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The “Be Bold Summit” Celebrates and Advocates for Women Leaders

Five influential figures, including Jill Sando, a distinguished UND alumna and Executive Vice President at Target, shared their insights and expertise at the fourth annual summit. On Thursday, April 11, the small ballroom of the Memorial Union was transformed into a picturesque scene, adorned with tables featuring vibrant purple tulips and white roses. Attendees were greeted with blush-colored napkins artfully folded into the shapes of flower petals, creating an ambiance filled with lively conversation and laughter. At the focal point of the room, a desk reminiscent of “The View” set displayed a projection encouraging attendees to “Be Bold.”

This was the backdrop for the Be Bold summit, an esteemed gathering celebrating women in leadership, proudly hosted by the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration. Conceived by Mary Fischer, a UND graduate and Director of Sponsorships at UnitedHealth Group, the event marked its fourth consecutive year. Fischer’s vision was to provide a platform for women to engage in meaningful discussions about the significance of ambition and boldness in the professional realm.

During the engaging two-hour session, five women holding prominent leadership positions, including Jill Sando, an accomplished UND alumna and Executive Vice President at Target, imparted valuable lessons in business and leadership to the attentive audience.

Amy Henley, the dean and professor of Management at the Nistler College, emphasized the significance of these insights for both budding professionals entering the workforce and seasoned employees striving for enhanced confidence. She introduced Mary Fischer and the other panelists who kicked off the event, setting the stage for a dynamic exploration of these themes and the myriad opportunities available to empower the next generation of leaders.

Fischer skillfully guided the discussion as she moderated the panel, which featured Kristi Hall-Jiran, the Executive Vice President and Chief Philanthropy and Partnership Officer at Altru Health System; Julie Fedorchak, a distinguished UND alumna and Commissioner of the North Dakota Public Service Commission; and Sarah Horak, also a UND alumna, who serves as the co-owner and CFO of three hospitality establishments in Grand Forks and is the visionary founder of Real Good Cookies.

Throughout their engaging discussion, the panelists shared valuable insights gleaned from their diverse professional journeys. Topics spanned from the importance of maintaining a polished online presence to the significance of pursuing work that ignites one’s passion. True to the summit’s overarching theme, they delved into their personal philosophies of “boldness” and offered guidance on navigating the professional landscape.

Hall-Jiran emphasized an often-overlooked aspect: the profound boldness inherent in vulnerability. She highlighted the power of authenticity and openness, noting that embracing vulnerability can set individuals apart and foster genuine connections. In her view, presenting one’s true self and asking meaningful questions are commendable traits in the workplace.

Fedorchak echoed this sentiment, underscoring the value of vulnerability, particularly for young professionals who may feel pressure to project unwavering confidence. She encouraged embracing vulnerability as an asset, acknowledging that it’s okay not to have all the answers immediately. Additionally, Fedorchak urged young professionals to seize opportunities rather than shying away from them, emphasizing the importance of taking calculated risks and embracing growth.

“I believe in seizing opportunities when they arise,” Fedorchak expressed. “Whenever a chance presents itself, even if it’s slightly intriguing, it’s essential to push beyond your comfort zone and explore new avenues.”

Having transitioned from journalism to politics herself, Fedorchak highlighted the pivotal role of mentorship in her professional journey. Currently embarking on a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2024, she emphasized the profound impact of mentorship on her career trajectory. Fedorchak shared a poignant anecdote about former North Dakota Governor Ed Shafer, whose mentorship proved instrumental in her decision to enter politics. Reflecting on a pivotal moment when Shafer reached out to her about a position in his office while she was working in Maryland, she underscored the transformative power of guidance and support from seasoned professionals.