2016 Women Inspire series speakers (from L) Monica H. Swahn, Charity Scott, Ritu Aneja, Lynée Lewis Gaillet

Women Inspire series sparks curiosity, community, collaboration

“To ask the big questions, to think bigger. That’s what we’re here at a university for. There are enormous possibilities when you bring together energetic people who are passionate about their work.” Monica H. Swahn., Distinguished University Professor at the School of Public Health


Curiosity is the beating heart of a university. It’s the sun that fuels the growth and cultivation of minds and powers research and its yields.


As one of the nation’s premier urban research public universities, Georgia State has no shortage of curious minds leading groundbreaking work addressing the most challenging issues of the 21st century. The GSU faculty doing this work and/or providing instruction for students who will do their own research are known and respected within their departments and among their colleagues across the country…and often unknown outside their department, both among their peers at GSU and within the Atlanta community.


Despite the vast array of impactful work being done at Georgia State, the university had limited public forums to share it with the community. This fact, and the community’s interest in the university, led First Lady Laura Voisinet and the Office of the Provost to create the Women Inspire Speaker Series.


When out in the community, Voisinet is often asked “what all is going on at Georgia State?” Women Inspire helps to answer that, to serve as a public forum for the celebration of Georgia State University women who motivate and move others.


“The opportunity to think about my work in a new way—to try to condense my life’s work in a way that informs and inspires people from all walks of life—prepared me for sharing it with many different groups of people, people in whose lives I may be able to make a difference.” Ritu Aneja, Distinguished University Professor at the Department of Biology


The Women Inspire Speaking Series is designed as an open-ended intellectual forum for distinctive Georgia State women—leading faculty, administrators, and alumni—to share their stories and empower others. The series is open to the public and speakers represent a diverse array of subject areas. Talks from the 2016-17 season, the series’ third year—illustrate the variety of topics:


  • Mind Full or Mindful? Bringing Mindfulness to Lawyers (And to Anyone Else Who Wants Less Stress and More Happiness in Their Lives), Charity Scott, J.D., M.S.C.M., The Catherine Henson Professor of Law at the College of Law.
  • Alcohol: Cheaper than Water. Conundrums Facing Public Health Abroad and At Home, Monica H. Swahn, Ph.D., M.P.H., Distinguished University Professor, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
  • It’s Never Really Black or White: Unweaving Breast Cancer Complexity with Passion and Patience, Ritu Aneja, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor at the Department of Biology
  • Everyday Archives: Cultivating Creativity through Primary Research, Lynée Lewis Gaillet, PH.D., professor and chair at the Department of English


Despite the specificity and dissimilarity of their respective work, the Women Inspire speakers share one important commonality: their passion for what they do. Their enthusiasm, coupled with a talk tailored to inform and spark discussion, provides a forum for attendees to expand their horizons and make new intellectual and personal connections.


“One advantage of being part of a university is the many opportunities to learn something new. Faculty members tend to stay in our own programs, but the Women Inspire series offers us an accessible and convenient forum for meeting people across the colleges. Many of the same people attend each talk—from inside and outside the university—so a new community has arisen around these events. This community has helped make more fluid the liminal space between ‘town’ and ‘gown.’” Lynée Lewis Gaillet, professor and chair at the Department of English.


When speaking with each of the 2016-17 Women Inspire speakers, some common themes emerge: their enthusiasm for the series; their belief in the value of both presenting and attending; their recall of another speaker’s talk and how it provided a fresh perspective for seeing their own work.


But, most of all, they each spoke their admiration and appreciation of the community that’s arisen from the series and the personal connections they’ve made. They spoke of meeting peers they’d previously never crossed paths with, despite both being at GSU for years. They shared stories of new acquaintances renewed every few months at a Women Inspire event. They spoke of new friendships.


“An intellectual forum that highlights the diversity of what women are doing across the university is excellent outreach to the community, as well as to the campus. Sharing what you’re passionate about and the exchange of ideas with the audience has potential ripple effects; you never know who might be interested and want to follow up.” Charity Scott, The Catherine Henson Professor of Law at the College of Law.


The curious ask “what all’s going on at Georgia State”, and the Women Inspire Speaker Series is created to show the community some of the international, expert-level problem solving that’s taking place there. But Women Inspire has also created new sparks, new connections. In some cases, even new collaborations.


Professor Scott has started working with the State Bar of Georgia on a “Mindfulness for Legal Professionals” Continuing Legal Education course. Dr. Aneja and Dr. Swahn are exploring ways they could collaborate to enhance each other’s research, and both Dr. Gaillet and Dr. Aneja discovered their shared interests in mentoring international faculty members through the Office of International Initiatives.


It’s too soon to know where these collaborations may lead. However, the Women Inspire Speaker Series, and the community around it, will return in Fall semester 2017…for the curious.