By Caitlin Panarella
On Saturday, March 18, 2017, the fourth annual OWN IT Summit kicked off on Georgetown’s campus. Founded in 2014 by Helen Brosnan ‘16 and Kendall Ciesemier ‘15, OWN IT has welcomed thousands of attendees and hundreds of powerful women speakers, including a NASA astronaut, a CBS anchor, a The New Yorker cartoonist, and the first female Chief Technology Officer of the White House. The summit’s mission has four pillars: leadership, accessibility, inclusivity and feminism.
Gaston Hall, filled with over 500 attendees, was electric with energy on March 18th. OWN IT encompassed all of Georgetown’s campus, hosting lunch in the Healy Family Student Center and breakout sessions in the ICC, MSB, Healy Hall and Maguire. Breakout sessions included Art and Activism, STEM Education, Community Based Solutions, Women on the Forefront of Climate Change, Deconstructing Masculinity, and many more.
The themes of the day were inspired by a well-known quote of Susan B. Anthony’s: “Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.” The EDUCATE, AGITATE, and ORGANIZE mainstage panels each imparted unique perspectives, including those of activists, moms and entrepreneurs (some who were all three!).
Similar to previous summits, OWN IT fostered connections and leadership through asking mainstage speakers to share advice with attendees. Emma Gray, executive women’s editor at the Huffington Post, spoke about the importance of being a “lifelong learner." Sarah McBride, national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, directed her comment to college students particularly when she said, "Don't be so focused on the future that you forget to be introspective." These women both spoke on the EDUCATE panel, and emphasized the importance of lifting up yourself so you may lift up others.
The AGITATE panelists shared equally applicable advice. Tina Tchen, former assistant to President Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, remarked, "If everybody's in their corners, nothing's going to get done.”
After two breakout sessions and lunch, the attendees reconvened in Gaston for more performances and panels. The ORGANIZE panel discussed different forms of activism, and how we can all be “part-time” activists. According to Symone Sanders, former press secretary to Bernie Sanders, we must refrain from being satisfied with being “clicktivists,” meaning simply sharing things on Facebook and walking away.
The last panel of the day, Hoya Visionaries, welcomed three Georgetown alumnae to the stage: Anastasia Somoza, Yamiche Alcindor, and Madame Gandhi. Dr. Marcia Chatelain, a Georgetown professor and author of South Side Girls, moderated a conversation about finding your purpose and following it.
In between the panels, the audience enjoyed a different kind of engagement with the range of performers that came to OWN IT. Kitty Lunn, the artistic director at Infinity Dance Theater and a dancer with paraplegia, performed a dance that left the crowd in awe. Madame Gandhi finished out the day with a performance of her song, “The Future is Female,” bringing the audience to its feet.
The first summit without co-founders Kendall Ciesemier and Helen Brosnan at the helm, this year’s OWN IT flourished under the leadership of executive director Soraya Eid and the rest of the OWN IT board.
“Soraya has been working on OWN IT 2017 since the day after last year’s summit,” Sarah Clements, a co-chair of OWN IT said in the final remarks.
Many audience members agreed that the day was a success. One of the best quotes I overheard while volunteering came from an attendee: “I’m coming back next year, and I’m bringing my daughters.”
In sum, the 2017 summit embodied all of the values on which OWN IT was founded: leadership, accessibility, inclusivity and feminism. The summit continues to expand and grow in new and exciting forms, so mark your calendars for #OWNIT2018.
Facebook tag: @OWN IT
On Georgetown University YouTube: OWN IT Morning and Afternoon Sessions