Women Leaders Club Hosts Mentorship Luncheon


Middlebury Women Leaders Club Leader Erin Van Gessel ‘17.5 and History Professor Amy Morsman.


The Middlebury Women Leaders Club held its first Female Mentor Luncheon on Friday, Oct. 27, with Professor of History Amy Morsman. Erin Van Gessel ‘17.5, made opening remarks.

Before coming to Middlebury, Morsman lived and worked in the South, as Van Gessel explained. She earned her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and a History PhD from the University of Virginia. Morsman channeled her interests in gender roles, slavery and the civil war in her dissertation and first book. Her research now examines race relations and regionalism in the nineteenth century, but the thing she loves most about her job as a professor is engaging young people in thought-provoking discussions.

At the luncheon, Morsman reflected on her undergraduate and graduate experiences as well as the nuances of balancing work and family life. While what we may find fulfilling exactly may be in constant flux, the need to support yourself persists. For that reason, she argues, we are constantly balancing and weighing.

“If you focus on what fulfills you instead of what you are doing, then you will never feel inadequate,” Morsman said.

In response to the question about what to do when you fail at what fulfills you, Morsman challenged students to reconsider what constitutes their standard for greatness and emphasized the importance of embracing failures.

“We often feel like we’re not supposed to share our fear and failures,” Morsman said. “But they are important.”

This led to a discussion about personal growth in which not only Morsman shared personal anecdotes about her studies, career, family, and the women who have inspired her along the way. Students also offered advice to other young Middlebury women in attendance.

The Middlebury Women Leaders Club is led by Van Gessel, Rae Aaron ’19.5 and Maryam Mahboob ’18. Morsman was the first female mentor for the luncheon series. There will be two more luncheons. The next will be with Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor and the third will be with Jessica Holmes, a professor of Economics and leader of MiddCore.

Over Winter Term there will be a weekend with a conflict mediation workshop led by President Laurie L. Patton, a to-be-determined keynote speaker on Friday, and then on Saturday, a student-run fashion show modeling the work of a female student-run business, Share to Wear. The fashion show will serve as a fundraiser for She Should Run, an organization that recruits women to run for political office and runs their campaigns.

The Middlebury Women Leaders club meets bi-weekly on Monday nights in the Gifford annex from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The symposium during J-Term will coincide with the one year anniversary of the Women’s March: Jan. 18-20, 2018.