2018 Conference

June 13, 2018

Embassy Suites Nashville SE – Murfreesboro
1200 Conference Center Blvd.
Murfreesboro, TN 37129


Registration for women in senior leadership roles is available in K@TE; log in with your UT netID and password and search “Conference for Women in Leadership” in the top-right search bar.


$199 registration fee includes sessions, breakfast, lunch, and snacks

Intended Audience

Women in leadership positions and women identified by leadership as being emerging leaders. Conference enrollment is open to invited leaders and their nominees.

2018 Keynote Speakers

Dr. Tonja Johnson

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the University of Tennessee System

tonja johnsonTonjanita (Tonja) L. Johnson was appointed executive vice president and chief operating officer for the University of Tennessee System on October 14, 2016. In this capacity, she has primary responsibility for assisting the president in maximizing the System’s operating performance and achieving its strategic goals and objectives.

Johnson’s responsibilities also include overseeing the System strategic plan, initiating and managing strategic alliances, participating in the development of operating and capital budgets and providing executive oversight for five system-level offices, including: academic affairs and student success, communications and marketing, facilities planning and capital projects, human resources, and institutional research.

Johnson has served as a cabinet-level administrator for more than 15 years, working directly with and reporting to the institution’s president and serving as a trusted advisor. Her professional experiences have been focused on high-level organizational and operational activities and broad-based strategic communications and marketing efforts.

Learn more about Dr. Johnson (full bio)

About the UT Conference for Women in Leadership

In partnership with a system-wide senior leadership advisory committee, Employee & Organizational Development presents the UT Conference for Women in Leadership to address professional development needs of UT’s female leaders in more advanced leadership roles, as well as those who may be emerging as leaders. The conference provides sessions on topics relevant to women in leadership positions and invites speakers who have a wealth of experience in the topics presented.

2018 Advisory Board

Dee Dee Anderson, UT Chattanooga

Amy Belew, UT Martin

Patricia Burks-Jelks, UT Space Institute

Tiffany Carpenter, UT System

Allisen Penn, UT Extension

Cynthia Polk-Johnson, UT Knoxville

Shenika Thomas, UT Health Science Center

10 business-day cancellation policy

All Employee & Organizational Development seminars and conferences have a 10 business-day cancellation policy. If a registered participant cancels within 10 business days of the date of the conference or seminar, the department will be charged the full amount. If the department will not pay, the individual will be invoiced for the amount.  Departments are welcome to send a substitute if the registered attendee must cancel within this 10 business-day period.


Previous Conferences


The 2017 conference was held June 8, 2017, in Murfreesboro, TN, at the Embassy Suites Nashville SE.

Theme: Leading with Influence: Shaping a Culture of Support and Inclusion 



On June 8, 2017, Employee & Organizational Development hosted the third annual UT Conference for Women in Leadership. The conference was hosted in Murfreesboro, TN, and welcomed 145 leaders from all UT campuses and institutes, as well as leaders from Tennessee Board of Regents Institutions.

Photo of Many-Bears GrinderMany-Bears Grinder, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services, delivered the morning keynote, Caution! Breaking Glass Ceilings Can Hurt Your Head! She shared her career history and stories related to being a woman in the military and the leadership lessons she learned along the way. Commissioner Grinder’s address received a standing ovation.

The conference theme of Leading with Influence: Shaping a Culture of Support and Inclusion was especially profound during the panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Noma Anderson, Special Advisor to the President on Diversity and Inclusion. Panelists included Dr. Nesli Alp of UT Chattanooga, Dr. Chandra Alston of UT Health Science Center, Petra McPhearson of UT Martin, and Dr. Michelle Rigler of UT Chattanooga. The panel answered questions related to diversity and inclusion, and the questions were contributed by registered attendees in advance of the conference. Following the panel, participants had the opportunity to continue the discussion by participating in smaller breakout groups focused on how leaders can “be the change” within their spheres of influence.

Dr. Syb BrownDr. Syb Brown, Emmy Award-winning Journalist and Professor of Journalism at Belmont University, delivered the closing keynote on Leveraging Leadership the Virtual Way. She engaged and energized participants with humor, and she shared information and ideas about what will be next for leadership, higher education, and the world.

Linda Hendricks Harig, Vice President for Human Resources for UT System Administration, closed the conference with leadership anecdotes and several meaningful quotes from Pat Summit.

Many talented speakers delivered timely, engaging leadership topics. EOD is grateful for the participation of speakers and panelists from: UT Chattanooga, UT Foundation, UT Health Science Center, UT Institute of Agriculture, UT Knoxville, UT Martin, UT Space Institute, and UT System Administration.

2017 Advisory Board

Dr. Noma Anderson, UT System and UT Health Science Center
Dr. Mary Lucal, UT Knoxville
Andrea Lyons, UT Foundation and UT Chattanooga
Vikki Massey, UT Health Science Center
Lisa Stearns, UT Institute of Agriculture
Cindy West, UT Martin

2017 Sponsors

Many thanks to our conference sponsors:

Gold Sponsor


Silver Sponsors




The 2016 conference was held at the Holiday Inn World’s Fair Site in Knoxville on June 28. 

Testimonials from 2016

“The UT Conference for Women in Leadership provided a unique opportunity to talk with and learn from some of the most outstanding women in our field. The content challenged me to rethink some of my perspectives on leadership. I left the event looking forward to the next steps and excited about the connections I built.”
Dr. Ashley Blamey, Director, Center for Health Education & Wellness, UT Knoxville
“Attending the UT Conference for Women in Leadership was a most rewarding experience for me in many different ways. What a fantastic group of women to be associated with! It was wonderful to see old friends and make new ones. I was so impressed with the knowledge and skills offered by the presenters. The many interesting topics made it difficult to select which sessions to attend; however, it was particularly helpful that several sessions were repeated. I left feeling rejuvenated and have enjoyed implementing the many ideas and suggestions I learned!”
Cindy West, Dean, College of Education, Health, and Behavioral Sciences, UT Martin