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University of Nebraska–Lincoln


Women Lead 2022

Women Lead: Shattering Glass Ceilings

This conference, a partnership between the College of Business and College of Law at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, features women in law, business, government and philanthropy. Women judges, mayors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, professors and more from across the country will share insights about advancing their professions.


Friday, March 1, 2024
Nebraska Innovation Campus, 2021 Transformation Drive, Lincoln, NE

Registration is full. Please contact Laura at to be added to the wait list.

Conference Schedule

Women Lead 2024
8 a.m. Registration and Breakfast Networking Roundtables
9 a.m. Welcome

Dean Kathy Farrell, College of Business
Dean Richard Moberly, College of Law

9:15 a.m. Introduction of Keynote Speaker

Sheri Irwin-Gish, '03, Executive Director of Communications, Marketing and External Relations, College of Business

Opening Keynote: Investing in Women

Morgan Shaw Parker, '99, President and Chief Operating Officer of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream

Paving the way for women in sports throughout her career, Morgan Shaw Parker knows the power of investing in women from firsthand experience. As president of the WNBA team the Atlanta Dream, she focuses on growing talent, innovation and leadership, as she builds an authentic brand to empower women and change the future of sports.

Paving the way for women in sports throughout her career, Morgan Shaw Parker knows the power of investing in women. As president of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, she focuses on growing talent, innovation and leadership, as she builds an authentic brand to empower women and change the future of sports. She has worked in all levels of sports business for 25 years.

Prior to the Dream, she served as chief marketing officer for Arthur M. Blank Sports & Entertainment where she led integrated marketing for the Atlanta Falcons and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. She also spent more than a decade with Nike, five years with the Kansas City Chiefs and several years with industry-leading sports marketing agencies.

Shaw Parker earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and master’s degree in sports management from the University of Kansas. She serves on Nebraska’s College of Business Department of Marketing Advisory Board.

View Session Description View Morgan Shaw Parker's Bio

10 a.m. My Leadership Moment

Kelly Ross, '13, Founder and Executive Director, ECHO Collective

Kelly Ross is from Lincoln, Nebraska, and graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a degree in Spanish. Since college, she has worked with new Americans in a variety of ways as a caseworker, paralegal, citizenship instructor and ESL instructor. Through her work, she developed a passion for those new to the United States and insight into the unique barriers they face. In 2020, Ross took a wild leap of faith and started a nonprofit to empower new American women through entrepreneurship education and art-focused community building. Since then, she built a community of strong, inspired women who love each other and their neighbors.

View Kelly Ross' Bio

10:15 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. Breakout Sessions
  • Creating a Business in Which Women Thrive – Maranda Adams, '06, Executive Vice President of Blair Freeman Group, Janet Barnard, '81, Executive Vice President & Chief People Officer, Cox Automotive; Michaella Kumke, '03, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Lincoln

    Join this facilitated discussion with women business leaders who have played key roles in starting and growing businesses where women thrive. They will share how they created business processes and practices to support women, built on the needs of parents and more.

    Maranda Adams has spent a significant amount of time in real estate and International finance. She founded a real estate investment company focused on rebuilding communities and preserving high-risk real estate in blighted and sub-standard areas. In 2018, she cofounded a woman-owned construction and real estate services company, Blair Freeman.

    Adams serves on the board of directors for The Rose Theater, Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership (ENCAP), Abide and the Advisory Council for Habitat for Humanity. She is a voting member of I Be Black Girl Omaha (IBBG) and CREW Metro Omaha and was the 2021 recipient of Midland’s Business Journal’s 40 under 40 award.

    In her free time, she loves to travel and spend time with family and friends. Adams is married to her college sweetheart, Titus, and they have five children, Titus II, Traeson, Tucker, Marlee and Tobias.

    She earned her bachelor's degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

    Janet Barnard is an authentic C-suite executive with an award-winning history of finance, HR and business operations experience across multiple divisions of Cox Enterprises, including as a regional leader for Cox Communications and in the c-suite for Cox Automotive. Known for her ability to scale and grow both early-stage and mature businesses, she has helmed up to $3.5B in revenue as the first female C-suite leader of Manheim, the largest wholesale auto auction firm in the world.

    Barnard serves as an executive coach as part of The Exco Group network and as a principal advisor for Lotis Blue Consulting, focusing on organizational and digital transformation for large organizations. This diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) thought leader has been featured on, Automotive News Daily Drive Podcast, Auto Remarketing, and

    She serves on the advisory board for PeakSpan Capital, a venture capital firm, and volunteers for her alma mater on the Dean's Advisory Board for the University of Nebraska College of Business.

    She splits her time between Atlanta and Longboat Key, Florida, with her husband, Bryan. She travels frequently to enjoy her two daughters’ families in the midwest, as well as spending time exploring new cultures around the world.

    Michaella Kumke is the president and CEO of the Food Bank of Lincoln. Prior to this role, she previously served as the community engagement director during which time she co-led the Food Bank’s $10.3 million capital campaign project, and as communications director. In addition to food banking, she has more than 20 years of professional nonprofit experience, including roles at Nebraska Public Media, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals and Lincoln Children’s Museum.

    When she’s not learning from neighbors facing hunger or championing efforts to end hunger, you will likely find Kumke reading an overdue library book, being entertained by one of her 30+ nieces or nephews, lending a hand in the community or exploring trails with her fellow nature-loving spouse, Ari, and their loveable and anxious mutt, Frankie.

    View Session Description View Maranda Adams' Bio View Janet Barnard's Bio View Michaella Kumke's Bio

  • Creating a Practice in Which Women Thrive – Heather Hicks Hilgers, Founder, Hilgers Graben; Brett E. Ebert, '10 & '13, Partner, Ball, Loudon, Ebert, & Brostrom, LLC; and Susan Reff, Partner, Hightower Reff Law, LLC

    This facilitated discussion features women lawyers who played a key role in starting law firms that ultimately focused on creating business processes and practices that support women lawyers, build on the unique needs of parents and ultimately create law practices in which women lawyers thrive.

    Heather Hilgers helped found Hilgers Graben and serves on the firm's board of directors. She focuses primarily on business development, operations, business management and recruiting. Prior to the formation of Hilgers Graben, she served as the associate director of career services for the University of Nebraska College of Law and as a litigator for several years. She started her career as a criminal prosecutor, and then moved into the private sector, specializing in commercial construction litigation.

    Hilgers is involved as a room parent at North American Martyrs Catholic School’s PTO. She served on the board of directors for the Junior League of Lincoln for several years and as president in 2016-17. She was a part of the Leadership Lincoln Fellows Class XXXI (2015-16). Hilgers also served on the board of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and Pi Beta Phi Nebraska Beta Chapter's Alumnae Advisory Council from 2010 until 2015.

    She and her husband, Mike, live in Lincoln, and have four children, Alice, Elsie, Clara Jane, and Michael.

    Brett E. Ebert’s law practice includes estate planning, probate, estate administration, intellectual property, entity formation and planning for charitable giving. She is one of four partners at a boutique estate and business planning firm, founded in 2019. She enjoys the dual challenges of managing a full practice load and operating a small business.

    Ebert grew up in Lexington, Nebraska. where she worked at the local Dairy Queen, which was owned and operated by her family for more than 50 years. She is an avid reader and follower of #bookstagram and #BookTok (but via Instagram because she's an old Millennial).

    Susan Reff is a founding partner of Hightower Reff Law. A skilled courtroom attorney in Omaha with over 20 years of experience, she loves advocating for children and families.

    She volunteers for the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Legal Aid. Reef is an active member of the Nebraska Women’s Bar Association and Nebraska Academy of Collaborative Professionals, a member of the House of Delegates of the Nebraska Bar Association, and a graduate of the Nebraska Bar Leadership Academy. She previously sat on the Judicial Nominating Commission for the 4th Judicial District for District and County Court vacancies and currently is on the Supreme Court’s Committee on Inquiry Panel.

    Reff is certified by the Office of Dispute Resolution in Basic Mediation and Family Law Mediation. She is a certified Collaborative Divorce Attorney.

    She was awarded the AIOFLA 10 Best Family Law Attorney 2019. That year, she was also recognized by the Nebraska Families Collaborative with their Community Champion for Children and Families distinction.

    In her free time, Reff enjoys reading, (but not memoirs) mountain biking, and going to concerts.

    She graduated from the Creighton University School of Law in 2001 after completing her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Creighton University.

    View Session Description View Heather Hicks Hilgers' Bio View Brett E. Ebert's Bio View Susan Reff's Bio

  • Leading Authentically: How to Identify Your Values for Enhanced Communication and Decision-MakingAngela Palmer-Wackerly, Associate Professor of Interpersonal, Family and Health Communication

    In a world brimming with distractions, urgent requests and conflicting messages, aligning our actions with our core values is pivotal for personal and professional fulfillment and success. This presentation delves into the transformative power of identifying and living our values to lead with authenticity, communicate with clarity and make decisions aligned with our true selves.

    Angela Palmer-Wackerly is an associate professor, specializing in health communication and health equity in the Department of Communication Studies. She is motivated by working with others to solve complex problems so that together, they can create a more empathetic, supportive and equitable world. In striving to achieve that goal, she collaborates with academic and community partners, using community-based participatory research (CBPR) principles to study how social support, identity and decision-making intersect to both improve and worsen (mental) health.

    Palmer-Wackerly earned her PhD at The Ohio State University.

    View Session Description View Angela Palmer-Wackerly's Bio

  • Finding Your Three Big Goal-Setting Rocks to Shatter Any Glass CeilingElina Ibrayeva, '97 & '99, Associate Professor of Practice in Management

    Learn about the "Big Rocks" approach to goal setting before exploring how to develop your objectives and key results, a new approach to planning used by many companies including Google and Intel. This approach to planning can be used by aspiring female leaders to maximize their chances of breaking any glass ceilings.

    Elina Ibrayeva earned a Ph.D. in Political Economy from the Kazakh National State University in 1989 and a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1999. She joined the College of Business in 2012 with expertise in international management and organizational behavior.

    She published in the Journal of International Business Studies and the Journal of World Business and contributed as a major collaborator to “Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies” by Robert House, receiving a M. Scott Myers Award for Applied Research in the Workplace.

    Her most recent publications include “Expanding Cutts Floral Distributors,” The Case Journal; “Destination Unknown: Duncan Aviation in a Global Economy,” The Case Journal; “SML Parking and RFID Technology,” Journal of Business and Economics and “Union Pacific: Deregulation and Beyond,” American Journal of Management.

    View Session Description View Elina Ibrayeva's Bio

11:30 a.m. Lunch and Networking
12:15 p.m. My Leadership Moment

Danielle Jefferis, Assistant Professor of Law

Danielle C. Jefferis is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law, where she teaches Civil Procedure, Civil Rights Litigation, Prison Law, and Race and the Law. Her research focuses on theories of punishment and the law and policy governing prison and detention, with an emphasis on the rights of incarcerated people and federal courts' treatment of prisoners' rights claims.

She has extensive civil rights litigation experience and has represented plaintiffs in federal courts across the country, including in the United States Supreme Court. Jefferis has taken several cases to trial and successfully litigated numerous appeals. In 2018, she was a member of a team of clinic faculty and student attorneys that successfully challenged the constitutionality of a federal prisoner’s convictions, resulting in his release from prison. One of her most memorable moments as an attorney and teacher was witnessing her client reunite with his family after being separated from them for more than a decade.

View Danielle Jefferis' Bio

12:30 p.m. Plenary Session

Thriving in Chaos: Energy Management for Women's Success and Wellbeing
Arin N. Reeves, Author, Founder and Managing Director, Nextions, Founder, The JEDI Collective

In her new book, In Charge, Dr. Arin N. Reeves offers women a path to a successful and meaningful life, by helping women eliminate energy drains, manage what needs to be done, and bring more of what makes them happy into their lives. Reeves will discuss the research and strategies highlighted in the new book and how women’s energy management needs to be at the forefront of the conversation when it comes to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. She will explore the principles of energy management, the process of restructuring days from the perspective of energy management, and integrating energy management principles into leadership skills. This presentation is for every woman experiencing diminished energy in the midst of chaos; for every woman seeking greater joy, acknowledgment and strength; and for every woman who wants to continue to excel and refuses to settle for less.

As a researcher, author and top advisor to many global leaders and managers, Arin N. Reeves offers expertise and insights on a wide range of leadership and workplace culture topics. She is intellectually voracious and committed to exploring diverse perspectives in her research and writing. She is the best-selling author of “The Next IQ, One Size Never Fits All” and “Smarter Than A Lie.” Her latest book, "In Charge: The Energy Management Guide for Badass Women Who Are Tired of Being Tired," was released in March 2022. Reeves has designed and led comprehensive research projects on topics including gender equity, LGBTQIA diversity, racial/ethnic diversity, cultural integration, implicit bias, transformational leadership, energy management and working through generational differences.

She is the founder and managing director of the research and advisory firm Nextions, which specializes in workplace culture change. Additionally, Reeves created The JEDI Collective, a public interest initiative dedicated to advancing justice, equity, diversity and inclusion globally. She began her career as a practicing attorney. She then earned her doctorate in sociology at Northwestern University, where she served as an adjunct professor teaching classes on law and society.

View Session Description View Arin Reeves' Bio

1:30 p.m. My Leadership Moment

Roxana Cortés-Mills, '13 & '16, Associate Legal Director, Immigrant Legal Center

Roxana Cortés-Mills is the associate legal director at Immigrant Legal Center. She manages a team of attorneys, DOJ-accredited representatives and paralegals across ILC’s offices statewide. She specializes in cases involving immigrant children and their families. She appears before Nebraska state courts and the Omaha Immigration Court, most notably winning two appeals before the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Cortés-Mills graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with majors in psychology, Latino/Latin American studies and Spanish. She earned her J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law. During her 3L year at Nebraska Law, she served as a senior certified law student in the law school’s immigration clinic. Her representation of immigrants through that clinic led her to receive the Pat Gies Memorial Award. Cortés-Mills now teaches immigration law as an adjunct professor for her alma mater.

When not teaching or working as an attorney, Cortés-Mills loves to spend time with her family and also loves to cook and garden.

View Roxana Cortés-Mills' Bio

1:45 p.m. Break
2 p.m. Breakout Sessions
  • EmpowerHER Using Strength-Based Development Kaitlin Ferris, Assistant Director of the Clifton Builders Program, Clifton Strengths Institute

    Have you ever wondered about the incredible potential that lies within you, waiting to take the spotlight? In this dynamic workshop, you will embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery, leveraging strengths to overcome challenges and propel yourself to new heights. It’s time to reclaim the center stage of your own narrative with confidence and purpose. No previous experience with the CliftonStrengths Assessment is required.

    Kaitlin Ferris is an assistant director of the Clifton Strengths Institute within the College of Business and a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. With a wealth of experience spanning a decade in higher education, she has a passion for fostering student development, aiding individuals and teams in maximizing their talents and cultivating inclusive environments. Ferris earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska.

    View Session Description View Kaitlin Ferris' Bio

  • From the Obama Administration to Equity Partnership: My Lessons Learned About Breaking the Glass Ceiling – Julie Miceli, Office Managing Partner, Husch Blackwell

    Learn from someone who has shattered glass ceilings. Julie Micelli is an attorney who says yes to opportunities and, as a result of that risk-taking mentality, has been the only woman at the table at some of the highest levels of government. She is an equity partner, but also a managing partner. Attendees will learn from Julie's reflections on her experiences as a woman in the legal profession about how they may shatter their own glass ceilings no matter their practice area.

    A member of Husch Blackwell’s Higher Education group and Managing Partner of the firm's Chicago office, Julie Miceli’s practice is dedicated to serving private and public institutions of higher education.

    Miceli has concentrated experience advising colleges, universities and academic medical centers on legal issues related to campus safety, including Title IX, the Clery Act, serving minors and emergency planning and response; financial aid, including Title IV compliance, loan servicing and collections; institutional transactions including changes of control, ownership, and structure, institutional mergers, and related diligence; as well as development matters, including fundraising, major gifts and permissible use of charitable contributions. She also provides legal counsel on issues and litigation related to faculty tenure, student conduct, disability accommodations and employment issues.

    In addition, she has advised institutions on issues involving free expression and academic freedom, student privacy, contracts and public/private partnerships. Miceli also focuses on emerging legislative, regulatory and policy initiatives at the state and federal levels impacting institutions of higher education and accreditors through the development and review of policies, procedures and practices. As a team lead for the higher education practice group's accreditor practice, Miceli also works closely with accreditors to ensure federal compliance.

    Before joining Husch Blackwell, she served as the deputy general counsel for higher education and federal student aid at the U.S. Department of Education, and prior to that, as the chief of staff and special counsel to the general counsel for that agency. Most recently, she served as associate general counsel at Northwestern University. She previously practiced as an education associate at a mid-sized Chicago law firm, and started her practice as an assistant attorney general in the Education Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

    She earned her bachelor's degree from Ohio University before attending the Ohio State University Mortiz College of Law.

    View Session Description View Julie Miceli's Bio

  • Networking: Breaking Barriers & Building Bridges Kadina Koonce, '19, Assistant Director of Career Development and Planning, Business Career Center

    This session is your roadmap to recognizing barriers and equipping yourself with practical tools to overcome them. Learn to identify and leverage your soon-to-be as well as existing networks, craft meaningful conversations and find mentors and allies who become your champions on the climb to the top. Leave this session equipped with a "networking toolkit" stocked with actionable tips, resources, and online platforms to kickstart your own journey.

    Kadina Koonce is a career coach and the assistant director of career development and planning at the College of Business Career Center. She empowers individuals to navigate their career exploration and develop strong resumes and networking capabilities.

    Leveraging her expertise in technology-driven career development, she fosters innovative approaches that have been recognized with two "Best Session" awards at UNL's AAA Conference (2019, 2021).

    Koonce earned her bachelor's degree at California State University-Sacramento and her master's degree in educational administration at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She also earned a graduate certificate in human resources management.

    View Session Description View Kadina Koonce's Bio

  • Path to the Judiciary – Hon. Tressa M. Alioth, Judge of the District Court, 4th Judicial District; Hon. Riko Bishop, '77 & '92, Judge of the Court of Appeals, 1st Judicial District; Hon. Stephanie Hansen, '00, Judge of the County Court, 4th Judicial District; and Alice Kang, Professor of Political Science

    Hear about the latest research on women's representation on judiciaries worldwide and in the U.S. and enjoy a panel discussion with judges sharing their experiences, observations and lessons learned.

    Judge Tressa M. Alioth was appointed to the 4th Judicial District, serving Douglas County, in 2021. Prior to her appointment, she was deputy county attorney in the Douglas County Attorney's Office.

    Alioth earned her bachelor's degree and juris doctorate from Creighton University.

    Judge Riko Bishop was appointed to the Court of Appeals in the 1st Judicial District, serving Lancaster and Seward counties, in 2013. Prior to her appointment, she was an attorney and shareholder of Perry Guthery Haase & Gessford, P.C., L.L.O., and a teacher.

    She earned her bachelor's degree from Kearney State College and a juris doctorate with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law.

    Judge Stephanie Hansen was appointed to the County Court bench in Omaha in 2015. Prior to her appointment, she was a prosecutor in the Sarpy County Attorney's Office in Papillion.

    Judge Hansen is active in the Omaha Bar Association, serving as president in 2021-22. She is also the treasurer for the Nebraska County Judges' Association and a member of the Nebraska Bar Association's House of Delegates.

    She earned her bachelor's degree from Hastings College and a juris doctorate from the University of Nebraska College of Law.

    Alice J. Kang is a professor of political science and ethnic studies (African and African American Studies) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is a scholar of comparative politics and women, gender and politics with a world-regional focus on Africa.

    Kang received her bachelor's degree from Brown University and M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    View Session Description View Tressa M. Alioth's Bio View Riko Bishop's Bio View Stephanie Hansen's Bio View Alice Kang's Bio

3 p.m. Break
3:15 p.m. My Leadership Moment

Col. Kathryn D. "Katy" Millwood, '93, Commander, 155th Operations Group

Colonel Katy Millwood is a KC-135 evaluator/instructor pilot and commander of the 155th Operations Group of the Nebraska Air National Guard based in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is responsible for organizing, training and equipping a group and two squadrons executing worldwide aerial refueling, cargo, aeromedical evacuation, humanitarian relief and support to U.S. combatant commands. It is her duty to oversee airfield management operations and services for various Department of Defense customers and ensure intelligence support to U.S. military and state government officials.

View Kathryn D. Millwood's Bio

3:30 p.m. Introduction of Closing Keynote

Kathy Ankerson, Executive Vice Chancellor

Closing Keynote - Moving Beyond the Glass Ceiling: The Power of Women to Change the World

Candy Marshall, '77 & '80, Senior Advisor, TheDream.US
Keynote Sponsored by Husch Blackwell

The term “glass ceiling” was coined 45 years ago to describe the barriers that kept women from ascending into leadership positions. Through sheer determination and persistence, women have cracked and, in some professions, shattered this ceiling. But our work is not done. Now is the time to seize our power to make the world a more equitable place for all. We are led by countless incredible women throughout history. Let’s learn from them and boldly embrace our roles as world leaders.

Candy Marshall has been a lifelong champion of equitable access to education and health care for women and children. For the last 10 years, she served as president of TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college and career success program for undocumented students. Prior to founding TheDream.US, she served as the chief human resource officer and director of global health operations at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Marshall serves on the National College Attainment Network Board and is a life board member of the Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Center and Greater Seattle YMCA.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a law degree from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

View Session Description View Candy Marshall's Bio

4:30 p.m. Closing Remarks

Molly Brummond, '00 & '03, Assistant Dean for Student Development and Chief of Staff, College of Law

4:45 p.m. Networking Reception

Marketplace Vendors

designs by enas


Candys Cookies
Colea Alterations
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Fleet Feet logo.
Fleet Feet logo.
Kuro Neko
Lulubee artisanal chocolates logo.
rebecca marie
sugar and love
sugar and love
Wax Buffalo Logo


college of business
college of law
Baylor Evnen
Cline Williams
Hilgers Granben
Husch Blackwell
Wood Aitken

Conference Location

Innovation Campus
Innovation Campus

2021 Transformation Drive
Lincoln, NE 68508

parking map

Parking Information

Women Lead will be held at Nebraska Innovation Campus on Friday, March 1, 2024 at the same time as the 2024 Nebraska State High School Girls Basketball Tournament at the Devaney Center. Park & Go will be charging $8 (credit cards only) for parking. The Women Lead conference parking lot is immediately north of the NIC Conference Center as noted on the map in red.

Please note the following:

  • Pre-purchased parking is not available.
  • Metered parking along Transformation Drive can be purchased on March 1, if available, through the Passport Parking App. Learn about the Passport Parking App
  • All regular UNL parking permits, except for the Perimeter permit, are reciprocal in the NIC Lot A. Important: To park on the Nebraska Innovation Campus, UNL permit holders must request their permit be added to the reciprocal visitors list. Requests must be made from official UNL email accounts to


Sheri Irwin-Gish
Sheri Irwin-Gish
College of Business
Molly Brummond
Molly Brummond
College of Law