Spring Celebration


At our annual spring celebration, Conversations with Women of UMass, successful alumnae shared how they built their careers and helped others secure a seat at the table. View photos.

The annual Women for UMass Amherst (WFUM) spring celebration is an opportunity for women in the university community to come together, learn from each other, and lift each other up. 

This year, the event, entitled Conversations with Women of UMass, took place on March 21 at the UMass Club in Boston and featured conversations with alumnae who have forged different paths to leadership. 

Janie Kaplan ’79, chair of the WFUM network and a graduate of UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, welcomed attendees and encouraged them to get involved in the group’s efforts to support the professional goals of all UMass alumni. She also highlighted the work of several student groups that received grants from WFUM for projects promoting issues affecting women on campus and around the world.
Chancellor Javier Reyes and his wife Maritza were in attendance, and Maritza noted UMass Amherst’s long history of women contributing to the university’s growth and how important groups like WFUM are in building the next generation of women leaders. 
With this goal in mind, the alumnae panel talked with moderator Amy Reichard ’85, vice president at Broadridge Financial Solutions, about how they have been able to identify their strengths, create their own opportunities for growth, and differentiate themselves from others in the workplace.
“We don’t have to choose one path at the outset,” said Tiffany Greene ’96, a career and leadership coach who spent 25 years in corporate human resources. “We can have unscripted career journeys.” 
Greene’s work with clients focuses on navigating career transitions. She encourages them to sit with their discomfort and think about what they need to grow. “For me, success meant shedding the expectations of others and honoring myself by finding out what filled me with purpose.” 

Both Kendra Porter ’00, ’05 MS and Darlene Vu ’14 reinforced the idea of not limiting yourself to one proscribed path.    
Vu found that changing her long-held career aspiration to be a doctor opened up new possibilities for advancement. Instead of studying to take the MCAT test, she decided to apply for an Asian American Women’s Political Initiative (AAPWI) fellowship at the Massachusetts State House.
“I felt excited about the possibility of doing something I never thought I’d ever be doing,” she said.  
The fellowship led to a job as a legislative aid, a position as campaign manager for the first Asian American woman to run for Lynn (Mass.) City Council, and experience working for Dewey Square Group, a national public affairs and lobbying firm. Vu now serves as the chief operating officer at the AAPWI, where her career journey started. 

“Always try new things,” she said. “And have a circle around you that will support you as your figure out your passion.” 
Porter, an award-winning image consultant and wardrobe stylist talked about switching from engineering to the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC) at UMass Amherst.
“Don’t think about jobs and titles,” she said. “Instead, figure out what you love to do and what you’re good at, then continue to build on those skills.”  

Owning your successes 
The panel also discussed the need for women to advocate for themselves in a variety of professional situations and to take advantage of mentoring opportunities. 

Carla James ‘01, chief executive officer of Solidus Technical Solutions, told a story about being up for a promotion early in her career working for the U.S. Government. Facing a panel of three evaluators that included her program manager, she had trouble highlighting her own achievements. Her manager stepped in to tell her story, and she eventually got the promotion. 

“It was a good lesson to learn early, and one I try to remember and pass along — own your successes and don’t be shy about sharing them,” she said, adding: “Sharing your story with others is very powerful because it can help them grow as well.” 

Greene emphasized finding people who can help you learn new things at each professional stop, and Porter spoke about viewing each change as a learning opportunity. 

“Things are going to happen along the way, both good and bad,” says Porter. “It’s how you perceive them, learn from them, and move forward.” 

The panel’s final piece of advice was to not forget to prioritize wellness along the way to success. 
“Not everything needs to get done today,” said James. “Sleep more, exercise, take vacations. I think being able to walk away when you need to is an important lesson to learn.” 


Past Spring Celebration Highlights:

2023 - Lifting Each Other Up featuring Judi Vigna ’89, CEO of Specialized Career Guidance; Kokui Adesokan ’09, technical project manager at Bridgewater Associates; Donna Cohen ’78, internationally recognized strategic advisor to women in sports; Kathy Lopes ’01,director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Newton Public Schools,; and María Sucher ’18, field marketing manager at Wiley - View photos 

2022 – Breaking Through panel featuring, Kristen Kuliga ’91, executive vice president of Vanguard Sports Group, Samari Ijezie ’18, founder of The Female Economist, Kavya Krishna ’16, ceo and co-founder, Society of Women Coders, and Amy Elizabeth Richard ’85, vice president at Broadridge Financial Solutions - video

2021 - Listen to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and Karen Kaplan '81, Hill Holliday chairman and CEO, discuss what it takes to turn dreams into reality. - video.

2019 – Six Tips for Success presented by Rachael Rollins ’94, Suffolk County District Attorney - video