135 Years of UK Women Celebrated

Recognizing the tremendous impact of women upon the University of Kentucky since the first woman graduated in 1888 is the purpose of the UK Alumni Association’s 135 Years of UK Women initiative. A luncheon and panel discussion were held Thursday, March 2 in front of more than 250 people in the Harris Ballroom on UK’s campus to kick-off the year-long celebration.  

Panelists included: 

  • Jennifer Barber ’05 CI, ’08 LAW, office partner-in-charge with Frost Brown Todd Attorneys in Louisville 
  • Dr. Laneshia Conner ’02 SW, assistant professor with UK College of Social Work 
  • Dr. Ima Ebong ’13 MED, assistant professor of neurology at UK 
  • Ouita Michel ’87 AS, owner and chef, Holly Hill and Company 

Amelia Pace, vice president of the UK Student Government Association, served as panel moderator. 

The panel addressed a variety of topics during the hour-long discussion and reflected how on their UK experiences shaped them into the women they are today.   

Michel said her time at the university was instrumental in giving her an opportunity to develop interests outside of her political science major and prepared her for being a leader of more than 200 employees.   

“From UK I got this incredible intellectual foundation,” she said. “In my mind, you’ve got decades to work. You only have a very short period of your life where you can indulge in absolute curiosity and passionate curiosity. So why not use that time to learn about as many different things as possible? And then whatever you do, you’ll be prepared for it.”  

The panelists discussed the importance of finding confidence within oneself to speak up, even if you are in the minority.  

“There will inevitably be times in your career where you feel like you don’t belong,” Barber said. “Use your own life experience and bring that to the table, even if that is different. That’s why I think diversity is so important – whether its age or gender or race. We all take our life experiences to the board room or the office or wherever.”  

“Don’t be silent if you see some injustice going forward,” Ebong said. “We have to continue speaking up for one another. We need more voices to speak up about injustices.”  

Additionally, they advised women in the audience to pursue their own version of success.   

“Lose the definitions,” Conner said. “I think as women we have followed definitions that were created with us not in mind. When you hold yourself to that standard, it can tear you down. Write your own definition and tell them this is how you are doing it.”  

The entire panel discussion is available on the UK Alumni Association’s podcast, From the Blue. Listen wherever you normally listen to podcasts or click here.  It is also available for viewing on our YouTube channel here.

The 135 Years of UK Women initiative will continue throughout 2023 as the UK Alumni Association honors the accomplishments of women from the past and empowers the women of today as they achieve their goals. Learn more about the celebration by visiting 

Feature photo: Jill Smith, Amelia Pace, Jennifer Barber, Dr. Laneshia Conner, Dr. Ima Ebong, Ouita Michel. Photo by Shelly Dawn Images.

Please enjoy the photo gallery from the luncheon:

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