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TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) — Hundreds of women who play vital roles in universities, colleges and community colleges are networking and learning from each other about how to improve and enhance their skills and campuses.

They represent institutes of higher education from all across the state and they are at the ICC Belden Campus to develop their skills.

“Women in higher education are empowered, inspired and celebrated for their work that they do on college campuses throughout the state of Mississippi,” said Dr. Jan Reid-Bunch, state coordinator for WHEMN.

Each year, the Women in Higher Education Mississippi Network , or WHEMN, holds an annual conference. The day and a half gathering features ten speakers who tackle topics such as economic development, leadership, the glass ceiling and other issues.

Miss Mississippi Chelsea Rick spoke from a student’s perspective on why there are so few women in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

“I will be a second year medical student when I am done with my reign as Miss Mississippi and it’s because I’ve had a lot of encouragement from a very young age to be involved in science, from science fairs at Fulton Grammar School to being in biomedical research conferences in college, it’s always been an important thing to me to be involved in science because I have a heart for medicine, what I talked about today, it’s not just about the academics of STEM, that’s the way we’re going to make a difference in the world,” Rick said.

Among those in the crowd, former Lieutenant Governor and now MSU vice president of campus services, Amy Tuck, who says the conference has many advantages for those who make the time to attend.

“This conference leaves you empowered and armed with additional information you need. It’s a networking opportunity where you hear the challenges and concerns other institutions have faced, how they dealt with those, so it provides that pathway to be able to learn from the past experiences of others,” Tuck said.

The conference wraps up Friday at lunch when the recipient of this year’s WHEMN Leadership Award will be announced.

The WHEMN conference is held on a rotating basis, every two years at a four year institution, then a community college. ICC will also host the meeting next year.

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