In a collaboration designed to benefit women and the community, Hardin County hosted its first Women L.E.A.D. program on Wednesday evening at the Kenton Elementary School.
About 85 professional women attended the event, the first of its kind in the county, to encourage them to build relationships and leadership skills. It is supported by the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.
It is the brainchild of Christina Cross and Jesse Purcell. Cross, an attorney, said since moving to Kenton from California a year ago she has missed not having a strong women’s organization. Purcell, while she knows people in neighboring counties through her role as community manager for the American Cancer Society, said she doesn’t know many professional women in her own county.
Chris Burns-DiBiasio, director of community relations at Ohio Northern University and a member of the Alliance board, told the women that by joining together “we hope to have a greater impact on the leadership landscape of Hardin County.”
Guest speaker for the inaugural program was Tracy Stuck, assistant vice president of Student Life at The Ohio State University. It was a homecoming of sorts for Stuck, whose first job was at ONU in the admissions office. She later become director of student activities and assistant director of the McIntosh Center. Stuck called it a “dream job” and she worked in admissions under former President Dr. DeBow Freed. “I never worked for someone with such high standards,” she said. At ONU she learned the value of being a “Jill of all trades.” In cold weather, she drove a university van around town to take students to ONU. “I got to do it all since I started in Hardin County,” Stuck said. Had she started at Ohio State, “I probably would have been pigeon-holed” in a job. She said in a small county, people know you and what you’re doing. “It’s harder to be a leader in Hardin County.”
However, Stuck told the women, “If you manage your brand well, people will see your strengths and seek you out.” One problem she has noticed is women don’t support women enough. “You have to understand the power of support and connectivity,” Stuck said. “I say there’s value in getting to know people.” Stuck said she learned many valuable lessons from Dr. E. Gordon Gee while he was president of OSU. One of those is about the random person.
She said Dr. Gee, who was known for engaging students on campus, once told her, “Tracy, there’s 50,000 people on this campus and I don’t want to see anyone twice,”
Stuck said, “It’s great to hang out with people you’ve never met before. You’ll learn a lot from them.” She encouraged the women to develop a personal leadership style. “Know who you are and be proud of it.” Stuck told them being a leader is stepping up when needed to solve problems. She knows that firsthand and is credited with galvanizing support for construction of the Ohio Union at OSU.
She advised the women to take on something outside their comfort zone and don’t be afraid to fail. “That’s how you grow,” she said. Stuck predicted, “You will gain great friends in this organization.”