The Office of Multicultural Affairs presented a discussion featuring professional women Wednesday March 31 at the Warch Campus Center Cinema as part of the Identity Forum series. This panel brought together seven Lawrence students and members of the Appleton community, who discussed their stories of achievement and success and the obstacles they have encountered as women. The women sat before an engaged – though small – audience. Each woman represented a different professional field, ranging from education to business, and they embodied diverse backgrounds and cultures. The panelists advocated various beliefs that helped them develop into unique women in both their private and professional lives. They share a common ability and willingness to overcome barriers imposed upon them. Rose Wasielewksi, program coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Ormsby Hall director, said, “There still are obstacles, so it is important to hear about these successful stories.” Businesswoman Maiyoua Thao shared her experience overcoming discrimination. Thao, a Hmong refugee, was 13 years old when she moved with her family to the United States. She suffered prejudice and was afraid to speak up. Supported by her husband, Thao started Universal Translation & Staffing, Inc. in Appleton, which received the Wisconsin Minority Business Award for “Outstanding Business” in 2007. Thao, who does not forget the limitations she experienced, now devotes her attention to serving the Hmong community as they adjust to a new life in the U.S. “Feel comfortable in your skin. Know who you are,” advised assistant superintendent of the Appleton area school district Yvette Dunlap. Dunlap expressed her wish for a stronger network of African American professional women. She explained that networking helps ensure that people with good ideas do not just come and go. “Networking is a very good support system,” said Kathy Flores, diversity coordinator for the city of Appleton. Amy Uecke, associate dean of students at Lawrence, also had positive experiences with networking. “I had great mentors,” said Uecke. “I realized I could talk with students and help them.” Helen Boyd, author of the books “My Husband Betty” and “She’s Not the Man I Married” and lecturer in Lawrence’s gender studies department, explained that the “do what you love and money will follow” idea is not always true because people are often afraid to struggle with financial difficulties. Lyndsay Sund ’01, the Lawrence Alumni Office’s associate director, feared changing her career. “My biggest obstacle was to know that it is okay to do what I want,” said Sund, who wanted to work at Lawrence but was afraid to leave the business world and change the career she had prepared for. Another panelist, Assistant Professor of Spanish Rosa Tapia, discovered a familiar environment and a way to do her part in her profession teaching Spanish language and literature. The Office of Multicultural Affairs announced that the Identity Forum series will continue this month with a panel discussion on socio-economic identities. The date is to be announced. The Lawrence and Appleton communities are invited to attend.