Women in Leadership Series: Jennifer Pharr Davis

On Wednesday, March 10, Trinity Hall welcomed trailblazing speaker Jennifer Pharr Davis as part of our Women in Leadership series. With a focus on perseverance, the virtual event included Ms. Davis's valuable life lessons learned on the trail and a much-needed opportunity for participants to recharge and reflect.
 
Ms. Davis is an internationally-recognized adventurer, sought-after speaker, critically-acclaimed author, and a successful entrepreneur who is able to translate her experiences into a path that allows people to better navigate their work - and their world. An expert on "what it takes to keep going," Ms. Davis has covered over 14,000 miles of trails on six different continents. In 2011, she set the overall record on the Appalachian Trail by covering the 2,185 miles in 46 days – an average of 47 miles per day, She is the first and only woman to hold this title. 
 
When Melissa Fairchild (world language teacher) and Alyssa Morreale (director of college counseling) met Ms. Davis at a National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS) conference two years ago, they knew the Trinity Hall community would also be inspired by her experiences and stories, particularly her message of perseverance. 
 
"When I first met Jennifer I was immediately impressed by her amazing spirit for adventure and challenge, and her sense of humility and appreciation," said Mrs. Morreale. "I thought her story would be both inspirational and informative to our girls because we always encourage them to take risks, to go outside their comfort zones, to be brave and bold, but to also be mindful of the risks and be thoughtful in our purpose."
 
"She reminded me of a Trinity Hall student," added Mrs. Fairchild. "Our four core values came across clearly as she spoke." 
 
Wednesday's time with Ms. Davis was no different. Following are highlights from the stories and advice she shared:
  • Instead of hiding from or avoiding difficult situations, "have the conversation and be direct." Ms. Davis recalled a time when she had difficulty telling a fellow hiker she would like to continue alone, an experience she continues to reflect on when needing a push to address a challenge quickly.
  • Focus on "What is the best I can do today?" rather than getting caught in comparisons. This mindset helped Ms. Davis set her overall record, challenging the notion of separate men's and women's records. "I didn't want to live with regret. I didn't want to look back and wonder, 'what was my best?' I had to let my body go and see what it could do."
  • Learn to recover "on the move" by identifying the tools that make you feel better and taking breaks to use them.
  • Carve time out of your schedule to be outside. "Knowing how good being outside is for my mental health is what drives me outside now. It makes me feel happy and healthy and whole."
To allow participants the chance to experience her advice for themselves, Ms. Davis kicked off the second part of the event by asking participants to go outside for a 30-minute recharging break -- no electronics. Students and faculty used the time to walk, play soccer, and even enjoy some bird watching. Ms. Davis then led the group through a journaling exercise with prompts including, "What are the guideposts that allow you to know you're on the right path?", "Who are you hiding from?" and "What is the one thing that has changed your life the most?"
 
"This forced all of us to take some time out of our busy, distracted lives to relax, reflect and refresh," said Mrs. Morreale. "It's amazing how little time and effort it takes to get such powerful results." 
 
Ms. Davis's advice resonated with the audience, with students taking away the messages that they needed to hear to "keep going."
 
"[The idea] that we have to judge our progress and goals on ourselves, and not on the standards other people set for us was my favorite part," said Juliana Lucas '24. "This was so inspiring to me because it motivates me to do the best I can and not listen to what other people have to say about it."
  
"The part that resonated most with me was when she was telling us about how she almost quit one day," shared Sophia Memtsoudis '24. "There have been so many times I have wanted to quit and give up, but a voice of reason in me always says if you give up now you will regret it, so pick yourself up, dust yourself off, remember who you are, and keep going."
 
Juliana Scheick '22 agreed, "There have been many times that I wanted to quit because something was too hard. After listening to the presentation, Jennifer Pharr Davis inspired me to keep going because your hard work will pay off."
 
Trinity Hall has hosted many prominent professional women as part of the “Women in Leadership” speaker series. The series gives students exposure to female role models who work in interesting and unique industries such as finance, the arts, healthcare, politics, professional athletics and philanthropy. The speakers inspire students to find and work within their personal passions, develop a stronger sense of self, and lead.
 

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