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Extreme Makeover Inspires Leadership Conference Focused on Community
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Caron Hobin said this year’s conference will promote the power of community.

Caron Hobin says Bay Path College’s experiences with last summer’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project in Suffield provided some unforgettable moments and poignant life lessons.

Chief among them, she continued, was a realization of the “power of community,” an eye-opening experience that ultimately created the theme — Community Matters — for Bay Path’s 15th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, to be staged April 30 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

“It was a great experience, and after it was finished, we wanted to keep the momentum going,” said Hobin, vice president of planning and student development at Bay Path, who noted that the college hosted a pre-build rally for volunteers and builders last June, and its students joined thousands of others who helped build a four-bedroom home for a family of 13.

To build on those experiences, Hobin, who has coordinated the leadership conference since its inception, carefully chose speakers who could convey the importance of community and the many forms that word can take. And she asked those chosen to delve deeply into meaningful and relevant topics that concern women in today’s workplace and world.

“Community Matters will not only deal with geographic and workplace issues, but how we function in them,” said Hobin. “The conference is jam-packed with content. There will be skill-building sessions with information people can use right away in their jobs. There will also be amazing, inspirational stories about women who have persevered or who are great examples of overcoming adversity. They will talk about their career paths and will approach topics from a variety of perspectives, ranging from illness to family responsibilities to work and incorporating education into a busy schedule.

“I am hoping people will come away asking themselves questions about how they interact with others,” she continued, “how it makes a difference in not only who their community is, but what their responsibility is to it.”

The conference will be staged from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $250, or $225 for Bay Path alumni, before April 10. After that date, all seats are $300. For tickets, reservations, or more information, visitwww.baypath.eduor call (413) 565-1066 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (413) 565-1066      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or (800) 782-7284, ext. 1066.

Diverse Speakers

Keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien is an anchor and special correspondent for CNN: Special Investigations Unit. Her work, which has included documentaries and in-depth series on ongoing and breaking news stories, has earned O’Brien numerous awards. They include the Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award, created in her honor by Community Voices at the Morehouse School of Medicine, which she will receive this month for her accomplishments, commitment to cover challenging stories, and willingness to be a voice for people unable to speak for themselves.

O’Brien will discuss the conflict between paying attention to her own career and meeting her mother’s expectations, which all revolved around family. “She will discuss the pressure to be everything to everyone,” Hobin said. “It will be nice for women to know they can hold up a mirror and say, ‘her story is a reflection of my life.’”

Lunchtime speakers will be Leigh Anne Tuohy and her daughter, Collins Tuohy, who will share their inspiring story about adoption, made famous by the book and movie The Blind Side.

The story chronicles their meeting and eventual adoption of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All-American football player and first-round NFL draft pick. Hobin said the Tuohys will share their experience and discuss how their personal definition of community has changed since the adoption.

Afternoon keynote speakers will be Nicholas Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, and Somaly Mam, a Cambodian human-rights activist and founder of the Somaly Mam Foundation. They will discuss their work in the global community and provide concrete ways for women to make a difference.

Mam, who has won many awards and was touted by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in the world in 2009, has written a book titled The Road of Lost Innocence.

Hobin calls her story “unbelievable.”

“She was sold to a brothel when she was a young teen by a man who posed as her grandfather,” she said. “Her story is so similar to that of other young girls, especially those in Southeast Asia.”

Kristof has also won many awards, including his first Pulitzer for coverage of China’s Tiananmen Square democracy movement and his second for a series of columns which focused on genocide in Darfur.

Breaking Out

The day will include morning and afternoon breakout sessions focused on skill- building. Syndicated national columnist and best selling author Alexandra Levit will lead a program called “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College/Millennial Tweet.”

Levit will discuss what women need to know about transitioning within the corporate culture. “She will address pitfalls that can cause young people to fail, which range from dress to protocol to hiereracy,” Hobin said.

Visael (Bobby) Rodriguez, chief diversity officer for Baystate Health, will speak on “Creating an Inclusive Work Community.” His seminar will address assumptions people make about diversity and how to be more sensitive when communicating with others.

Diane Holman, vice president and chief learning officer for Raytheon Leadership and Innovative Learning, will focus on “Political Savvy at Work: How to Get Noticed by Executives Looking to Identify Rising Talent.”

Hobin said this talk will be meaningful to any woman who has reached a plateau in her career or is frustrated at work. The presentation will lead women to self-examination and behaviors that may have stalled their own advancement within the workplace. “Diane will take things to the next level and talk about how women can institute changes in their behavior.”

There will also be a panel discussion on “Work, Education, and Family Life.”

Hobin said the day’s theme was inspired by lessons learned during Bay Path’s involvement with the ABC television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which uses volunteers and donated materials to do complete makeovers or rebuilds of homes for selected, deserving families across the nation.

Following that model, she explained, the conference will allow women to become involved without making a major time commitment so they can make a difference in a meaningful way that realistically fits into their busy lives.

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