DWN’s History, as Told by a Past President

DWN Communication & Technology Chair Lark Mills recently spoke with former DWN President Jessica Hallam (FY 2010-11) to get her perspective on how the organization has evolved over the years. 

When the DePaul Women’s Network was first founded by a group of executive-level women, it was known as Women in Leadership (WIL). The initial focus centered on cultivating female leadership at DePaul University. Today, DWN has an expanded mission to support all women at the university in various areas of personal and professional development.

Jessica’s Personal History with DWN

Jessica Hallam headshotJessica started as a spectator when attending meetings in 2008. She was then asked to help plan the first annual event in 2008 along with co-chair Gillian Steel. Jessica helped organize the Annual Event again in 2009 and succeeded in attracting over 200 participants. In 2010, Jessica became the DWN president. During her term, she established the marketing committee in order to further improve DWN’s structure and branding initiatives. The marketing committee helped develop the DWN word logo, print materials to promote DWN events and a communication plan. “I said we need[ed] a marketing committee so that everything we did looked and felt professional and was consistent so when you put out an email about DWN, it all was professionally done and there was an evaluation afterward [after DWN events].”

Jessica’s Thoughts on DWN’s Early Leaders

Jessica explained that her view of DWN’s beginnings is simple: “There was a core group of high leaders… the grandmother group. They took the organization as far as they could until they realized they needed to open it up to women of various levels at the university in order to keep the momentum moving.”

That group included Jay BraatzPeggy BurkeSusanne DumbletonDenise MattsonErin MoranElizabeth OrtizDeb Schmidt-RogersBarbara Shaffer and Gillian Steel.

Jessica’s View of the Transformation from WIL to DWN

In 2008, WIL was at a standstill. This group of early leaders started a discussion for what needed to happen to get the organization moving again. They knew they needed to establish better structure. Peggy Burke became president and held a brainstorming session.  As a result of this meeting, the tri-president model, the planning committee and other committees for planning specific events, like brown bag luncheons and the annual event were established. According to Jessica, Deb Schmidt Rogers argued to adopt a new-grass-roots initiative:

  • Create an organization for women who need and want to grow their skills
  • Make DWN a vehicle on campus
  • Make DWN a well-grounded organization at the University

In order to better reflect this new initiative, they changed the name from Women in Leadership (WIL) to DePaul Women’s Network (DWN).

Jessica Praises DWN’s Accomplishments

Jessica explained that DWN should be proud of how far we have come in regard to establishing structure. For example, we now have a formal re-election process, implemented by current DWN President Christine Gallagher Kearney. We now have our own department ID for the DWN budget. We now have a secretary position, thanks to past president Ann Marie Klotz, to help serve as a resource and provide minutes at meetings. Furthermore, DWN’s social media outlets (this blog, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) are enabling more women to find out about events and learn how to get involved. The timeline below demonstrates DWN’s accomplishments from 2003 to today.

DWN Timeline: 2003-2013

Jessica explained, “There were a lot of things that needed time… to nurture… to get the message across and to find the right mix of people that had the time to commit… that had the juices if you will.” Jessica further explained that today’s DWN not only includes women with experience to bring to the table, but also women who are looking for opportunities to grow, network and learn from one another. There is a learning component of DWN now that did not exist with WIL.

Jessica’s Outlook for DWN’s Future

Jessica is pleased that DWN is reflecting on its history. She encouraged us to talk to more early leaders of the group because everyone will have her own twist on DWN’s history. “I believe an organization as lively and as dedicated as DWN is going to continue to move forward. I don’t know where DWN is going to end but at some point it is going to be part of DePaul history.”

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. What is your perspective on DWN’s history? What is your personal history with DWN? We welcome your comments.
Check back for “6 Challenges in DWN History, as Told by a Past President.” Jessica Hallam talks about DWN’s past issues of debate and how we have worked toward resolving them over the years.