women’s Studies program “in a really wonderful way.”

“The idea is that it mirrors going out to coffee with someone you’ve always wanted to meet…,” Seltzer said.

The point of Coffee With Cool Women, according to Selzter, is that it showcases a “really diverse group of women with really interesting stories to tell.”

Cambria said the concept of Coffee With Cool Women is “fantastic.”

“I think that women always needs to be hyperaware of where they stand in the workforce…,” Cambria said.

Seltzer said though the program is “housed within Women’s Studies” and specifically brings in women speakers, they “absolutely welcome men to these sessions.”

“The name really is focused on the cool women who are our guests… and the significance of it is, again, the idea of casual, candid conversation we just don’t have a lot of space for otherwise because we’re engaged in different kinds of conversations so often on campus,” Seltzer said.

Future speakers for this semester include Bev George, a local real estate agent, and Elizabeth Massie, who is a director, producer and writer.

Seating for the events is limited. Those interested in attending should RSVP to Seltzer at

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