Women in Higher Education conference focuses on defining space, creating change

ST. GEORGE — Dixie State University welcomed more than 250 women from across the state as the host of the “Fourth Annual Utah Women in Higher Education Network” spring conference Thursday and Friday.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Elemental Women: Defining Space, Creating Change,” addressed how women in higher education meet the challenges and opportunities they face in navigating career paths, while providing tools and information to help women more effectively lead and build influence in their workplaces, communities and beyond.

“Inspired by the dramatic Southern Utah landscape, this year’s conference was designed to highlight the powerful force that results when the elemental strengths of individuals come together to create change,” said Shirlayne Quayle, conference chair and DSU Career Center assistant director for employer relations.

Busy women

One of several breakout sessions held Friday included the popular “Busy Women: How to Have a Life and Get Things Done” by presenters Mary Anne Berzins and Kari Ellingson, both of the University of Utah.

During the presentation, those in attendance were asked to write down what they spend their time on. what they would like to spend their time doing, and then compare the two. “Sleep” was a frequently murmured response from the audience. “Busy women don’t sleep,” one woman said, which was met with sympathetic laughter.

Berzins and Ellingson advised attendees to schedule important things first and then fill in the gaps with lower priority tasks. Without prioritizing, it is almost inevitable that the bigger, more important tasks will not get accomplished, they said, as low priority activities can easily take up all your available time.

Just say “No”

Berzins and Ellingson also spent considerable time talking about how and when to say “no.” Women often have trouble saying no without feeling guilty or feeling the need to apologize. The two gave these tips for using that important two-letter word:

  • Use the 24-hour rule. Don’t give an answer to a request for 24 hours, to give yourself time to think realistically about it.
  • Know what is already on your plate. Keep a list of your current projects and obligations and use it when deciding whether or not to honor a request.
  • Remember: You are not responsible for everything and everyone.
  • It is not selfish to say no. If you always say “yes” to others, by default you are saying “no” to your own goals
  • Say no in a way that preserves the relationship – by recommending someone else, for example.
  • Consult with your mentors to help you maintain perspective.
  • It’s OK to just say, “I am not available.”
  • Make conscious choices about what you spend your time doing.

Berzins and Ellingson also discussed the pluses and minuses of today’s technology and how work can follow you everywhere if you’re not careful. Taking breaks from technology may be useful for some women.

The most important time management skill is to know yourself, they said. Know what your own limits are; know the signs that you are close to being in overload; know what tools work for you; and know your own daily rhythm, and schedule more difficult tasks during the part of the day when you are able to focus the best.

Other events

The conference began Thursday with an evening reception and special screening of the documentary film “Solar Mamas,” which was featured at the 2014 DocUtah festival held at the university.

Friday’s full slate of activity was highlighted by an opening keynote delivered by Dr. Deneece Huftalin, new Salt Lake Community College President, in addition to a number of breakout sessions held at the Gardner Center and Holland Centennial Commons on the DSU campus.


The Utah Women in Higher Education Network, or UWHEN, is part of a national group of networks that carry on the work of the American Council on Education Women’s Network. Created in 2010, UWHEN has served as a resource for women in Utah who would like to develop leadership skills and advance their careers in higher education.

The conference is one of several events hosted annually by the network. Other events include regional workshops, leadership development trainings and campus-specific activities.


  • Utah Women in Higher Education Network website

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