AU Women’s Center Hosts 10th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference

The 10th annual Women’s Leadership Conference, hosted by the Auburn University Women’s Center was held Friday, March 25 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. This year’s theme was “Resilient Women,” with workshops and discussions on the ability to overcome adversity and become a successful woman leader. The conference kicked-off with a discussion panel open and free to the public at 6 p.m. Thursday night. The panel consisted of Dr. Julia Charles, Associate Professor of English at Auburn University; Ashley Edwards, Auburn alumna; Kim Evans, ovarian cancer survivor; and Meg McGuffin, Miss Alabama and Auburn alumna. The panel gave an opportunity for each woman to tell her story of resilience, with open discussion to follow.IMG_0242

The New Women’s Center logo. Source//Emily Hedrick

On Friday, the conference began at 8 a.m. with registration, then a welcome and opening session, followed by a coffee break. At 10 a.m. workshop session I began with the option to attend “Inclusive Leadership”, “Strand by Strand: Detangling the Myths of Hair Care”, or “Mindfulness – A Path to Optimal Health and Well-being.” After the 45 minute session and a fifteen minute break, workshop session II started, offering “Can Men be Feminists? And if so, how?”, “WE.Auburn – Be the Dot. Be the Difference”, or “Professional and Life Planning.” At 11:45 a.m. everyone shuffled into the ballroom for the conference luncheon.

Dr. Donna Sollie, Assistant Provost for Women’s Initiatives and Director of the Women’s Center welcomed the attendees to the latter part of the conference. As everyone was seated, a delicious honey-Dijon chicken with mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots was served with a dinner roll as the main course and a lemon cheesecake with strawberry topping for dessert. Sollie took the stage and spoke about the name change from the Women’s Resource Center to simply the Women’s Center and the new logo. She asked the little sisters from junior high and the big sisters from Auburn Young Women Leaders Program to stand and be recognized, as well as the conference planning committee, the conference and awards committee, the Women’s Center 20160325_122349advisory board, and the Women’s Center ambassadors.

Next, Dr. Mitchell Brown, presented the awards for Women of Distinction. The leadership awards went to Sara Rains (undergraduate), Lauren Gilmore (graduate), Barbara Yates (staff), Jennifer Jarvis (Administrative and Professional Staff), Angela Burque (faculty), and Lela Lofton (alumna).

The attendees enjoying lunch service. Source//Emily Hedrick

Maryclare Mastriano, co-chair of the women’s leadership conference, made her way to the stage to introduce the keynote speaker Elizabeth Huntley. Huntley is an Auburn alumna, Board of Trustees member, attorney and author. She began telling her story; coming into a life with parents as drug dealers, her father going to jail and her mother taking her own life soon after. Huntley and her sister were split up from her other siblings and went to live with their grandmother who strongly believed in four things; you mind your elders, you go to church, you stay clean and you get an education.Unfortunately, in Huntley’s new home she was sexually abused and again her innocence was taken from her. She went to preschool and thrived in an environment made for children, where she felt happy and carefree. She learned quickly that by “being smart” and well behaved in school she was rewarded. Days off and summer vacation were the worst for Huntley because of the trauma in the household. Huntley loved school and was brought up knowing education was important, so she kept school as a priority. She excelled in her classes and ultimately graduated from Auburn University, became an attorney and has written a memoir on the struggles she faced and the way she dealt with them to make her the woman she is today.

When Huntley ywlpfinished, she received a standing ovation from the attendees. “Her vulnerability was so powerful,” said Auburn student Kayla Warner, “she is a testament to resilience.” Closing remarks were made and the conference dismissed at about 2 p.m. Mary Isbell was doing photography for the WLC and has attended some capacity of the conference for the past six years. “I love the Women’s Leadership Conference because it is a great opportunity to hear inspirational women from around the nation speaking on what it means to be a woman in today’s society,” she said.

Young Women Leaders Program bigs and littles with keynote speaker Elizabeth Huntley. Source// Victoria Hoehn.



The Infamous Stringdusters in Nashville

In Nashville, the music and fun never stop. After spending the evening before playing in St. Louis, The Infamous Stringdusters made their way to the city where it all began for them on Thursday. A mixed crowd of concert-goers in their 20’s to 50’s generously dressed in green entered the Exit/In for a night of jamgrass. The smaller, intimate venue holds about 500 people max with an open floor area, limited seating upstairs, and a bar area on the main floor.

Nicki Bluhm performing. Source // Emily Hedrick
Nicki Bluhm performing. Source // Emily Hedrick

At 8 p.m. sharp the opener, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, took the stage. The band hails from the bay area and has a California sound born of country, folk, rock, soul, and psychedelia. The band consists of Nicki Bluhm (singer), Deren Ney (lead guitar), Steve Adams (bass guitar), Dave Mulligan (rhythm guitar), and Mike Curry (drums). On stage, Nicki and the Gramblers played several songs from their latest album “Loved While Lost” which was released in April 2015. They covered “Piece of  my heart”, by Janis Joplin, and the audience couldn’t help but sing and dance along to the classic. After getting the crowd moving, the band played one more song, then left the stage after their 45 minute set.

During the break between bands, the audience mingled in excitement for the next set and prepped for the show with fresh drinks. The Infamous Stringdusters sound engineer Drew Becker ran around the stage setting up stands, connecting cords, and testing the microphones while tour manager Katrina Hennigar  set up fans, taped the set lists down at each stand and got the band’s drinks ready before the set

The Infamous Stringdusters playing at Exit/In. Source// Emily Hedrick

Around 9:15 The Infamous Stringdusters came out on stage, all of them in button-down shirts. Looking at the stage you see Andy Falco (guitar) stands the farthest left, then Travis Book (bass), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Andy Hall (dobro), and Chris Pandolfi (banjo), all of them in position,  tuning their instruments while the audience welcomed them with cheer.

The band opened with an upbeat “Once You’re Gone” then played “Light and Love” and “Rivers Run Cold” both high energy songs with sections of full-on jamming. During the jams, as each instrument is highlighted, the other members of the band circle around, feeding into the energy. Next up was the ‘Dusters fun, classic “Get it While you Can” which got the crowd singing along,  “I like your biscuits in my gravy ma’am, before the stores are closed get it while you can.” After the crowd settled, Book talked about the band’s latest album “Ladies and Gentlemen” which was released in early February and features different female vocalists on each song. He introduced a guest singer, Lindsey Lou and claimed that the only reason she wasn’t on the album was because they didn’t know her yet. In a flowing white blouse, high-waist bellbottoms, and with naturally curly long brown hair Lou joined for one song, singing “Old Whiskey Bottle” off the ‘Dusters album.  Next the guys played their cover of U2’s “In God’s Country”, then Falco sang “Peace of Mind” which went into the “Cissy Strut” then back to the end of “Peace.” The audience was full of energy and when the following song, “Sirens” –a fast paced instrumental- was performed no one could resist moving to the music and occasionally shouting out in excitement. Book sang “All the Same” next, then invited Nicki Bluhm onto the stage. She appeared in a long sleek green dress, perfect for the holiday, and a long beaded necklace. She sang “Run to Heaven” a gritty country-bluegrass song from their new album. The first set ended with the band and Bluhm covering Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” The bluegrass flare added to the classic was fun for the crowd to singalong and move to the strong banjo sounds. When the song finished around 10:15 p.m., Book announced they would be taking a short break and coming back out for a second set.

The ‘Dusters and Bluhm together for the encore. Source// Emily Hedrick

The break was good for moving, stretching and refueling the crowd and lasted about 25 minutes. The boys came back out starting strong with “Big River” then “Old Chuck Hen.” Garrett announced his two sisters were at the show and dedicated “Night on the River” to them. They jammed out to that song and continued with “Well Well.” Bluhm rejoined the band for three more songs, “Listen” and “See How Far” from the album and an “Amarillo” cover. Book dedicated “The Places I’ve Been” to his wife, who was also in the audience. They kept pickin’ and the audience kept moving to “Space”, “Highwayman”, and “Blackrock.” Next they unplugged and performed the soulful “Let it Go” acoustic. “Seventeen cents” another fun song followed, then a last jam to “Rain.” For the last song, the ‘Dusters, Bluhm and the Gramblers all took stage and performed “Little Too Late.” The crowd went wild as the musicians bowed and left stage chanting, “one more song!” The ‘Dusters reappeared with Bluhm and they played “Not Fade Away” for the finale.

The night in Nashville was a high-energy, positive, and fun experience. After personally seeing the ‘Dusters about a dozen times, their shows just keep getting better. If you want to go see an extremely talented, high energy band, go see The Infamous Stringdusters.

“I have never seen these guys before, but I have heard some of their stuff and I just moved here from Michigan so I wanted to just get out. They can jam, I’m going to be seeing more of them.” – Allie Fitzgerald.

“The Infamous Stringdusters are one of my favorite bands. I really got into them after seeing them at a music festival. The sound of their instruments together is unique and not to mention their stage presence and the meaning of their lyrics. I drove from Indiana to come see them.” – Ryan Martin.

Collecting rainwater in Alabama

With over 77,000 rivers and streams and an average rainfall of 55 inches per year, Alabama is a state blessed with natural water resources. Catching and reusing water is an ancient technology that has current value to save energy, money and conserve an important natural resource.

If interested in collecting rainwater, first you must decide if you want to collect on a small or large scale.

A cistern system, for commercial collection. // Source: Eve Brantley
A cistern system, for commercial collection. // Source: Eve Brantley

For personal collection, you can use something as simple as a rain barrel. Wood, metal, or plastic are all good containers for rainwater collection, as long as they do not have residues of harmful chemicals. It is wise to use a dark container, or paint the container dark to discourage algae growth. The container used for collecting should be covered, with a screen protection at the opening to keep mosquitos out and minimize leaves or other materials from entering. For larger scale collection,cistern systems are recommended.  In 2010, Birmingham-Southern College installed a 15,000 gallon cistern that captures rainwater off of the roof and uses it for landscape irrigation. According to this practice is saving 50,000 gallons of water per year.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System hosts residential rain barrel workshops each year to demonstrate construction, placement and uses of rainwater harvesting systems. Harvested rainwater can be used for household chores like watering lawns/gardens, irrigation in the yard, flushing toilets, and washing cars. Be sure to check with local plumbing codes and ordinances if you are interested in using rainwater inside your home.

Two rain barrels collecting rainwater on a small scale. //Source Jen Morse
Two rain barrels collecting rainwater on a small scale. //Source Jen Morse

Collecting rainwater saves money and energy. The collector will save money by using the free resource instead of treated water. “Why not take advantage of what’s free and falling from the sky,” said Alabama Extension specialist Dr. Eve Brantley. “Collect it and hold it until you need to use it rather than constantly using water that has been treated. It saves energy, it saves money, and it’s a good use of water resources,” she said. Although Alabama has plentiful water resources droughts occur about every 12 years. It is smart to practices water collection and conservation so it becomes a habit. It is anticipated that climate variability will result in more frequent and/or more extreme droughts. It is smart to practice water collection and conservation so it becomes a habit.


Don’t hesitate to start collecting rainwater now.

You can read into how to collect rainwater at or contact your local Alabama Cooperative Extension agent. If you are a homeowner interested in an attractive, low-maintenance, and sustainable home landscape check out the Alabama Smart Yards app on your mobile phone.