More than 200 University of Alabama female student-athletes gathered in Coleman Coliseum this week for an espnW Campus Conversations about the “great pivot” and other topics that impact the growth, empowerment and maturation of female athletes.

“Marie Robbins came up to me after the (SEC) spring meetings and I was telling her all about the program,” Carol Stiff, ESPN’s Vice President for Women’s Sports Programming, said. “She stepped right up and said what do we need to do to have this here on our campus and I said, ‘let’s talk.’”

From that point, Stiff and Robbins, Alabama’s Senior Associate Athletics Director and Senior Woman Administrator, went to work putting together the event that was the first of its kind in the Southeastern Conference. ESPN reporter Holly Rowe came on board as the moderator while Crimson Tide alumnae Kathy (Biloudeau) Varney (gymnastics, 1985-88), Brittany (Rogers) Mayweather (softball, 2006-09), Courtney (McLane) Courtney (tennis, 2009-12) and Nia Barnes (track and field, 2012-15) joined as panelists and Natalie Ledford, a color volleyball analyst for ESPN’s SEC Network, was chosen as a moderator for the breakout sessions.

“What an amazing, empowering opportunity for our female student-athletes,” Tide swimmer and Alabama’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee president Caroline Korst said. “It was great hearing from women who were in our shoes as student-athletes not too long ago and seeing where they are now, as well as hearing how they got there. It was definitely encouraging, and the panel of women definitely urged us to follow our dreams, to not back down from a challenge and to craft a plan to help us get to where we want to be.”

Under the umbrella of the event’s overarching topic, “the great pivot,” the group engaged in a wide-ranging dialogue about moving on to the next phase of life after graduation, including how to leverage and embrace their strengths as student-athletes, what pitfalls to avoid and how to move forward from mistakes.

”They gave us some great insights and tips on how to become a professional, what hiring managers look for on resumes, how to dress for success,” Korst said.

One of the recurring themes that was voiced by all the panelists and summed up by Rowe was, “Imagine the life you want, and then create it.”

In addition to providing examples from their own experiences, the panelists gave concrete “how tos” in terms of networking, interviewing and choosing the next steps. The student-athletes and the panelists also had the opportunity to interact prior to the event in a “red carpet” setting as well after the panel came to a close in one-on-one and group conversations.

There was strong engagement not only between the student-athletes and the panelists, but on social media as well, where the event hashtag, #espnWatBama, was trending on Twitter both during and after the event.

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