Group of women posing for the came with the overlay of white text of the conference date

13th Annual HIGHER Ground 
Women's Leadership Conference

Friday, Nov. 1, 2019
Greater Richmond Convention Center
403 North Third Street
Richmond, Virginia

Register now via CVENT

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the VCU Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, we seek to build upon the success of our work by reflecting on the leadership of individuals, organizations and communities over the past 20 years and anticipating their leadership needs for the next 20 years. This year’s theme, "Building Bridges Together: Past, Present, and Future," invites us to explore how historical and contemporary experiences provide us with opportunities for new leadership insights for the future.

Recent years have been marred by tensions between the past and present, individually and collectively, and have required deep reflection on past acts, accounts, and accolades. The legacy of our historical actions and inactions continue to affect the present and how we understand the future. For many, history provides the richness of how we are seen and defines who we are today. For others, history is fraught with contradictions and inconsistencies with who we believe ourselves to be in the present. If our future is, in fact, a result of our interpretation and execution of experiences in the present, looking forward to 2039, what would reflection of our leadership past reveal about our present-day leadership? What would these reflections foretell about our leadership in the future?

This year, we aim to identify and promote opportunities that create strong partnerships and collaborations across people, time, and space by bringing together the latest in leadership practice with a shared desire to sustain interest in furthering our knowledge and understanding of leadership. 

About the Conference

The Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference provides high-quality education and networking opportunities. Each year, more than 300 participants come together to share ideas, illuminate innovative leadership practices and explore factors that influence their effectiveness at work, at home and in their communities. This conference provides participants with a tremendous opportunity to grow, develop and learn with practical solutions for success in their personal and professional lives. Our one-day, multi-track format offers a self-directed facilitated learning environment with education sessions and interactive forums. Key features include: plenary sessions, panel discussions, workshops, and regional and national speakers highlighting timely issues of importance to women. Continuing education units are available for full participation in this event.

Past Conferences

2018, 12th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: November 2, 2018

Conference Keynote Speaker: Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, Board of Governers Distinguished Service Professor, Graduate Department of Public Policy and Administration, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Opening Plenary Speakers: Christy Coleman, CEO, American Civil War Museum; Monique Greenwood, Chief Operating Officer, Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns; Aradhana Bela Sood, Professor, Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University; Pauline Weger, Founder, Quotabelle, Inc. 

2017, 11th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: November 3, 2017

Conference Keynote Speaker: Vida Williams, Founder and Managing Partner, AXIS Partners, Inc.

Closing Plenary Speakers: Aaron Anderson & David Leong, Virginia Commonwealth University

2017 HIGHER Ground Conference Program: Front Matter, Agenda, Speakers, Back Matter

2016, 10th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: January 29, 2016

Conference Keynote Speaker: Freda Thornton, President & CEO, FWL & Sons Inc.

Morning Plenary Speakers: Gwen Williams Dandridge, Former TV News Anchor and Professor, Mass Communications, Virginia State University; Melanie H. Green, Vice President and Provost, Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing; Kelli Lemon, Social Entrepreneur; Colette McEachin, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney, City of Richmond

2016 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2015, 9th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: January 30, 2015

Conference Keynote Speaker: Suzanne Malveaux, CNN Award Winning Journalist

Morning Plenary Speaker: Ava-Joye, Anchor/Video-Journalist, WRIC-TV; Ruth Jones, Executive Director, YWCA South Hampton Roads; Nancy Rodrigues, Secretary Administration, Commonwealth of Virginia; Angela Wilkes, Director Supplier Diversity & Sustainability, Owens & Minor

2015 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2014, 8th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: January 31, 2014

Conference Keynote Speaker: Anne Goddard, President & CEO, ChildFund International

Morning Plenary Speaker: Suzette Denslow, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia; Tiffany Jana, CEO, TMI Consulting, Inc.; Ruth Jones, Executive Director, YWCA South Hampton Roads; Jennifer McClellan, Delegate, Commonwealth of Virginia's 71st District; Colleen Quinn, Attorney & Partner, Locke & Quinn Personal Injury & Law Attorneys; and Gayle Jessup White, Communications Consultant, Writer, Realtor

2014 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2013, 7th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: January 25, 2013

Conference Theme: Destination HIGHER Ground: Your Guide to Excellence in Leadership

Conference Keynote Speaker: Sonia Aranza, Global Consultant, Executive Leadership Expert, Aranza Communications

Morning Plenary Speaker: Mary Foley, Bodacious Ventures, LLC; Debbie Lennick, Vice President, Market Innovation, CREATIVE; Susan Mitchell, President, Guardians of Honor, LLC; Wanda Mitchell, Vice President, Diversity & Equity, VCU; Katherine Winstch, Founder, The Mom Complex

2013 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2012, 6th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: January 27, 2012

Conference Theme: Maximizing You: Unlocking the Treasures Within

Conference Keynote Speaker: Mary C. Doswell, Senior Vice President- Alternative Energy Solutions, Dominion

Afternoon Plenary Speaker: Mary Foley, Bodacious Ventures, LLC

2012 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2011, 5th Annual HIGHER Ground Luncheon

Conference Date: January 21, 2011

Conference Theme: Transforming Ourselves Transforming the World

Conference Keynote Speaker: Gail Letts, President and CEO of the Central Virginia Region, SunTrust Bank

2011 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2010, 4th Annual HIGHER Ground Luncheon

Conference Date: January 15, 2010

Conference Theme: Celebrating a Decade of Women in Leadership

Conference Keynote Speaker: Daphne Maxwell Reid

2010 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2009, 3rd Annual HIGHER Ground Luncheon

Conference Date: January 23, 2009

Conference Theme: Living Today, Leading Tomorrow

Conference Keynote Speaker: Eva Teig Hardy, Executive Vice President, Retired, Dominion

2009 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2008, 2nd Annual HIGHER Ground Luncheon

Conference Date: January 18, 2008

Conference Theme: Born a Woman, Born a Leader

Conference Keynote Speaker: Stacy Hawkins Adams

2008 HIGHER Ground Conference Program

2006, 1st HIGHER Ground Luncheon

Conference Date: December 1, 2006

Conference Theme: Leadership Presence: Courage and Confidence as Women Leaders

Conference Keynote Speakers: The Honorable Jean W. Cunningham and The Honorable Anne G. “Panny” Rhodes

2006 HIGHER Ground Conference Program