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‘espnW Campus Conversations’ at Howard University a huge success

Star-studded panel of women comes together for a purpose

The Howard University athletic department welcomed seven women to campus on Oct. 23 for espnW Campus Conversations. The event concluded Howard’s homecoming weekend.

The discussion focused on “The Great Pivot” – how to prepare personally and professionally for life after college and college sports. The panel included Howard alumnae Khalilah Birdsong, Kara Smith, Cecelia Townes, Stephanie Elam and Sereita Cobbs. Moderated by ESPN’s Jemele Hill, the panel also included Kerry D. Chandler, chief of human resources for Under Armour.

Launched in April, the initiative pushes to reach college campuses nationwide to have discussions on the role of women in sports and in the media, and how to prepare for life after college. Howard is the first historically black college or university (HBCU) to host the series. The HBCU increasingly celebrates its women’s athletics programs.

The primary messages from panel members were to be authentic and network.

“Overall, I think as women, we need to learn how to network a bit better,” Elam said before the panel. “It’s useful on many levels. You can even create connections for other people — help define those synergies. It doesn’t have to benefit you directly, but it loops you in, and those organic connections are what makes a difference in the long run.”

Birdsong (Howard University, ’01) is the director of corporate relations and development at Tyler Perry Studios. She began her career at Tyler Perry Studios in 2008 as an executive assistant to Tyler Perry and has since established herself as a notable film and television executive.

Cobbs (Howard University, ’91) currently manages digital video production, content integration/strategy and event production for espnW.

Elam (Howard University, ’95) is a correspondent for CNN in Los Angeles.

Smith (Howard University, ’13) currently serves as a strategy and operations consultant at Deloitte in Washington, D.C.

Townes (Howard University, ’06) is the founder of Beyond the Game LLC, a company that provides student-athletes with workshops to improve their success outside of athletics while improving their overall experience as a student-athlete. Additionally, Townes works with the federal government with a focus on administrative, personnel, environmental and torts laws, and also works pro bono on criminal and family law. Inspired by her experiences as a student-athlete, Townes created and runs the blog GladiatHers.com, which is dedicated to discussing female athletes and issues related to women in sports. She’s also a contributing writer for SportInLaw.com.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.