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Capacity Crowd Gathers at USC Women’s Conference

Capacity Crowd Gathers at USC Women’s Conference
Five-time Olympic medalist Janet Evans '95 delivered the keynote address at the third annual USC Alumni Association event.

On March 11, three days after women around the world marked the centenary of International Women’s Day, nearly 700 USC alumnae and friends gathered on the University Park campus to “express, encourage and inspire” at the third annual USC Women’s Conference.

Fast becoming one of the USC Alumni Association’s most popular events, the daylong forum featured a range of panel discussions and workshops focusing on topics such as career development, leadership and women’s health. The forum also gave attendees an opportunity to network and share strategies for making a positive difference in the world.

Led by conference co-chairs Deena Lew ’85 and Beth Petak-Aaron ’80, a host committee comprised of USC alumni leaders and volunteers, university senior administrators and Alumni Association staff members assembled a lineup of featured speakers from the worlds of journalism, philanthropy and sports.

Five-time Olympic medalist Janet Evans ’95 delivered the conference keynote address. A graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism who has found success outside the pool both as a public speaker and commentator for Fox Sports and ESPN, Evans set the tone for the day with her account of what it means to be a champion – i.e., learning to enjoy more than just winning – and how she developed her confidence while studying and swimming at USC.

Another highlight of the conference was the afternoon discussion, “Expressions of Inspiration,” moderated by KABC-TV reporter Alysha Del Valle ’99. She interviewed three women who are committed philanthropists, including Dana Dornsife, president and founder of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit providing resources to cancer patients exploring different treatment options. Earlier that week, she and her husband, USC trustee David Dornsife ’65, had donated $200 million to name the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences – the largest single gift in the university’s history.

Dornsife was joined on the panel by USC undergraduate Jordan Foxworthy, the founder of the Bite Back campaign, which raises funds and awareness to combat malaria; and Elizabeth Rusnak Arizmendi ’85, vice president of the Rusnak Auto Group, who develops the company’s relationships with nonprofits and coordinates its community relations efforts.

The conference ended on a celebratory note with a champagne reception at Argue Plaza. According to Lew and Petak-Aaron, they had wanted “to provide women with an opportunity to reflect, reconnect and refresh so they could leave feeling ready to take on the world.”

Mission accomplished.

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