Coffee with Cool Women series now includes alumni speakers

The Women’s Studies program has presented its Coffee with Cool Women (CWCW) series for three years, but this semester will see the biggest change to the program – the inclusion of SIUE alumni as speakers.

Alumna Megan Smith, who currently works at the domestic violence shelter St. Martha’s Hall, will be the first alumni to speak when she returns to campus April 8. Smith said she will discuss her experiences at St. Martha’s Hall, her practicum experience with Safe Connections and ways to eliminate and reduce sexual and domestic violence.

“I just hope [the students who attend] learn something about sexual and domestic violence,” Smith said. “If nothing else, just how to help foster healthy relationships and how important communication [and] healthy relationships are in just day-to-day life.”

The first CWCW speaker of the semester, former Chief Judge of Madison County Ann Callis, has had a relationship with SIUE for the past few months – at which time she began working with the political science department. Callis will visit SIUE for CWCW at 11 a.m., Feb. 13, in Peck Hall 0306. She said she agreed to speak for the event to connect with “young women who are our community’s future leaders.”

Callis plans to discuss her “experience as woman becoming a judge and running for Congress” and will answer questions from students.

“I hope [students] get a better understanding of what a career in government can look like,” Callis said. “I hope they are inspired to get involved in their community and become active participants in the political process.”

Callis herself is looking forward to hearing attendees’ thoughts about the world today.

“I’d love to hear what issues they care about and problems they want to see addressed,” Callis said.

Lt. Carole Presson, of the Madison County Sheriff’s office’s sex crimes unit/juvenile division, will also speak this semester. Her event will be held at 11 a.m., March 4, in Peck Hall 3407.

Women’s studies program chair Catherine Seltzer said the program tries to ask women from “a variety of professions” to speak throughout each academic year. Despite the varied backgrounds, the women, according to Seltzer, “always seem to complement each other in really wonderful ways.”

Speakers touch on topics ranging from a career overview to balancing work and home life, and the conversations, according to Seltzer, unfold “in a really organic way.”

Students, according to Smith, can get more out of a CWCW event than in a classroom setting.

Similarly, Callis said CWCW is an “incredible opportunity for both the students and the women who participate.”

“Unfortunately, there are still glass ceilings and barriers that women need to break in our society,” Callis said. “I think encouraging young women to strive towards success and providing them positive role models is an important step towards breaking those barriers. And for the professional women, it provides a new inspiration and energy to see the next generation’s enthusiasm.”

The idea of a CWCW series, according to Seltzer, spurred from conversations she had with friends and colleagues about their inspirations and mentoring others.

“Sometimes when we’re confronted [with] images of very, very successful women, they seem utterly unlike us…,” Seltzer said. “We wanted to have a series where students would actually get to meet women… [and] get to know them as people.”

Seltzer said the department enforces the limit of students in attendance to between six and 10 because “that’s when it really feels like a very balanced conversation.”

“[That] makes it special for everyone in the room,” Seltzer said.

Students interested in attending any of the semester’s events are encouraged to RSVP to Seltzer at Limited seating is available.

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