As Seen On: The College Today, The Official News Site of the College of Charleston

by Amy Mercer

Wide shot of speakers on stage and attendees in audience at the Women for Women Summit presented by the College of Charleston School of Business

The second annual Women for Women Summit, presented by the College of Charleston School of Business, will take place on Sept. 23, 2021. Resilience is the theme of this year’s one-day event, which was launched in 2020 to celebrate, elevate, share and connect exceptional women from across the Palmetto State.

The impressive lineup of speakers includes women leaders in business, medicine and government. Guests will participate in panel discussions, professional workshops and networking opportunities designed to foster personal and professional growth. Tickets went on sale Tuesday, May 25, 2021.

“Due to challenges created by the Covid-19 crisis, more women are considering taking a leave of absence or leaving the workforce, and far fewer women are on track to be future leaders,” says Joanna Lau, founder and CEO of executive consulting and investment company Lau Acquisitions, who is a member of the School of Business Board of Governors. “Now it is more important than ever to come together as a community to show resilience and to support each other.”

Students from the College’s School of Business are involved in all aspects of the summit including planning, marketing and producing the event, which will be held at the Francis Marion Hotel in downtown Charleston.

“Our inaugural event last year put the School of Business on the map as a champion of diversity and inclusion,” says Alan T. Shao, dean of the School of Business. “It was phenomenal to have the business community, faculty, staff and students together to celebrate the mission of the Women for Women Summit. The school is proud to host the event again this year.”

For additional information about the second annual Women for Women Summit and to purchase tickets, visit

Confirmed 2021 Speakers at Press time

Dianne Culhane began her career in the business theater designing and producing multi-media extravaganzas, which culminated with 23 years at The Coca-Cola Company. At Coca-Cola, she served key roles in the C-suite, leading global change initiatives, communications, strategic planning, brand building (including development and creating integrated brand experiences), employee engagement and executive coaching.

Katarina Fjording, head of sustainability and university at Volvo Cars, is an automotive veteran with more than 30 years of global experience from Europe, Asia and America. She has headed up billion-dollar industrial green field projects and led 4000-plus employee organizations.    

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton ’04, associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia, is the medical director of Goodstock Consulting, an award-winning children’s book author, and a lifelong advocate of America’s underserved and marginalized communities. She is a 2004 graduate of the College.

Sara Hastreiter has lived, worked and travelled to over 55 countries as a professional ocean racer, climber and humanitarian. She is currently studying industrial organizational psychology at Harvard University.

Deborah Lee James has a three-decade track record in national security. She served for 20 years in the U.S. government, including time on Capitol Hill as a professional staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives and two tours in the Pentagon.

Lou Kennedy is president, CEO and Owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation – a certified woman-owned business. The company employs nearly 2,000 people, produces one billion doses of life-saving medication annually and is a nationwide leader in manufacturing opioid-free pain management drugs.

Joanna Lau is a director, trustee, CEO and entrepreneur with broad strategic operation and technology experience on corporate, private and public boards. She is the founder and CEO of Lau Acquisition Corporation, a technology development company and provider of debt and equity financing as well as consulting services to various industries.

Jodie W. McLean is chief executive officer of EDENS, one of the nation’s leading private owners, operators and developers of retail real estate. She has been responsible for the development, redevelopment, acquisition and disposition of more than $15 billion in retail assets.

Barbara L. Melvin, as chief operating officer of the South Carolina Ports Authority, oversees terminal operations, carrier sales, information technology and support services, crane and equipment maintenance, engineering, environmental, Port Police, procurement, the logistics solution center and cruise operations.

Lisa M. Shalett is an accomplished senior executive, corporate advisor and independent board director, with a remarkable breadth of leadership and operational experience over her 25-plus year career, including 13 years as a Goldman Sachs partner.

Kelly Wallace serves as managing director at TrailRunner International, where she works with clients on areas of corporate reputation, media affairs, crisis management and influencer engagement. She is an award-winning journalist and communications leader whose distinguished career includes print and broadcast television.

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