On April 17-18, more than 75 women participated in the premier MSU College of Business Women's Circle of Excellence Leadership Conference at the Hilton Garden Inn. The brainchild of Jackie Sather, the College of Business's development director and Micki Munro, adjunct instructor of accounting, this event has blossomed into a conference geared toward mentoring, networking, educating and inspiring College of Business alumnae and friends.

This premier event was sponsored in part by RightNow Technologies with additional support from State Farm Insurance. Other major sponsors included PrintingForLess.com and Donna and Jack Ostrovsky. For a complete list of sponsors, please check out our website: /business/Alumni_and_Friends/WomensCircle.html.

This year's conference began with speaker Ris Higgins' seminar, Become a Pioneer of the Future, Not a Prisoner of the Past. Higgins co-founded Leadership Outfitters, a Bozeman based coaching and experiential learning company. She discussed "authentic" living and leading a life by design rather than a life by default. The follow-up seminar lead by Carmen McSpadden, an adjunct instructor of the College of Business, helped participants create personal mission statements. The afternoon session concluded with Tammy Machowicz Olsztyn's presentation, Communicating with Character. Machowicz Olsztyn is the owner of Harvest Coaching, a business that specializes in assisting entrepreneurs, business leaders and their teams to become more productive, build and sustain relationships and ultimately create enduring profitability.

The power-packed day culminated in a graduation celebration for the 2008 College of Business graduates as they were welcomed into the Women's Circle of Excellence. Carina Beck, MSU Career Services, gave the congratulatory send-off to a group of more than 30 graduates. The remainder of the evening was set aside for mentoring and networking between the graduates and alumnae.

The event's second day provided equally powerful speakers. Morning panel sessions were Hindsight's 20/20, Your Encore Career, Entrepreneurial Spirit and Doing Well While Doing Good. The panels consisted of knowledgeable and successful business women including Susan Carstensen of RightNow Technologies; Ardi DeVries, with ERA Landmark Real Estate; Ris Higgins; Dana Lasher of Get Ready Girls, Inc.; Shelby Nordhagen of NetNewMarketing; Linda Reynolds, formerly with Northwestern Mutual; Paige Taylor, with Bridger Psychiatric Services and Molly Semenik of Tie the Knot Fly Fishing Instruction and Yellowstone Fly Fishing School. An entertaining afternoon seminar lead by Mary Perry of Ryan Partnership, examined generational gaps in the workforce, as well as everyday life. Susan Dana, College of Business associate dean of academic affairs and director of the Bracken Center and Nancy Dodd, College of Business associate professor of management, lead a negotiating seminar.

Katie Goodman of Broad Comedy, featured writer for O, the Oprah Magazine and author of a new book, Improvisation for the Spirit: Living a Creative, Spontaneous and Courageous Life Using the Tools of Improv Comedy, was the conference keynote speaker. Goodman introduced ways to utilize the improvisational comedy skills in everyday life with eight easy steps: 1) Stay Present, 2) Change Your Inner Critic to an Inner Coach, 3) Be Flexible, 4) Take Risks, 5) Practice Non-Attachment, 6) Be Spontaneous, 7) Listen to Your Intuition and 8) Look for the Potential in Others. She encouraged the audience to work on their improvisational skills during the presentation through various exercises and audience participation.

The conference concluded at the Riverside Country Club with a closing dinner and entertainment by Broad Comedy. Those attending were able to discuss what they had learned during the conference and had opportunities to network during dinner, before Broad Comedy's performance.

The Women's Circle of Excellence Leadership Conference provided a welcoming atmosphere for the participants, as well as many opportunities to network, learn and build strong bonds of friendship. Shelby Nordhagen, said, "I was completely re-energized by the conference presenters and the participants." An overwhelming amount of positive feedback has been received about the conference and many attendees expressed their interest in returning for next year's event. The Women's Circle of Excellence group hopes more women will decide to take advantage of the opportunities provided at the conference next year. For more information about the Women's Circle of Excellence, please contact Audrey Lee at audrey.lee@montana.edu or 406-994-7026.