“Stepping Up For Change” was the theme of the 2009 Women’s Leadership Conference, which focused on women who created change in their worlds. The keynote address was delivered by animal advocate Terri Crisp, an animal welfare volunteer for more than 25 years who rescued animals from more than 70 major disasters in the United States and around the world. She shared experiences aiding animals through her nonprofit, Noah's Wish, and her current work with the program Operation Baghdad Pups, which rescues dogs and cats from Iraq and delivers them to the soldiers or civilians who cared for them in the war-torn country. The conference also featured Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, who discussed her quest to improve the D.C. public school system.
Two professional development sessions were offered to participants. Candi Kaplan, GW B.A. '70, and Sarah Kaplan of Kaplan Financial Group, gave a presentation on "Financial Literacy for Women in a Time of Change," which included tips on investments, saving for retirement and budgeting. In the other session, titled "Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone," independent psychologist Diane DePalma offered advice on accepting new challenges, both personal and professional, and overcoming obstacles to success.
The conference ended with a panel discussion moderated by Laura Taddeucci Downs, GW B.A. '92, M.A. '95, president-elect of the GW Alumni Association, and featuring panelists Memphis Holland, Mount Vernon College (MVC) B.A. '88, principal of the Holland Development Group; Gillian McHale, GW B.A. '05, secondary school English teacher; and Melissa Alpeter Blair, MVC B.A. '93, owner of Healthy U. The panelists spoke about opportunities and challenges in their professional lives.