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BayouLife Magazine Panel Track 2
Lateral Mentors 2:00 pm - 2:45 pm
As women, we tend to downplay our successes. And, we sometimes struggle to ask for help. If we create and maintain a small group of lateral (or peer) mentors with whom we can celebrate our achievements, and rely on for guidance, we can empower each other to achieve our goals. Find like-minded women who are chasing similar aspirations and agree to support one another. Together, discuss how hard you’ve worked and exactly how you accomplished your dreams. You can rely on each other for encouragement and accountability.
Your peers can also contribute invaluable job-related and technical knowledge they gained from their personal experiences. This is the kind of guidance that is not formally covered in the company’s orientation. These lateral mentors can provide you with career advice, teach you about the organization, develop your knowledge, and prepare you for leadership roles. Peer mentors are essential­ not because of their professional titles or status within the company, but because of their expertise and experience. This type of mentor can also provide invaluable insight into the organization’s culture.
We all have questions about our jobs, but we are not always comfortable admitting that lack of knowledge with a supervisor. It is considerably less daunting to seek guidance from a peer mentor versus a traditional mentor. Peer mentors can also contribute emotional support, similar to what individuals might receive from close friends and family members. That support can create mutual personal and professional development, especially when peers work in similar roles.
 athompson  buxton  dawson

Allison Thompson
Director of Assessment and Evaluation at ULM

Allison Loftin Thompson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and Southern Literature from ULM. She then transitioned from graduate assistantship work in institutional assessment of student learning to a position in ULM’s Office of Assessment and Evaluation as a Research Analyst. 
Allison has served as the director of ULM Assessment and Evaluation since 2007. Her office manages processes documenting continuous improvement efforts related to student learning in degree programs and the general education core curriculum as well as departmental productivity and efficiency across the university. In 2018, she was also named Associate SACSCOC Liaison based on her in-depth knowledge and experience with higher education accreditation issues and writing compliance narratives.
During her time at ULM, Allison has had a variety of opportunities to reach students and serve the institution. In addition to teaching freshman English composition and literature courses for several years, she has served on a variety of departmental and institutional committees including chairing the Academic Program Review Committee, co-chairing the Institutional Effectiveness Committee, and co-chairing the SACSCOC Reaffirmation Steering Committee.  She currently serves as the President of ULM’s Staff Senate.
Allison lives in West Monroe with her husband, Greg, and her two spoiled yellow shelter dogs, Buttercup and Daffodil. She is stepmom to Nichole Ramey and Bailey and Cole Thompson and currently adjusting to an empty nest.

Morgan Buxton
Communications and Community Engagement Manager at Chase Home Lending Center

Morgan Lowe Buxton was born and raised in West Monroe and appointed to the West Monroe Board of Aldermen in April of 2019. She qualified unopposed in August of 2019 to represent the residents of West Monroe until 2022.
Buxton has been married to husband Scotty for 19 years and are proud parents of Gibson (15) and Theron (13). She is the Communications and Community Engagement Manager at the Chase Home Lending Center in Monroe. In addition, she is a graduate of Leadership Ouachita was awarded the designation of one of NELA’s Top 20 Under 40 in 2018. She and Scotty enjoy taking advantage of their beautiful local scenery via kayaks and bikes. Her family attends Christ Church (West Monroe campus) and actively serves on the volunteer team in worship ministry, kids ministry and small group ministry: “We are people of deep faith and strive to reflect Christ in our daily lives. We believe the best way to do that is by loving people.” Her family also volunteers for Ouachita Green-Keep West Monroe Beautiful, NELA Food Bank, UnitedWay, Habitat for Humanity and others. Her personal motto is “Work hard. Be kind.”

Rashida Dawson
Vice President, Financial Stability of United Way of Northwest Louisiana

Rashida Dawson is the Vice President of Financial Stability of United Way of Northwest Louisiana (UWNWLA) and responsible for the overall leadership and management of its Financial Stability impact area. Within her role, she oversees various financial empowerment programs including the Bank On Northwest Louisiana initiative. As a result of the initiative’s efforts, she has connected over 4,700 unbanked residents to safe and affordable bank accounts throughout the Shreveport-Bossier area. With great anticipation, her latest project includes the launch of Louisiana’s first Financial Empowerment Center in direct partnership with the City of Shreveport. 
Rashida earned her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and currently pursuing her MBA in Project Management and Financial Counselor certification. With an extensive background in government and public service, she has worked for Shreveport Federal Credit Union, ReRez Market Research and helped develop the Allie Smiles Foundation. She then began working for the City of Shreveport’s Department of Community Development where she developed and launched the Bank On Shreveport (BONWLA) initiative. 
Fulfilling her commitment to serve others, Rashida is the President-Elect of the South Shreveport Rotary Club, BancorpSouth’s CRA Advisory Council, Northwest Louisiana Re-Entry Coalition, and the Young Professionals Initiative (YPI). She is also a graduate of the 2017 Greater Shreveport Leadership Program, 2013 graduate of LANO’s Leadership Program, and actively involved with various community organizations throughout Northwest Louisiana. Most recently, she was recognized as an honoree of Shreveport-Bossier’s 2018 Class of Forty Under 40 and the 1st recipient of the Nonprofit Citizen of the Year for the 2019 Minority Business Opportunity Awards.
When Rashida is not working or advocating for the needs of her community, she enjoys spending time with her family, watching football, and rooting for the New Orleans Saints.
Full of spunk and charisma, Rashida lives her life by these words of the great poet, Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


Dare to Lead
3:00 pm - 3:45 pm
Have you ever observed children playing? While not always the case, little girls tend to play collaboratively and celebrate ways in which they are the same. Meanwhile, little boys play leadership games, focusing on who is the strongest. Boys brag about being named the winner. Conversely, little girls instinctively understand that being called “bossy” by another little girl is not a compliment. Georgetown University’s Dr. Deborah Tannen explains these childhood play patterns significantly impact adult behavior in the workplace as women tend to downplay their achievements and ideas.
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, author of The Confidence Code, discovered that a significant number of women pursue perfection, which hinders achievement. The authors found that women only applied for promotions when they were sure they met 100 percent of the job requirements. Meanwhile, men sought promotions when they felt sure their skills aligned with 60 percent of the job requirements. 
Working in a male-dominated field can be especially daunting. However, women can practice several tactics to combat imposter syndrome or feelings of inadequacy. Establish weekly check-ins with other females in your organization. This support network will provide an invaluable resource—a sounding board for your ideas and even insecurities. Actively mentor younger females, and if you are starting your career, find a female mentor. When dealing with feelings of inferiority, it’s helpful to remind yourself of your accomplishments. List them on paper and review them whenever you need a reality check. If a project fails, or you miss the mark on an initiative, pause and reflect. Acknowledge what went awry, and practice positive self-talk. This practice will change how you experience future failures.


 mitchel  colondra

Dr. Terry McConathy
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Louisiana Tech University

Terry McConathy, PhD, Professor of English, serves as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Louisiana Tech University.  After her first career in educational publishing in Canada and the United States, she returned to school and completed her doctoral studies in composition, rhetoric, and technical writing at Louisiana State University.  At Tech, she has served as a faculty member, a research associate of the Institute for Micromanufacturing, member and/or chair of several institutional committees, member of the Athletics Council, and senior administrator.  She has served the Southern Association of College and School Commission on Colleges on over 20 committees and on the Executive Board of Trustees. She focuses on strategic planning, institutional effectiveness, regional accreditation, and academic excellence across the institution.


Staci Mitchell
Mayor, City of West Monroe

Staci Albritton Mitchell is a successful local business owner who was elected to the position of Mayor for the City of West Monroe. She officially took office on July 1, 2018.
Mayor Mitchell previously served as an Alderman for the City of West Monroe, beginning in August 2011 when she was appointed to fill an unexpired term. She was officially elected to the Board of Aldermen by the public in 2012 and was elected once again without opposition in 2014.
In addition to serving as an Alderman, Mayor Mitchell has demonstrated her love of West Monroe by working tirelessly in our community through various non profit organizations.
Mayor Mitchell a degree in Agricultural Economics from Louisiana State University. She is married to Jay Mitchell, an Assistant District Attorney for Ouachita Parish. They have four grown children, two precious grandsons, and a granddaughter on the way.

Colondra Smith
Sr. Lead Technical Program Manager at CenturyLink

Colandra Smith can be described as none other than a detail-oriented, assertive, go-getter who aggressively accomplishes her goals. She is a Senior Lead Technical Program Manager with CenturyLink. Her diverse STEM work experience of 16 years ranges from Information Technology, College Recruiting, Employee Management & Development, and Project/Program Management.  She has been recognized numerous times for her accomplishments and most notably as CenturyLink’s Circle of Excellence Outstanding Performer Award. This honor was bestowed upon Colandra for being a key contributor who provided exceptional customer service and sales team support. Currently, Colandra plays the role of the Solution Train Engineer an oversees the day to day execution of Strategic Planning and Transformation projects that impact the company’s global footprint. 
She holds the following memberships: Mt. Zion Baptist Church, life member of the Grambling State University National Alumni Association, NAACP, and the ULM Alumni Association. She is a graduate of the Leadership Ouachita program and gives back to Northeast LA through her membership with the Junior League of Monroe and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., where she serves as President of the Zeta Phi Omega chapter. 
Colandra is married to Derek Smith and they share two amazing sons together, Dylan and Dawson.


 How to Start Making Money Moves as a Female Entrepreneur or Business Owner 4:00 pm - 4:45 pm
Define your entrepreneurial dream. Why are you passionate about your business idea? What services or products do you sell, and who is your target audience? What differentiates you from your competitors? What impact are you hoping to have and on whom? When you can answer those questions, you will have your company’s mission statement. Do you have a vision statement? The purpose of your vision statement is to motivate. Imagine that five years from now, your business is experiencing enormous success. What do you see? Is it a vision that inspires you?
Budget, budget, budget. Consult with a professional accountant, preferably someone who has experience with start-ups. Costs, especially seemingly small ones, amass quickly. Instead of immediately hiring an established marketing professional, consider hiring an intern (with references) from your local university. Minimize your fixed costs. While it may be tempting to lease an upscale office space in a high-traffic area, your funds will suffer. Did you know Louisiana offers low-cost office space options? Or, you may be able to work from home. A new computer would be great, but can you use your current one for now? A financially lean operation will allow you to invest in future growth opportunities.
Understand the value of your time. It can be beneficial to calculate your "hourly rate" based on the value of your skills and the average income you generate in one hour. If your hourly rate is $75, hiring a marketing assistant for $45 per hour is logical. While she streamlines your social media presence, you can focus on efforts that create a higher Return on Investment (ROI), such as identifying new clients.  
 mcconnell  davis  

Jasmyne McConnell
Owner and Closing Attorney, Cajun Title Agency, LLC

Jasmyne McConnell is the owner and closing attorney of Cajun Title Agency, LLC, a real estate transaction company in the Monroe area. She also owns Grace-Lynn, LLC, Chateau Rouge on the Bayou, and McConnell Law Group.

An Alabama native, Jasmyne graduated from the University of Louisiana Monroe, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and her Juris Doctorate degree from Southern University Law Center.

Jasmyne is currently active in several organizations including Mt. Pleasant Community Development Center, Inc., Southside Economic Development District, and Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

Jasmyne is married to Nicholas McConnell and they are the proud parents of two children, Nicholas McConnell II and Jaxon McConnell.


Christina Davis
Sr. Business Consultant at LA Small Business Development Center at ULM

Christina Davis brings more than 10 years of experience in business management and entrepreneurship and has become an expert in financial planning, market research and developing growth strategies. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from ULM, and currently works as the Senior Business Consultant for the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at University of Louisiana Monroe (LSBDC at ULM) where she is responsible for helping start-up and growth-oriented businesses reach their full potential. As part of her role with the SBDC, Christina is also the manager of the Small and Emerging Business Development Program (SEBD) for Northeast Louisiana, which provides customized managerial and technical assistance needed to grow and sustain a small business, and is trained in PeerSpectives facilitating by the Edward Lowe Foundation. Christina is a graduate of the Leadership Ouachita 2019 class, and was named a 2018 Top 20 Under 40 Young Professionals in Northeast Louisiana. She is active in the community, where she serves as the Treasurer/Secretary for Twin City Toastmasters and serves on the Executive Leadership Council for NELA American Cancer Society Relay for Life. She is an active member of the Olive Branch Baptist Church where she is involved with the Woman of Purpose Ministry, Pastor’s Partners Ministry, and aids as an Educator for the Children’s Church Ministry. Christina is married to Arthur Davis and they have one daughter.