USC Women’s Conference: Thrive Together

Thank you for joining our first-ever virtual USC Women’s Conference!

The two-day program featured several dynamic speakers, including USC President Carol L. Folt. We focused on a wide range of timely and thought-provoking subjects, from the groundbreaking advances women have made in politics, medicine and business, to the importance of making a positive social impact.

If you missed any sessions, recordings from the conference are available on-demand on our Youtube channel.

For conference highlights follow:
@USCWomensConference #USCWC

2021 Women's Conference: Thrive Together

2021 Conference Schedule*

Friday, March 5, 2021

Mainstage Program – Morning Session

8:00 – 8:45 a.m.
Registration and event platform opens

8:45 – 8:50 a.m.

  • Sophia Dion, Singer/Songwriter

8:50 – 9:00 a.m.
Welcome and Introduction of Keynote

  • Terri Chan ’95, MS ’00, MBA ’08, Viterbi & Marshall, Co-Chair
  • Cari Berg ’89, Annenberg, Co-Chair

9:00 – 9:30 a.m.
Keynote with President Carol L. Folt

9:30 – 9:35 a.m.

  • Courtney Fortune ’12, Thornton, Singer-Songwriter

9:35 – 9:45 a.m.

9:55 – 10:10 a.m.
Be the CEO of Your Career

Much of what we’ve been taught about managing our careers is wrong. We’re going to dissolve 3 myths that keep professionals from becoming the CEOs of their careers and break down what to do instead.

  • Asia Bribiesca-Hedin MPA’95, MBA’98, Sol Price & Marshall, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Bridgewell LLC

10:10 – 10:55 a.m.
Breaking Barriers and Changing the Status Quo

  • Carol Geffner MPA ’78, Sol Price, Professor of the Practice of Governance, Management and Policy, and Director, Executive Master in Leadership Program, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
  • Denise Eger ’82, Dornsife, Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami
  • Stayce Harris ’81, Viterbi, Lt. General (Retired), U.S. Air Force
  • Jennifer Grasso ML’18, Sol Price, Sergeant, Los Angeles Police Department

10:55 – 11:00 a.m.
Morning Session Closing Remarks

  • Pasha Hawthorne, Director of Regional and Engagement Programs, USC Alumni Association

Healthy Living, Social Impact, Networking, Thrive Career Lounge

11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
School programs

Mainstage Program – Afternoon Session

2:00 – 2:05 p.m.

  • The Spirit of Troy

2:05 – 2:10 p.m.
Afternoon Welcome

  • Cari Berg ’89

2:10 – 2:50 p.m.
Don’t Wait for a Seat at the Table, Build Your Own

  • Jennifer Berson JD’01, Gould, President and Founder, Jeneration PR – Moderator
  • Paige Adams-Geller ’13, Annenberg, Founder & Creative Director, PAIGE
  • Vanessa Dew MBA ’13, Marshall, Co-Founder & Chief Sales Officer, Health-Ade Kombucha
  • Terri Horton EdD ’18, Rossier, Workplace Futurist & Consultant

2:50 – 3:00 p.m.

3:05 – 3:15 p.m.
Make Moves Not Excuses

We can be our greatest ignitor of potential, while at times, the single most limiting factor in our own lives. The word “should” gets in the way, along with the stories we tell ourselves about why we can do it later or aren’t quite good enough yet. Start making moves and stop should-ing on yourself with these mental skills.

  • Nicole Davis ’04, Dornsife, U.S. Volleyball Olympian & Mindset Coach

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.
Transformational Leadership During a Global Crisis

  • Felicia Washington, Senior Vice President for Human Resources, University of Southern California

3:30 – 3:40 p.m.

Don’t Tell Me to Smile

  • Heather McDonald ’92, Annenberg, Actress, Comedian and Author

3:40 – 3:45 p.m.
Afternoon Closing Remarks

  • Danielle E. Harvey ’00, ML’19, Rossier & Sol Price, Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations, University of Southern California

Healthy Living, Social Impact, Networking, Thrive Career Lounge

3:45 – 5:00 p.m.
School Programs

5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
School Receptions

6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Cardinal Table Talk

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Healthy Living, Social Impact, Networking, Thrive Career Lounge

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
School programs

Mainstage Program – Morning Session

9:00 – 9:05 a.m.
Welcome and Introductions

  • Terri Chan ’95, MS ’00, MBA ’08 and Cari Berg ’89

9:05 – 9:55 a.m.
From Women’s Suffrage to the White House: A 101-Year Journey

  • Christina Bellatoni, Professor of Professional Practice and Director, USC Annenberg Media Center, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism – Moderator
  • Nannette Barragán JD ’05, Gould, U.S. Representative for California’s 44th Congressional District
  • Jill Darling, Survey Director, Understanding America Study, USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research
  • Franita Tolson, Vice Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law

9:55 – 10:05 a.m.

10:00 – 10:05 a.m.

  • Natalie Litza Cadet, Singer, Songwriter, Arranger, Pianist and Producer

10:05 – 10:50 a.m.
Together We Are More: A Conversation on Allyship

  • LaVonna Lewis, Teaching Professor of Public Policy and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy – Moderator
  • Rockwell (Rocky) Chin, JD ’74, Gould,  Member, New York City Commission on Human Rights and Retired Government Civil Rights Attorney
  • John Iino JD ’87, Gould, Diversity Equity & Inclusion Global Chair, Reed Smith LLP and President, USC Alumni Association Board of Governors
  • Merle Vaughn ’80, Marshall, National Law Firm Diversity Practice Leader,  Major, Lindsey & Africa

10:50 – 11:00 a.m.
Your Hidden Superpower

  • Adrienne Bankert, Annenberg, National News Correspondet with ABC News

11:00 – 11:05 a.m.
Closing Remarks

  • Danielle E. Harvey ’00, ML’19, Rossier & Sol Price, Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations, USC Alumni Association
  • Pasha Hawthorne, Director of Regional and Engagement Programs, USC Alumni Association

11:05 – 11:10 a.m.

  • This Spirit of Troy

Healthy Living, Social Impact, Networking, Thrive Career Lounge

11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
School programs

3:00 p.m.
Conference Concludes

* Schedule is tentative. Updates to the conference schedule will be announced in early February. Sessions may include the following topics: professional development, politics, mental health & wellness, social impact, women and technology, sustainability, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Whether you are a first-time job seeker or a seasoned professional, we offer professional development services for everyone in our Thrive Career Lounge. Take a professional headshot using the virtual photo booth, receive resume and LinkedIn advice, and listen to programs about “Navigating Power Structures” and “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome.”


Friday, March 5 

11:00a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Flexibility is the New Currency: Advocating for Yourself At Work
Presented by USC Career Center
According to a Pew Research Center survey, over 50 percent of employees want to continue working from home post-pandemic. Employer, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Salesforce, and others, have moved into a new digital world and the cloud. Many women find it challenging to advocate for themselves at work. Some have desires to work flexible schedules, work from home options, while others desire a pay increase, promotions, new projects, and opportunities. What can women do to communicate what they want to their supervisors and employers?

Join Dr. Chelsea Johnson, Sr. UX Researcher at LinkedIn, Sociologist and Author, Maggie Hazelrig, Executive Recruiting & Talent Advisory at Google, and Madeline Mann, Talent Development Manager at Inspire, Career Coach and Creator of Self-Made Millennial for this riveting conversation. The panel will be moderated by Lori Shreve Blake, Senior Director for Alumni and Student Career Services, USC Career Center.

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Women and Power Dynamics in the Workplace
This discussion will focus on women’s leadership in the context of structures of power—and how to navigate power changes at different stages of one’s career. The panel will also explore important sources of support as one navigates these power structures.

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
USC Women in Entrepreneurship: Venture Capital and Fundraising
Presented by USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Tracy Dooley ’02, partner at Avestria Ventures, Samantha Scott MS ’09, PhD ‘14, CEO of Junebrain, and other special guest panelists examine the landscape of venture capital opportunities for female entrepreneurs.

Building an Inclusive Leadership Culture
Presented by USC Marshall School of Business
A panel of distinguished executive women detail their career journeys. Learn about their leadership styles and how they have built inclusive corporate cultures. A collaboration between the USC Marshall Alumni Association, Marshall Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Network of Executive Women.


Saturday, March 6

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Owning Your Success
Join Amy Sanchez, MBA ’10, Executive Career and Leadership Coach, CEO of Swim Against the Current, Dr. LaQuista Erinna, MSW ’13, Owner of THRIVE Behavioral Health & Consulting, LLC, and Renee Dominguez, MS ’16, Founder, Empowered LeadHERship in a discussion that focuses on addressing imposter syndrome in your career and everyday life. Our panelists will provide insight into combatting this phenomenon, while also explaining tangible ways you can prevent this feeling from returning.

Pre-Recorded Content
Behind the Business: The NBA and Golden State Warriors
Presented by USC Marshall School of Business
Jennifer Cabalquinto, the former CFO and current special advisor of the Golden State Warriors, examines the Warriors’ business operations, including the development of their new arena, building a championship organization, adjusting for a pandemic season, and much more.

Navigating the Job Search in Uncertain Times
Presented by USC Rossier & USC Career Center
Are you searching for your next opportunity and feeling discouraged by the current job market? Hear from career services experts offering timely tips and advice. Alumnae who overcame challenging job markets will share their success strategies.

Strategizing Your Next Move Post COVID-19
Presented by USC Career Center
As Trojans, we always have a competitive edge in the job market. However, we may need to employ new strategies in these most unprecedented circumstances. Join representatives from the USC Career Center, along with prominent alumni in the fields of human resources and the U.S. economy.

Confident Woman: Command Your Worth in the Workplace
Presented by USC Career Center
Join the discussion with Velera Wilson ’01, author of the upcoming book, You’re Absolutely Worth It: Release Self-Doubt, Embrace Confidence, and Own Your Yes. Wilson will share her perspective on the challenges and opportunities women have in leading with confidence in their careers, relationships and everyday life.


Around the world, USC alumnae are making a positive difference in the lives of others and their communities.  Meet some of these Trojan trailblazers, who are breaking new ground in sustainability, STEM and more.

Friday, March 5

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Building Towards a Healthy and Just Global Future: It Takes a Village
Presented by Keck School of Medicine
Sofia Gruskin, Director of the USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, leads us on the path to affecting social/global change. Learn how the institute is confronting the broad spectrum of health-related disparities in our communities and how can we can help lead the charge for a more just and healthy world.

11:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.
Ruth Lavine: A Centennial Celebration
Presented by USC Gould School of Law
USC Gould celebrates a century of women’s suffrage and the centennial of cherished alumna Ruth Lavine LLB ’43. Lavine’s experience at USC, as an immigrant and woman in the 1940s, shaped who she is today and benefited others who walked in her footsteps.

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Pipeline to the Future: STEM and Empowering the Women of Tomorrow
The “leaky pipeline” metaphor is used to describe the way women become underrepresented in STEM fields. Learn how to repair that pipeline from our panelists, who are empowering girls and young women to enter and stay in STEM fields.


Saturday, March 6 

11:30 a.m.  – 12:30 p.m.
Racial Injustice in the Criminal System
Presented by USC Gould School of Law
USC faculty member Heidi Rummel, director and supervising attorney of the USC Post-Conviction Justice Project, brings together former clients and USC Gould students for this discussion, part of the series In Pursuit of Justice: Conversations on Inequality and Activism.

1:30 p.m.  – 12:30 p.m.
Fighting for the Future: Making Sustainability the Cause of the Present
With the growing concern of climate change, environmental advocacy is defining the movement toward sustainability. Learn how different alumnae are leading the drive toward a healthier planet.



Connect with former classmates in USC schools’ virtual receptions and come together in Cardinal Table Talk to discuss various topics in a safe space.

Friday, March 5

5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
School and Program Receptions

  • USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
  • USC Lambda LGBTQ Alumni Association
  • USC Marshall of School of Business

6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Cardinal Table Talk
Presented by the Trojan Women’s Network
These small-group discussions are the perfect opportunity to ask questions, share experiences and make connections in a safe and judgment-free setting. Topics include mental health and wellness, allyship, work/life balance, and other issues experienced by women around the globe. Topics include:

  • #Me Too: Where Are We Now?
  • Daily Practices for Mindfulness and Meditation
  • How the Pandemic is Impacting Gender Roles
  • Living Your Best Life After Retirement
  • Living Your Life with Purpose
  • Overcoming Grief with Resiliency
  • We Are the Sandwich Generation


Saturday, March 6

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
The Women of Cinematic Arts (WCA): Reframing Diversity Programs – What Comes Next? 
Presented by Women of Cinematic Arts and YEA Impact

Reframing Diversity Programs – What Comes Next? is a discussion of diversity programs in entertainment– where do they exist, what benefits do they offer, and where do they fall short? SCA graduates in production, games, and animation will share their journeys as graduates of industry diversity programs. Afterwards, join us for networking and a discussion of how we can break down barriers and thrive in the entertainment industry together.



Watch cooking demonstrations in our Trojan Kitchen, attend virtual workouts in Hecuba’s Fitness Center, and learn valuable tips for staying healthy, mentally and physically.

Hecuba’s Fitness Center

Friday, March 5

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
U-Jam fitness
Featuring Tiana Dudley ’05

U-Jam Fitness is an addictive dance fitness format that will make you move, sweat, and smile. Expect funky, adrenaline-based urban beats from around the world, with easy-to-follow choreography.

Saturday, March 6

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Tai Chi
Featuring Melody Zhang

Tai Chi is not about being perfect in every body movement, but about a habit of practicing self-love and nurturing the soul. This beginner-friendly routine, called Ba Duan Jin, requires minimal space and is extremely effective for stretching the muscles and relieving body pain.

Pre-recorded Content
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workout
Featuring Krista Witherspoon, MS ’19

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the perfect form of exercise to get you going. This 15-minute lunch HIIT is beginner-friendly and easy enough to do at home.


Trojan Kitchen

Saturday, March 6

12:00 – 1: 30 p.m.
Lunch Cooking Demonstration with JacMarket

Craving a good burger, but also trying to eat healthy? Great news: we’ve got the plant-based burger solution for you!

If you’ve been wanting to try cooking with plant-based products but didn’t know where to start, we’ve just made it easy…Join us for a LIVE online cook-along demo with a Jacmarket personal chef, featuring some of the hottest plant-based products on the market!

How it works:

  • Click on the link to to purchase your Chef-curated plant-based box.
  • Each box will have all the ingredients you need to attend the cook-along class.
  • Jacmarket boxes will be carefully packaged and delivered to your home, arriving at least 24 hours before the event.
  • Join our Jacmarket Chef on March 6th at 12:00 pm (pst) as we have an exclusive LIVE cooking class.

Each box is priced at a flat-rate of $80 (including shipping) and contains all the ingredients you need to execute this amazing meal. We will walk you through the new world of vegan & plant-based foods, field your questions, and cook together in REAL-TIME to make one of the tastiest burgers you’ve ever had!

Menu (serves 2):

Meatless Farms® plant-based burgers topped with caramelized onions & balsamic glaze, served on KRMA Foods’ vegan buns with creamy Violife vegan cheese, and served alongside oven-roasted rosemary heirloom potatoes.

Boxes are limited to 100 attendees, so sign up now to guarantee your spot! Deadline to order your box is Sunday, February 28th at 5pm (pst)


Pre-recorded Content
Paco’s Ribeye Fajitas with Christina Karagias
Join Chef Roberto Sanchez and owner Christina Karagias ’80 of Paco’s Mexican restaurant in Arcadia, CA, as they demonstrate how to prepare ribeye fajitas, rice and beans. This is a dish the entire family can enjoy!


Health & Wellness Programs

Saturday, March 6

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Breathwork: A Guided Journey to Peace and Tranquility
Featuring Priyanka Pradeep, MS ’14

What holds us back from achieving peace, joy, clarity, and dynamism? Our own minds! Priyanka Pradeep MS ’14 will guide fellow Trojans through the use of practical tools such as breathwork and meditation to manage the mind so that you can achieve ultimate peace.

Pre-recorded Content
Health and Wellness: Polarity Therapy with Tiza Wiley
Presented by the USC Marshall Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Explore the body and mind connection with polarity exercises and the five elements of polarity therapy: earth, water fire, air and ether. Relieve common areas of discomfort from excessive computer use and sitting.

Mindful Meditation

Featuring Cyn Low ’98

Find equilibrium and self-healing through slowing down. By slowing down in the body, we find that the nervous system and mind follow—allowing for rest and deep relaxation so the body can recuperate. No equipment needed, but feel free to bring a pillow, blanket and any additional support for your back and knees.


About USC Women’s Conference

The USC Women’s Conference is held in March during International Women’s Month and brings together women of all ages and backgrounds—alumnae, parents, students and friends—for two days of programs and activities designed to inspire and empower them to create positive change in their personal lives, their communities and the world.

12th Annual USC Women’s Conference Committee

Cari Berg ’89
Terri Chan ’95, MS ’00, MBA ’08

Committee Members
Gloria Burgess PhD ’80, MBA ’08
Karen Carr-Crawford MPA ’83
Sriratna Josyula MS ’10
Michele Kahrs ’06
Chanyn Kirtman
Monique Richards Lipman
Rebecca Meza MCG ’16
Brenna Clairr O’Tierney MA ’13
Jameelah Nuriddin ’06
Jeannie Trautman Ruckelshaus ’90
Natalia Saucedo ’19
Maithreyi Shankar ’13
Evelyn De la Vega Stewart MS ’06
Sumy Thomas
Cassandra Villa MAT ’09
Melody (Miao) Zhang MBA ’20

View photos from the 2019 conference on our Flickr page!


Cari Berg

Cari Berg ‘89

Terri Chan

Terri Chan ‘95, MS ‘00, MBA ‘08

Have questions about navigating the virtual campus platform? We’ve got you covered with this guide. Click on any section in the Table of Contents to be taken directly to the section.

MARCH 5, 2021

8:45 a.m.
Musical Performance

Sophia Dion

Sophia Dion

Sophie Dion attends the USC Thornton School of Music, majoring in popular music as a singer/songwriter. Her original music explores themes familiar to all teenagers, and she likes to call her style “alternative country-soul.” She started playing guitar at age 10, and soon began playing venues in her hometown of Park City, Utah; Dion later began performing shows and writing new music in Nashville, New York and Los Angeles. She records original songs and sings background vocals for artists with Atlantic Records. Writing is Dion’s true passion, and she is currently writing songs for the album she hopes to release in the summer of 2021.

9:00 a.m.
Keynote Address

Carol L. Folt

Carol L. Folt
President, University of Southern California
Robert C. Packard President’s Chair

Dr. Carol L. Folt serves as the twelfth president of the University of Southern California. She is a highly experienced leader, internationally recognized life scientist, and award-winning teacher. In leading USC, Dr. Folt brings broad executive and leadership experience across the academy, including arts and sciences, professional schools, and academic medicine.

Throughout her career, Dr. Folt has earned a reputation for always placing students at the center, advancing academic excellence and innovation, setting ambitious goals, prioritizing shared governance, and focusing on the future.

Prior to her appointment at USC in July 2019, Dr. Folt led the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—one of the nation’s most distinguished and research-intensive universities—from 2013 to 2019. At UNC, she set a bold course for the university’s future by spearheading a historic capital campaign, raising billions of dollars; building the school’s first-ever strategic plan in collaboration with every school and department; fighting to make college education accessible and affordable; and inspiring thousands of Tar Heels to embrace the arts and sustainability. Under her leadership, UNC was repeatedly named the No. 1 value in public higher education, surpassed $1 billion in annual research expenditures for the first time in school history (No. 5 in the nation overall), and set admissions records every year.

Prior to her tenure at UNC, Dr. Folt served in various leadership roles at Dartmouth College, including as interim president, provost, dean of faculty, and Dartmouth Professor of Biological Sciences.

An Akron, Ohio, native, Dr. Folt earned her bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology and a master’s degree in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received her doctorate in ecology from the University of California, Davis, and did postdoctoral work at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University.

Dr. Folt is married to David Peart, an emeritus professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth. They have two adult children, Noah and Tessa.

9:30 a.m.
Musical Performance

Courtney Fortune

Courtney Fortune ’12
Singer, Songwriter and Songwriting Coach

Courtney Fortune is an internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter and songwriting coach. A USC Thornton School of Music alumna, she has been recognized by the John Lennon Foundation, and is a recipient of the Brian Wilson Musical Achievement Award for her work in the songwriting field. Fortune has written and performed for major labels, television and film, pop stars and boy bands, and was even the subject of a Japanese reality TV show. She has two original studio releases, recorded at the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood. Fortune is the founder of Songmaker Sessions, a songwriting and mentorship program for teens and adults. She teaches workshops, masterclasses and speaks on topics relating to songwriting, performing, personal development and advocacy.

9:55 a.m.
Be the CEO of Your Career
Much of what we’ve been taught about managing our careers is wrong. We’re going to dissolve three myths that keep professionals from becoming the CEOs of their careers and break down what to do instead.

Asia Bribiesca-Hedin

Asia Bribiesca-Hedin MPA ’95, MBA ’98
Founder and CEO, Bridgewell LLC

Asia Bribiesca-Hedin is the founder and CEO of Bridgewell LLC, a leadership development and strategy execution firm. She helps clients gain the clarity, confidence and certainty they need to successfully accomplish their goals, even in the most uncertain environments. Bribiesca-Hedin began her career as a senior consultant with Ernst & Young, and she spent nine years at a comprehensive cancer center in the Los Angeles area, helping hospital leaders deliver on the enterprise’s multi-year strategic plan. She has recently welcomed engagements helping organizations gain traction with their anti-racism efforts, and she is currently writing a career leadership book for professionals struggling with bad bosses.  Bribiesca-Hedin is a double USC alumna who earned graduate degrees from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and the USC Marshall School of Business.

10:10 a.m.
Breaking Barriers and Changing the Status Quo
What does it take to forge your own path to success in traditionally male-dominated professions?
We’re going to hear from Trojan women who overcame gender bias and preconceived notions to reach new heights.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger

Rabbi Denise L. Eger ’82
Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami

Rabbi Denise L. Eger is an international Jewish leader and social justice activist. The founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, California, she is past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and served as the first openly gay or lesbian person in that position. Eger was also the first woman ever elected president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis. Most recently recognized by the City of Los Angeles as a trailblazer, she has won numerous awards for her leadership from the Human Rights Campaign, the City of West Hollywood, the California State Senate and State Assembly. She coaches nonprofit executives and clergy through her company ReZilience Strategies. Eger is a USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences alumna.

Carol J. Geffner

Carol J. Geffner MPA ’78
Professor of the Practice of Governance, Management and Policy
Director, Executive Master in Leadership Program
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

Carol J. Geffner is a professor of the practice of governance, management and policy and the director of the executive master of leadership program at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. She is well known for her thought leadership and advisory work with multi-sectorial organizations on improving human and organizational performance and the capacity for sustainable success. Geffner is particularly interested in the intersection between organizational performance, management and the discipline of psychology as a basis for her work. She is a nationally recognized speaker and thought leader on organizational change, CEO and executive team leadership and performance, large-scale transformation and application of learning theory to improving operational implementation. Geffner is also a USC Price School alumna.


Jennifer Grasso ML ’18
Sergeant, Los Angeles Police Department – Hollenbeck Division Gang Enforcement Detail

Jennifer Grasso is a veteran Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer who currently serves as a sergeant with the Hollenbeck Division Gang Enforcement Detail. She has also supervised patrol officers in the 77th St. Division and Southeast Division in Watts. Prior to her promotion to field supervisor in 2018, Grasso served the community as a police officer for 23 years. During that time, she became the first, and so far only, woman ever selected to serve on the LAPD’s elite Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. She was a member of the SWAT team for 10 years. Grasso’s other LAPD assignments have included Patrol, Gangs, Field Training Officer and Metropolitan Division. She is a USC Sol Price School of Public Policy alumna.

Stayce Harris

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Stayce Harris ’81
U.S. Air Force

Lieutenant General Stayce Harris is a retired U.S. Air Force three-star general whose distinguished career of service spanned more than 37 years. The first Black woman to reach the rank of lieutenant general in the Air Force, she retired in 2019 as the inspector general. Harris is also a retired United Airlines pilot whose flying routes spanned Asia, Australia and Europe. Harris has received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit. A USC Viterbi School of Engineering alumna, Harris received the USC Viterbi School’s Mark A. Stevens Distinguished Alumni Award, and she serves on the school’s board of councilors.

2:10 p.m.
Don’t Wait for a Seat at the Table—Build Your Own
Becoming an entrepreneur is both rewarding and challenging. Learn valuable tips and insights from Trojan women who have turned their passions into businesses.

Paige Adams-Geller

Paige Adams-Geller ’90
Founder and Creative Director, PAIGE

Paige Adams-Geller is the founder and creative director of PAIGE, a California lifestyle collection for men and women. Driven by her passion for cutting-edge design and entrepreneurial spirit, she launched her namesake collection in 2004, after working as one of the top fit models in the fashion industry. What started as a women’s denim brand quickly expanded into a full lifestyle collection for men and women, sold at premium retailers internationally. A USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism alumna, Adams-Geller serves on the school’s board of councilors. She also serves on the board of the Rape Foundation, as well as on RAINN’S National Leadership Council.

Jennifer Berson

Jennifer Berson JD ’01
President and Founder, Jeneration PR

Jennifer Berson is the president and founder of Jeneration PR, a public relations and social media marketing firm specializing in promoting beauty, baby and lifestyle brands. Berson’s clients range from small and mid-sized brands to multi-billion dollar publicly traded companies—and everything in between. Berson is also the creator of the Agency Accelerator, where she teaches entrepreneurs how to launch, grow and scale a profitable PR and marketing agency. She also recently launched the Pitch Lab, a monthly membership experience for PR pros to learn the step-by-step framework for executing a PR strategy that converts into massive media placements for their clients. Berson is a USC Gould School of Law alumna.

Vanessa Dew

Vanessa Dew MBA ’13
Co-Founder and Chief Sales Officer, Health-Ade Kombucha

Vanessa Dew is the co-founder and chief sales officer of Health-Ade Kombucha, which makes and sells several varieties of kombucha tea, full of probiotics.  Prior to launching the company in 2012, Dew spent years working at a major pharmaceutical company, where she gained a knowledge of sales and management. Through her expertise in channel penetration and people management, Dew has led Health-Ade’s sales team to boost availability in key channels and markets, while cultivating the Health-Ade brand as a whole. The brand is now available in 35,000 stores, including Whole Foods, Target and Trader Joes. A USC Marshall School of Business alumna, Dew serves as mentor for the school’s Career Advantage Mentor Program. She is also an active member of the Female Founder Collective, the Entrepreneur’s Organization and the Asian Business Association.

Terri Horton

Terri Horton EdD ’18
Founder, FuturePath, LLC

Terri Horton is the founder of FuturePath, LLC, a management consulting firm that provides future-focused coaching, artificial intelligence (AI) business strategy and corporate training workshops and seminars. A workplace futurist, Horton synthesizes her multidisciplinary background in corporate strategy, learning and development, digital transformation, branding and education to inspire and empower clients to reimagine their work, business and people strategy. Her objective is to help clients humanize the workplace, develop future-focused leaders, upskill and reskill workers, and responsibly use data for good. She has provided strategic insights for the Pew Research Center, Forbes and the Obama Foundation Scholars Program on International Development and Policy. A USC Rossier School of Education alumna, Horton also holds advanced degrees from Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

3:05 p.m.
Make Moves Not Excuses
We can be our greatest ignitor of potential, while at times, the single most limiting factor in our own lives. The word “should” gets in the way, along with the stories we tell ourselves about why we can do it later or aren’t quite good enough yet. Start making moves and stop “should-ing” on yourself with these mental skills.

Nicole Davis

Nicole Davis ’04
U.S. Volleyball Olympian

Nicole Davis was recruited to USC’s indoor volleyball team as a walk-on athlete. After being part of back-to-back NCAA Championships teams in 2003 and 2004, Davis spent 11 years on the USA National Team. With two silver medals at the 2008 & 2012 Olympic Games, Davis retired in 2015. Davis also played professionally in eight different countries in Europe and Asia during her career. Shortly after retiring, Davis partnered with Compete to Create, a company co-founded by Pete Carroll and high-performance psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais. As she looks to take a deeper dive into the science and research behind human performance, Davis is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. She also sees private clients for mindset coaching. Davis is a USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences alumna.

3:15 p.m.
Transformational Leadership During a Global Crisis

Felicia A. Washington

Felicia A. Washington
Senior Vice President for Human Resources
University of Southern California

Felicia A. Washington was appointed senior vice president for human resources at USC in June 2019. Reporting directly to the president, Washington provides the primary leadership on human resources for USC’s nearly 28,000 faculty members, staff and student workers. In this capacity, Washington provides the long-range strategic vision for building an integrated human capital strategy for the university, balancing the overall needs of the university with the unique needs of different schools and units. She helps lead new initiatives to bring excellence and consistency in the human resources enterprise across all departments and academic units. Washington arrived at USC with decades of experience as a university administrator and as a highly respected attorney specializing in employment law.

3:30 p.m.
Don’t Tell Me to Smile

Heather McDonald

Heather McDonald ’92
Actress, Comedian, Author

Heather McDonald is a popular and successful headlining comedian whose latest stand-up special, Juicy Scoop, recently premiered on Amazon Prime Video. McDonald is regularly featured on The Wendy Williams Show, and she wrote, produced and appeared on E!’s top rated show, Chelsea Lately, for its entire seven-year run. Her comedy and pop culture podcast, Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald, is in its fifth year, and has over 500 episodes and 60 million downloads. In all her work, McDonald shares honestly about her 20-year-long marriage, two teenage sons, and being a stepmother—all while making “girl’s nights out” her main priority in life. She is a USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism alumna.

3:40 p.m.
Closing Remarks

Danielle Harvey Stinson

Danielle Harvey Stinson ’00, ML’19
Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations
University of Southern California

Danielle Harvey Stinson is the assistant vice president for alumni relations at USC. As a senior manager of the USC Alumni Association, she leads a diverse 15-member team of professionals responsible for engaging all alumni lifelong and worldwide through a vast array of programs, services and events. Her portfolio includes the award-winning USC Women’s Conference, Reunion Weekend and Alumni Leadership Conference, as well as oversight of the USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association, regional alumni communities, industry and affinity networks, and generational groups. With more than 14 years of experience in alumni relations and development, Stinson has a proven record of accomplishment in program development, volunteer management, organizational leadership, strategic planning, relationship building and fundraising. She is a double USC alumna, with degrees from both the USC Rossier School of Education and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

MARCH 6, 2021

9:05 a.m.
From Women’s Suffrage to the White House: A 101-Year Journey
In 1919, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed, granting women the right to vote; 101 years later, we have the first woman vice president in our nation’s history. Learn about women’s changing roles in politics over the years and how today’s leaders are addressing current issues.

Nanette Diaz Barragán

Nanette Diaz Barragán JD ’05
U.S. Representative (CA-44)

Nanette Diaz Barragán was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2016, becoming the first Latina ever to represent California’s 44th Congressional district. Born in the Harbor City region of Los Angeles and growing up in its surrounding harbor communities, Barragán believes that her  humble beginnings shaped her interest in issues that matter locally: environmental and health justice, immigration reform, strengthening the economy and affordable and accessible education. Barragán is vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a member of the Progressive Caucus. She serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni
Professor of Professional Practice
Director, USC Annenberg Media Center,
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Christina Bellantoni is a professor of professional practice and the director of the USC Annenberg Media Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. A veteran reporter, editor, news producer and analyst, she joined the USC Annenberg School in 2018, after serving as the assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Times. Under her leadership, the newspaper’s California politics team expanded and earned statewide recognition for innovative coverage of politics, as well as for hard-hitting sexual harassment investigations that brought more transparency to California’s state capital. Prior to joining the Los Angeles Times, Bellantoni was based in Washington, D.C., where she served as both editor-in-chief of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call and as the political editor for PBS NewsHour.

Jill E. Darling

Jill E. Darling
Survey Director, Understanding America Study
USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research

Jill E. Darling is survey director of the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research’s Understanding America Study internet panel. She also serves as the survey director for the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times National Poll. Before joining USC in 2015, she served as survey director and survey methods lead at the Veterans Health Administration HealthServices Research and Development Center for Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy. Her work has appeared in newspapers, online magazines and journals, including The Conversation, Nature Human Behaviour and Public Opinion Quarterly.

Franita Tolson

Franita Tolson
Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs
Professor of Law
USC Gould School of Law

Franita Tolson serves as vice dean for faculty and academic affairs and as professor of law at the USC Gould School of Law. Her scholarship and teaching focus on the areas of election law, constitutional law, legal history and employment discrimination. She has written on a wide range of topics, including partisan gerrymandering, political parties, the Elections Clause, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Her forthcoming book, In Congress We Trust?: Enforcing Voting Rights from the Founding to the Jim Crow Era, will be published in 2021 by Cambridge University Press.

10:00 a.m.
Musical Performance

Natalie Litza

Natalie Litza Cadet
Singer, Songwriter, Arranger, Pianist and Producer

Natalie Litza Cadet is a singer, songwriter, arranger, pianist and producer who began performing at a young age, singing with her five siblings as The Cadet Sisters. She released her solo debut album, My Journey, in 2016. The album showcases her vocal range, with a song selection that demonstrates the influence of jazz, pop and R&B on her work. More recently, she has written and released a number of singles that can be found on Google and other streaming services. Cadet earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and pedagogy from Oakwood University in Boston, as well as a master’s degree in contemporary improvisation from the New England Conservatory of Music.

10:10 a.m.
Together We Are More: A Conversation on Allyship

Rocky Chin

Rockwell (Rocky) Chin JD ’74
Member, New York City Commission on Human Rights

Rockwell (“Rocky”) Chin is an attorney with 25 years of experience at both the New York City Commission on Human Rights and New York State Division of Human Rights. At these agencies, he participated in litigation and administrative governmental actions to eliminate exclusive male-only private clubs, address immigrant discrimination, eliminate barriers for people with disabilities, and implement robust language services programs. He currently serves as a commissioner on the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and is a member of the Executive Council of the AARP New York. He is the founder of the Asian American Bar Association of New York and the former civil rights chair of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. He is a USC Gould School of Law alumnus.

John Iino

John Iino JD ’87
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Global Chair, Reed Smith LLP
President, USC Alumni Association Board of Governors

John Iino serves as Reed Smith’s chief diversity officer, leading the international law firm’s efforts to sponsor and achieve diversity and inclusion in the legal community. He is also the founder of Cumbre Alta Associates, a consulting firm focused on business and inclusive leadership and diversity coaching for lawyers and business executives. Iino serves as the president of the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors and has been a member of the Board for nine years. He also serves as a member of the Board of Councilors of the USC Gould School of Law and a member of the Board of Directors of the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association.

LaVonna Lewis

LaVonna Lewis
Teaching Professor of Public Policy
Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

LaVonna Blair Lewis is a teaching professor of public policy and the associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Her areas of research and professional interest focus on cultural competency and health equity in regard to the health status and health care needs of underrepresented groups. As such, her mission is twofold. First, to make the invisible, visible—if people are unaware of challenges faced by a particular group or community, ways must be found to get these issues in front of them. Second, to make people uncomfortable, since otherwise, they aren’t being challenged or have quit learning and growing. Lewis’s work has appeared in the American Journal of Public Health, Family and Community Health; the American Journal of Health Behavior, Social Science and Medicine; the Journal of General Internal Medicine; and other health management and policy journals.

Merle Vaughn

Merle Vaughn ’80
National Law Firm Diversity Practice Leader – Major, Lindsey & Africa

Merle Vaughn is the national law firm diversity practice leader and partner recruiter for Major, Lindsey & Africa, one of the world’s premier legal executive search firms. Based in the firm’s Los Angeles office, she has been involved in several high-profile law firm partner and in-house placements in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Corporations and law firms have also retained Vaughn, specifically for her expertise in diversity recruiting. The Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) recently inducted Vaughn as the first diversity and racial justice member on its Executive Committee. She is also the past founder and co-chair of the Southern California branch of the Women in Law Enforcement Forum (WILEF). In addition, Vaughn is a sought-after speaker and the host of a popular podcast, B.S: Beyond Stereotypes. She is a USC Marshall School of Business alumna.

10:55 a.m.
Your Hidden Super Power

Adrienne Bankert ’02
National Correspondent, ABC News

Adrienne Bankert is an Emmy-award winning journalist and a New York-based national correspondent for ABC News. Over the course of her career, Bankert has covered some of the most historic events of the past decade, including the cave rescue of the youth soccer team in Thailand. Bankert has also interviewed celebrities and covered such high-profile stories as the Academy Awards and the Women’s World Cup Final in France. Her interviews can be seen on all ABC News platforms, including Good Morning America, World News Tonight, Nightline and ABC News Live. Prior to joining ABC, she worked as a reporter and anchor at network news affiliates in California and Texas. The author of Your Hidden Superpower: The Kindness That Makes You Unbeatable at Work and Connects You with Anyone, Bankert is a USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism alumna.



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If you would like to get a head start on your Women’s Conference experience, check out these amazing programs.

Global Voices for Women’s Equality

Women are continuing to shatter glass ceilings—and they’re working to bring the next generation with them. In this program, USC alumnae leaders from around the globe discuss how gender and regional influences have played a role in their leadership journeys. Together, they look to the future and share their aspirations for the women leaders of tomorrow. Presented by the USC Trojan Women’s Network.

Military Women Perspectives on Navigating Power Structures

Military women share their stories of successfully navigating power structures in a male-dominated military profession. This moderated discussion emphasizes the importance of finding—and being—an advocate while working through the ranks. The discussion is moderated by USC alumnae Major Kristine Poblete EdD ’19 and Major Alyson Kil ’10, MD ’14. The panelists include Yvette Kelley ’19; Amanda DeMaris ’15; Francesca Cimino ’01, MD ’05; Stephanie Q. Wilson PsyD; and Creighlynn D. Thoele PhD. Presented by the USC Alumni Veterans Network.