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WESTVILLE — Women in positions of leadership can and should lift one another up.

That was the message Karen Bishop Morris, interim dean of the Honors College at Purdue University Northwest, said she hopes students take away from the university’s first publicly broadcast "Breaking the Glass Ceiling" alumnae panel discussion.

“One of the things that makes this so special is not only the alumnae coming back and sharing their stories of success, but it’s this really full circle of senior leaders that are women that are lifting others as they climb,” Bishop Morris said.

PNW has offered the discussions on campus for six years, growing the program each year.

Lori Feldman, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, helped establish the annual panel in 2014 after meeting with other female leaders on campus and realizing a greater need to facilitate community conversation during Women’s History Month.

The program began small with Feldman first inviting back alumnae of PNW’s Executive MBA program, then grew in the next year to include alumnae of programs across the spectrum of PNW studies. The year after that, Feldman said, the discussions grew to include both PNW campuses.

And to continue the growth, for the first time this year, PNW is partnering with Lakeshore Public Media, which will broadcast Wednesday afternoon’s discussion on the Westville campus April 14.

The Wednesday discussion featured five PNW alumnae including Colleen Hickman, president of the Northwest Indiana World Trade Alliance; Marsha King, dean of the University of St. Francis’ Crown Point campus; Ashley Gerodimos, executive director of the PNW Alumni Community; Afsheen Mozammel, a senior process engineer for DENSO; and Andrea Pearman, president and CEO of Diversified Marketing.

Second panel today at PNW in Hammond

A second panel is scheduled for noon today at the Student Union & Library on the Hammond campus, featuring four different alumnae — Jackie Brosius, senior vice president of Northern Trust; Emily Larson, a structural engineer at Burns & McDonnell; Kristin Marlow-Kellemen, executive director at American Red Cross; and Desila Rosetti, president of Organizational Development Solutions.

“This is really our desire, to bring back the amazing women who’ve graduated from PNW to serve as an inspiration to women in the community — to women in the PNW community and women in the Northwest Indiana community,” Feldman said.

Inspired by the book, “Brave, Not Perfect,” by Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of the national nonprofit Girls Who Code, the panel discussed themes of emotional intelligence, goal-setting and imperfection.

Together, Feldman and Bishop Morris moderated the hour-and-a-half-long panel, asking the alumnae to share stories of their own career success for the audience of mostly PNW students.

King encouraged students to find mentorships and conceded that professionals well into their careers need to do better themselves to advise the younger generation of women.

“When you talk about breaking the glass ceiling, we still have a long way to go in breaking that glass ceiling,” King said. “If more women would support each other, we would get farther along in the business world.”

The panel encouraged young women not to be afraid to make bold career choices and to transform self-doubt into self-awareness. Hickman offered her own observation on mentorships in her career field and encouraged her colleagues in the professional world to keep an open mind to cultural change.

“It’s a very slow process,” Hickman said, “But the world is changing, and we can each play a role in that.”

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.