Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS)

Registration is closed.

The WLS, hosted by the Leadership Academy at Saunders, is an RIT Women’s Leadership Summit held in the Student Alumni Union and Campus Center. Its mission is to inspire, connect, and educate women & allies to become tomorrow’s future leaders. We focus on driving leadership excellence in all industries from arts, sciences, to technology. Marking the 2nd anniversary of WLS, we are expanding our opportunities of offering interactive workshops, professional development seminars, RIT TED Talks, BE STEAM Challenge and our most anticipated C-Suite Panel.

Masking and Vaccine Update

Saunders College of Business is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable event experience for all guests, and your health and safety remain our top priority. Per the RIT Safety Plan, attendance at this event requires all attendees to be in compliance with the RIT Event Safety Guidelines. All attendees and participants must provide proof of vaccination and photo identification. Current RIT students, faculty, and staff that are in compliance with the vaccination policy and do not have access to a vaccination card, can present their SpiRIT Pass along with their RIT ID. For more information, visit the RIT Safety Plan at rit.edu/ready/rit-safety-plan.

Please note, per RIT’s Safety Plan all staff and visitors are required to wear face masks indoors at all times, except while eating or drinking. 

Keynote Speaker: 

The conference will include a keynote presentation by RIT alumna Laurie E. Axelrod BS '86, co-founder and CEO of Wheelhouse Group Inc., a professional services firm that guides executive leaders as they drive transformational technology changes in their organizations. Her keynote will focus on the essential qualities leaders need to prepare their organizations to adopt STEM-related innovation. She is also co-author of The Method and The Magic: Every Leader’s Guide to Making Transformational Change Happen.

2022 Theme:

BE STEAM stands for Business Entrepreneurship & and Art in STEM. We chose BE STEAM for our WLS 2022 Theme as it represents the culmination of diverse fields of study & industries in today’s world and reflects RIT’s creative & innovative students from all RIT Academic Colleges.

C-Suite Panelists:

Erin Crowley-Ellis '08 (mechanical engineering)

Erin Crowley-Ellis is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of ATVentureCenter, a life science venture builder, commercializing advanced biotechnologies through the various stages of development, licensing and on to launching funded companies and beyond. Erin is head of engineering & manufacturing development for ATVC's early-stage companies, leading the manufacturing startup and scaleup team for both Regenerelle LLC. and Sanatela Medical Inc. 

Regenerelle LLC., In January 2021 ,launched a bio-manufacturing clean room in Fairport, NY that expands mesenchymal stem cells from umbilical cords, received after a live healthy birth.

Since startup, Regenerelle has sold 5 billion+ high quality stem cells for research use and has built an inventory of 75 billion stem cells. With a $200,00 covid equipment grant from Monroe County, the Regenerelle team is now scaling up capacity to meet the rising need for Covid long haulers research and applications. 

Sanatela Medical, Inc. winner of MedTech Newcomer of the year 2020, is a patent pending platform, exclusively licensed from the University of Rochester. The technology utilizes advanced biomaterials, designed to revolutionize both oncology and regenerative medicine industries. 

The Sanatela precision cancer technology profoundly improves the screening and targeting of cancer stem cells - the root cause of cancer. The product is also a remarkable breakthrough in hair, skin and bone regeneration through its stem cell homing technology. She led the team through tech transfer from U of R Lab to Sanatela manufacturing which was successful much in part to three incredible female engineering masters’ students from KGCOE, who designed the labs digital simulated twin and a scaled-up manufacturing layout to meet FDA cGMP guidelines. 

She has accumulated over 15 years of Toyota Way Engineering, Manufacturing and Quality Management Experience. Selected into Toyota's Engineering Leadership Program after graduating RIT KGCOE '08, she dispatched to several North American facilities to improve quality and increase production efficiency. This program taught her the importance of quality implementation at all stages of business development. Over the last 5 years she has been honored to teach ISO 9001 quality management principals at RIT KGCOE CQAS to manufacturing companies around the world.

Pooja Kapoor '04 (information technology)

Pooja Kapoor leads Google’s Corporate Strategy team, focused on Google’s largest and most strategically important partners. Previously, Pooja led Google’s global GDPR business readiness efforts, product strategy for Google's programmatic advertising solutions, and anti-fraud initiatives to support a safe and open web.

She was selected as one of Crain’s “40 Under 40” in 2019, named a 2018 Rising Talent by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, one of AdWeek’s 2018 Young Influentials, and was recognized by Business Insider as one of the top ad executives working to clean up digital advertising. 

Pooja joined Google in 2011 as part of the company’s acquisition of Admeld, where she led the Strategic Advisory Services division; prior to Admeld, she held senior leadership positions at Tribune Interactive and Outsourced Ad Ops. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Rochester Institute of Technology, and currently resides in Manhattan with her husband.

Rosa Lee Timm '00 (social work)

Rosa Lee Timm is a biracial deaf queer innovation artist known mostly for her YouTube ASL music videos, her work as a solo performer of The Rosa Lee Show, and as a lead actress in ASL Films’ feature film, Versa Effect.

Rosa Lee attended Indiana School for the Deaf and then went on to graduate from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) with a B.S. in Social Work. It was RIT where she discovered her love for acting. Rosa Lee founded and acted in an acting troupe named Dangerous Signs. Later on, Rosa Lee became recognized nationwide for her ASL music videos featured on YouTube. Rosa Lee also worked as managing editor of the digital magazine, KISSFIST Magazine.

Rosa Lee also traveled all across the country giving workshops/instruction on the art of ASL music, storytelling, and rhythm as well as providing her one-woman variety show, “The Rosa Lee Show” where she celebrated the beauty of American Sign Language. Rosa Lee also worked as an ASL Translator and Performer for Deaf Film Camp at Camp Mark Seven, helping make music videos that have gone viral nationwide.

Besides performance arts, she works as a Chief Marketing Officer/Division President, CSD Social Venture Fund at Communication Service for the Deaf and being Jac Cook's partner and a mother to her two children.

Sophie Schillaci '10 (advertising and public relations)

Sophie Schillaci is a seasoned entertainment journalist with a decade of experience in Hollywood, both in front of the camera and behind the keyboard. She has worked for media outlets including Entertainment Tonight, The Hollywood Reporter and MTV News interviewing A-list stars across film, television and music, sharing their stories through compelling video and written content as a producer and writer. She has covered countless red carpets, awards shows, film and music festivals, and been invited behind the scenes on the sets of movies, TV shows, music videos, and more. Additionally, she has appeared on screens around the world as a pop culture expert on Good Morning America, The Talk, Extra and more.  

She created the blog Mom Needs Merlot in 2018, after welcoming her first child, as a platform to connect with, empower and raise a metaphorical glass with fellow new mothers.

After 10 years of living in Los Angeles, Sophie recently relocated to her hometown of Rochester, NY, with her husband, two dogs and two toddlers, Everly and Colton. She launched an e-commerce business, Mom Needs a Minute, in 2021, offering sensory activities and busy boxes for young children.

Prior to breaking into the entertainment world, Sophie worked as a collegiate sports reporter at RIT and was named a winner at the College Emmys for her work covering Division One Hockey's prestigious Frozen Four tournament in 2010.

When she's not reading board books, building a sensory bin, or singing along to "Encanto," she's probably shopping online, listening to an audiobook, or binge watching TV dramas with a heavy pour of wine.

Sheri Watkins

Sheri Watkins is a transformational nonprofit and small business leader. She thrives in the execution of strategic plans focused on organizational infrastructure that promote continuous growth through mission-driven initiatives. She currently leads the financial and human resource departments at Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc., as the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Administration.

She attended the Pennsylvania State University and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. After a decade in both the public and private sectors, she attained an Executive Master in Business Administration from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Sheri is a 2021 Rochester Business Journal “Forty under 40” honoree, and a 2021 Rochester Business Journal “Women of Excellence” nominee.

As a native Rochesterian, Sheri continues to demonstrate her communal commitment by providing individualized business coaching, leadership mentoring, and fiscal management training to small businesses, free of charge. With a deep passion for servant leadership, Sheri is a member of Alpha Kapp Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the Accounting Advisory Board at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business.

Although she flourishes as a committed nonprofit executive dedicated to identifying solutions that align initiatives with missions and goals, Sheri’s most important role is being a wife to Rhashard and a mother to Blake and Grant.

TED Talks:

  • Anjeanette Agro '92 (graphic design) - Risk, Reward, and Roller Derby

  • Dawn Aprile '14 - Small Business Leadership: Opportunities to Lead Change within the Small Business Environment

  • Kimberlie Barrett '81 (marketing) - Path to Leadership & Success

  • Jessica Carnovale, RIT Saunders College of Business Adjunct Faculty - Women in Supply Chain Management (WiSCM)

  • Lindsay Connelly '11 (marketing), '18 (MBA) - "The First 3 Years" - The Top Digital Strategies and Key People to Build your Service Business. 

  • Jane Elliot '88 (accounting) - Actively Managing your Career through the Process of Goal Setting

  • Taylor Evans '15 (biomedical sciences) - How My Style Blog Made Me a Better Scientist

  • Crystal Gallagher '20 (MBA) - Change Management: How to Effectively Manage the People Side of Change and How to Best Communicate Change in the Workplace

  • Celia Garland '14 (glass and glass sculpture) - Leading through Storytelling - Parallel Passions & the Power of Public Speaking

  • Rachael Gootnick '09 - Building your Personal Brand

  • Kimberly Hill '09 (communication), MS '15 (media technology) - When Introverts and Extroverts Unite: A Story of Combined Leadership Growth

  • Tara M. LoCastro '96 (environmental management), '98 (MBA) - The Value of Authenticity and Values-Based Leadership

  • Christina Pierce '92 (hotel management), '96 (mechanical engineering), ME '11 (engineering management)  - Recruiting your own Personal Board of Directors

  • Mona Samaan-Ockenden '94 (civil engineering) - Joy of an Entrepreneur: Knowing when it's Time to Jump and Fly and Becoming Comfortable, Being Uncomfortable

  • Susan Stewart '98 (civil engineering technology) - Leadership Begins with You

  • Peggy Tirrell MS '95 (Career & Human Resource Development) - Powerlifting as Leadership

  • Lorena Valenzuela MS '12 (innovation management) - Turning Flames into Fuel

Fireside Chat:

  • Arina Kotlyarskaya '06 (graphic media) and Kara Burns - Leading Outside of your Expertise



  • Lindsay Connelly '11 (marketing, '18 (MBA), Michele Judkins '20 (new media marketing), and Elyse Mee '11 (new media marketing) - Workshop Title Marketing Essentials for Launching Your Business

  • Melissa Scrimo '90 - Create Your Own Destiny by Thinking Like an Entrepreneur

WLS Events:

  • Check-in: 8 a.m.-8:50 a.m.
  • Opening Keynote: 9 a.m.-9:50 a.m.
  • Professional Development Seminars, Interactive Workshops, and RIT Ted Talks: 10 a.m.-12:10 p.m.
  • Power-up Lunch: 12:10 p.m.-12:55 p.m.
  • C-Suite Panel: 1 p.m.-2 p.m.
  • BE STEAM Challenge: 2:15 p.m.-4:20 p.m.
  • Dessert Reception & Networking Hour: 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

WLS Date: Sunday, January 30, 2022 - 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Interested in Attending? 

  • This year's summit will be held at RIT, in the Student Alumni Union and Campus Center
  • Check-in will be in the Student Alumni Union – fireside lounge
  • $15 Ticket
  • Goodie Bag with Attendee Gifts! Lunch and Cocktail Hour Food & Beverages will be included in ticket purchases.
  • RSVP Early due to Limited Number of Seats Available
  • Registration Closes Jan 17, 2022
  • As an RIT event, we ask that all attendees comply with the RIT Covid Safety Protocol.
    • Guidelines include: All attendees 12 years of age and older (including RIT faculty, staff, students, and their families) must provide proof of vaccination. 
    • You must wear your mask indoors.

Social Media Updates!

We will be posting updates regularly on our campus groups and LinkedIn page. Please follow us so that you stay up to date!

Tickets are nonrefundable 

RIT Campus
Sunday, January 30, 2022 - 8:00am to 5:30pm