Syracuse University Magazine


Political science professor Kristi Andersen (left) shares the stage with panelists Angela Robinson ‘78, Tracy Barash ‘90, Christine Larsen G’84, and Kathy Walters ’73.

PowerUp Atlanta

Leading by Example

Connecting and empowering Syracuse University women was the motivation behind PowerUp Atlanta, an alumni event held in March at the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta. Some 135 alumni and VIPs from the community turned out to hear a keynote address by political science professor Kristi Andersen, followed by a panel discussion with some of SU’s most successful businesswomen who call Atlanta home. “This was the largest event we’ve ever done in Atlanta outside of sports,” says Karen Spear, executive director of regional advancement. “The Atlanta Regional Council did a phenomenal job of creating a program that attracted a diverse group of alumnae—from young women just starting out to those at the top of their careers—and in all different sectors of the professional world.”

Andersen, Chapple Family Professor of Citizenship and Democracy at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, is an expert on women and politics, political parties, and American political history. She spoke about recent research that supports the importance of role models for young women and girls and how that changes their aspirations for themselves and their parents’ aspirations for them. “In politics and in business, seeing and learning about women leaders seems to motivate young women to vote at higher rates, make better decisions, and pursue more education,” Andersen says.

Next, a panel of four distinguished Syracuse alumnae at the top of their fields engaged in a lively discussion about how they addressed certain challenges in their careers and overcame obstacles at different stages of life. Panelists included Tracy Barash ’89, vice president of brand development at Cartoon Network; Christine Larsen G’84, SU Trustee and CEO of First Data; Angela Robinson ’78, president and CEO at A.R.C. Media; and Kathy Walters ’73, SU Trustee and executive vice president of the consumer products group at Georgia-Pacific.

Chairs were arranged in small groupings—not in rows—to encourage interaction among participants, and there was ample time during the evening for people to mingle. Attendees also had an opportunity to meet a number of community leaders, including CEOs, civic leaders, and the heads of nonprofit organizations. Walters noted she was very impressed with the research results shared at the start by Professor Andersen on the importance of women as role models, which led to a substantive conversation between participants and the panelists about how they’ve handled their individual life journeys. “We enjoyed having the opportunity to share our stories and how we each have navigated the difficult balance between our personal and professional lives,” she says. “The event was a wonderful opportunity for women of all ages to discuss how they can connect and empower each other in the workplace.” 

PowerUp Atlanta was so successful that Spear says she hopes to plan similar events with Regional Council members in Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Boston to promote women’s empowerment by example. In fact, there is some talk that Washington, D.C., where some very successful alumnae live, will be the next stop. “It would be exciting to replicate this event in other areas of the country and provide a way for our alumnae to form a network,” she says. “Atlanta is one of the smallest of our regions and just the right size for a test market—it was a great place to start.” —Christine Yackel