Women’s Summit Focuses on Professional and Personal Balance

April 12, 2022

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business presented its seventh annual Women in Business, Entrepreneurship and Leadership Summit on March 7. More than 65 students, faculty and staff attended this year’s hybrid in-person/online event.

The conference, entitled “Refresh, Renew, Reimagine,” centered on helping attendees create strategies for achieving balance between their professional and personal lives. Nayasha Farrior, assistant director for academic support and partnerships in the college’s Office of Diversity and Community Relations (ODCR) and head of the summit’s planning committee, said the committee chose the theme in direct response to the pandemic and resulting changes in the workplace. 

“When we were thinking about how long we have been dealing with the pandemic and how we all are exhausted from it, we wanted to continue conversations surrounding work-life balance and giving each other grace,” Farrior said.

The half-day conference began with welcoming remarks from Stephen L. Mangum, dean of Haslam and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair, and Clarence Vaughn, director of ODCR.

Refresh, Renew, Reimagine

The dress code for the summit was casual or business casual to facilitate comfort during the event’s first session. Whitni Miller, a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) personal trainer and Animal Flow Level One yoga instructor, led participants through 50 minutes of yoga exercises set to a background of soothing music. In keeping with the conference’s theme, the session was designed to refresh the mind, body and spirit before the group split up to attend presentations in the Renew and Reimagine tracks.

The Renew track featured Joanna Martin, benefits supervisor for Pilot Company, and Angelique Adams, an author, speaker and executive coach who focuses on leadership development for diverse STEM professionals. Participants were urged to focus on their well-being while developing themselves in the workplace.

In the Reimagine track, speakers Gwen McKenzie, city councilwoman for Knoxville’s sixth district and executive director of the Legacy Housing Foundation, and Phyllis Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League, invited participants to re-evaluate priorities and set boundaries to protect their energy and eliminate mental and emotional clutter. 

McKenzie, who was presenting at the summit for the third consecutive year, spoke about how to practice good leadership by helping others see their own greatness. She encouraged the audience to set others up for success and then get out of the way to avoid wearing too many hats. “We deserve to put ourselves first,” she said. “The goal is to be stress-free.”

The summit culminated in a luncheon in the college’s hospitality suite, during which RheaSunshine Carmon, poet laureate of Knoxville, delivered the keynote. Her presentation included poetry recitation and a cappella singing, along with audience participation that resulted in a group-written poem. Carmon urged attendees to use the power of narrative to promote their personal and professional growth.

“Every day you get to write your story,” Carmon told the audience. “We’re always writing new stories.”

Farrior was pleased with the success of the summit and how enthusiastically attendees embraced the theme of balance.

“We must continue to think of innovative ways to do business that will keep both internal and external stakeholders happy,” Farrior said. “It is important to feel balanced and centered so that you can do your best work.”


Stacy Estep, writer/publicist, sestep3@utk.edu