17th Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference 

Friday, November 3, 2023

Plan now to attend the 17th Annual HIGHER Ground Women’s Leadership Conference on Friday, November 3, 2023.

This highly rated leadership experience celebrates who you are in all aspects of your life, providing a tremendous opportunity to grow, develop, and learn with practical solutions for success at home and work. The conference is for emerging and experienced, creative and bold leaders who are motivated and positioned to maximize their potential through educational and empowering sessions. This full-day event will be an interactive learning experience designed for women who are or are aspiring to be transformational leaders within their organizations. This event challenges participants to develop a deliberate practice of strategic foresight to aid in facing the challenges and opportunities that exist beyond us. Participants will be challenged to capitalize on this time of era-defining moments and to imagine what is possible, translating their values into actions, dreams into reality, and their hopes into happens. Content will be delivered through a high‐impact combination of short, narrative‐driven lectures, interactive panels with industry leaders, and individualized strategic reflection activities, culminating in an action plan for moving forward with your leadership growth.

Questions? Feel free to contact The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government & Public Affairs at gehli@vcu.edu

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Sponsorship Opportunities

If you or your organization would like to participate in this year’s event as a Sponsor, visit the sponsorships opportunities page for more information.

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 (CEU) are available for full participation in this event.

This one-day event celebrates who you are as a woman in all aspects of your life. The conference will provide you a tremendous opportunity to grow, develop, and learn with practical solutions for success at home and at work. Guided by The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, with presentations from regionally and nationally known workshop leaders, participants will explore the latest and innovative practices in leadership excellence. Come spend a day with great leaders, find what motivates you, and build leadership skills that last!

This conference is open to all. We embrace the fullness of womanhood in all its inclusive paths, intersectional journeys, and for all interested in how womanhood has shaped their leadership journey. 

Past Conferences

2021, 15th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: November 5, 2021

Conference Keynote Speakers: Kiko Davis Snoddy, Trustee, Donald Davis Living Trust Founder and President of the Don Davis Legacy Foundation, Managing Director of Groovesville Productions & Publishing LLC; and Dr. Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert, Founder, and Executive Director of the Foundation for Family and Community Healing

Opening Plenary Speakers: The Honorable Ida Chen, Judge, Court of Common Pleas, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Adria Cordova, President, Association for Latino Professionals, Philadelphia Chapter; Abby Credicott, Chair, HYPE (Helping Young Professionals Engage); Marcelle Wilson Davis, DSL, Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, VCU Health System; Ka'Myia Gunn, Student Emory University School of Law; Chrissy Keeton, Founder & CEO, Control Y Consulting; Ryann Lofchie, Chief Executive Officer, Viveki Consulting, LLC; Maria Morukian, MA, PCC, President and Founder, MSM Global Consulting, LLC; Jennifer Y. Scott, Director, The Americas, Global Workplace Solutions Team, The Coca-Cola Company; Janice Underwood, PhD, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia; Elizabeth Veliz, Assistant Vice President, Talent Management & Organizational Development, VCU Health System; and Omega Wilson, Founder, Innovative Strategies Consulting, LLC

2021 Conference Program (coming soon)

2020, 14th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: November 6, 2020

Conference Keynote Speaker: K. Renee Horton, PhD, Space Launch System Quality Engineer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Opening Plenary Speakers: Jennifer Boykin, Executive Vice President and President, Newport News Shipbuilding and Huntington Ingalls Industries; Rita Davis, JD, Counsel to the Honorable Ralph S. Northam, Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia; Carmen Orozco-Acosta, PhD, Senior Advisor to the President, Community Change; Kelli Palmer, PhD, Head of Global Inclusion & Diversity and Corporate Citizenship, CFA Institute; Majorie Powell, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), AARP

2020 Conference Program

2019, 13th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: November 1, 2019

Conference Keynote Speaker: Gayle Elizabeth Harris, MSW, QMHP, Founder and COO, LivingLifeMatters, LLC; Chef and Co-owner, 2U4U Mind, Body, and Soul Found Master

Opening Plenary Speakers: Paula Otto, Partner, LeadSpark Consulting; Nakeina E. Douglas-Glenn, Director, The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute; Carmen Foster, Principal Consultant, Forward and Wise; Susan Wilkes, Preseident, Wilkes Consulting

2018, 12th Annual HIGHER Ground Conference

Conference Date: November 2, 2018

Conference Keynote Speaker: Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, Board of Governors 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