KOKOMO, Ind. — Be open to unexpected opportunities. Failure can lead to success. Stand up for yourself. Celebrate the successes of other women.
Those are the lessons Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson has learned in her legal career, and shared with future leaders, at Indiana University Kokomo’s annual Collegiate Women’s Leadership Luncheon Thursday (March 9).
Nearly 60 people — female students, faculty, and staff members — attended the event, which was started four years ago as a way to bring women together to celebrate their accomplishments, network, and develop a support system for each other.
“The Collegiate Women’s Leadership Luncheon honors the incredible work women do on our campus and in our community every day,” said Kate Aguilar, coordinator of student life and campus diversity. “It is positioned during Women’s History Month to remind these women of their place within a global network of leaders.”
Magnus-Stinson, chief judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District, talked about her own experiences, and how younger women can use what she’s learned.
She recalled meeting with a guidance counselor as a high school senior in Illinois, when her mother asked if there were colleges that would give scholarships based on academic merit, and they learned about Butler University. After completing her degree there, she worked in a job she didn’t like much, and a friend suggested law school. Later, a co-worker asked her to take his place at an event, and she met her future husband there.
“You have to be open to opportunities that come out of the blue,” she said. “Those opportunities came your way for a reason.”
Magnus-Stinson also talked about how failure can lead to success. She met with a staff member for then-Governor Evan Bayh about a judicial position she wanted, and was turned down. Because she accepted that with good spirit, she was offered a job on his staff, and served as counsel and deputy chief of staff. Four years later, Bayh appointed her to the position she first wanted.
It’s important for women to stand up for themselves as well, she noted, because “only you can take care of you. You are in charge of yourself.”
“Just take a moment, think about what you want to say, and say what you need to say,” she said. “That takes guts, and I recognize that.”
Magnus-Stinson also encouraged those attending to celebrate the successes of other women, and to bring other women with them as they move up the career ladder, both points that resonated with the young women attending.
“When another woman succeeds, you should view her as a role model,” said Courtney Morgan, a sophomore from Kokomo. “You might be discouraged if someone got a job you wanted, but there might be something else great for you later on.”
Senior Tia Koon, Peru, was inspired by what Magnus-Stinson said about celebrating successes of other women.
“If we don’t celebrate our successes, who will?” she said.
April Wheeldon, a junior from Royal Center, enjoyed the opportunity to network with other women.
“It’s inspirational to be empowered by other women,” she said. “It’s great to hear the stories and opportunities that are available out there.”
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke challenged those attending to “lead from where you are,” to speak up when they see something that needs to be changed.
“You don’t have to the president of a university to lead from where you are,” she said, adding that her own mother, now in her 90s, is her inspiration.
“She was the trailblazer for me, and now I hope I can do the same for the next generation,” she said.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.