A study by the Utah Women and Education Initiative found that in 2011, only 37 percent of the women who enrolled at Dixie State College actually graduated. To improve these numbers and boost the academic and professional success of female students, Krissia Beatty, the 2012 Miss Dixie State, organized the DSU Women’s Conference. This event hosted a number of female professionals, including Elizabeth Smart, who presented their methods of achieving success both personally and professionally.

On Feb. 23, Dixie State University hosted the 37th annual Women’s Conference. Mothers and grandmothers traveled from places as far away as California, Nevada and Idaho to attend the conference with their DSU students. The nearly 600 women filled the Gardner Student Center to hear the messages of the keynote speakers and workshop presenters.

The day began with an opening keynote speech by Marilee Webb, who encouraged the attendees to make a positive difference in everything they do.

After Webb's speech, the attendees split into four groups that rotated through four workshops. The first workshop featured Darci Hansen, the founder and editor-in-chief of Elan Woman Magazine. Hansen said that 40 percent of workplace bullying occurs exclusively between women. She emphasized that women are far more successful and productive when they focus on improving themselves, rather than bringing down other women around them.

The second workshop was led by Elisabeth Bingham, a Harvard graduate and co-founder of Humanitarian Experience for Youth. Using her experience of living in foreign nations, Bingham said that the stronger a nation’s female educated population was, the higher the quality of society that nation had. Bingham concluded that the more educated a woman is, the better her family, professional and personal life would be.

Debbie Zockoll presented in the third workshop. After 30 years of teaching the first grade in Washington County, Zockoll dedicated her life to fitness by running marathons. During her speech, Zockoll shared her story of using her passion of running as a key tool to winning her battle with cancer. Zockoll asked the attendees to find passions in life and to “Start; don’t stop; move.”

The final workshop featured Elizabeth Muto Hunterton, a former Miss Nevada and the current executive director of the Epicurean Charitable Foundation. Hunterton spoke on how women should value not only themselves but those around them. To illustrate her point, Hunterton said, “You are less than no one, but no better than anyone.” She continued her presentation by giving advice on succeeding in the professional world. Hunterton stressed the importance of representing yourself as an intelligent, classy individual.

Elizabeth Smart was the concluding keynote speaker for the conference. Smart captured the attention of all those in attendance by sharing her shocking and compelling story of survival. Though many were already familiar with her kidnapping, Smart brought to life her emotions of fear and the hope she experienced during her abduction.

Attendees said they were inspired by Smart’s perseverance to become a successful and accomplished woman, regardless of the tragedy she went through. In an interview after the conference, Smart encouraged young women by saying “the things that happen are terrible, but the best thing we can do about them is by being happy and moving forward.”

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This year, Krissia Beatty, the 2012 Miss Dixie State, organized the Women’s Conference. In an interview, Beatty said she wanted the conference to be a day to “celebrate womanhood.” Beatty also said that the Women’s Conference allowed the community to see that the female students of Dixie State University are taking their education seriously and truly want to make a difference in the world.

In closing, attendees considered the 2013 Women’s Conference a success. Jill Wulfenstein, a former Dixie State student from Pahrump, Nev., said she enjoyed “the diversity of the speakers” and how the speakers proved that “you can get married, have babies and still be successful.” Shaelie Knutson, a current DSU student from Preston, Idaho, said that “it’s inspiring to hear the success stories of women who have experienced the same thing we still experience today.”

Lacy Culpepper is an undergraduate writing student at Dixie State. You can contact her at lacy.culpepper@gmail.com