Feature Story

Leading the Way

November 14, 2014 – by Katie Nunner '15

Three Ohio Wesleyan alumnae discuss their careers during the university’s first “Leading the Way: Women in Business” panel discussion. Participating on the panel are Colleen K. Nissl ’72 (left), Sonnetta Sturkey ’83, and Kara Trott ’83. (Photo by Ca

Three Ohio Wesleyan alumnae discuss their careers during the university’s first “Leading the Way: Women in Business” panel discussion. Participating on the panel are Colleen K. Nissl ’72 (left), Sonnetta Sturkey ’83, and Kara Trott ’83. (Photo by Caleb Dorfman ’15)

Three Ohio Wesleyan alumnae who have become business leaders in central Ohio shared their stories at the university’s first women in business panel discussion.

The November 10 event brought together Colleen K. Nissl ’72, senior vice president and global general counsel of NetJets Inc., Sonnetta Sturkey ’83, chief executive officer and president of Campbell Hairston LLC, and Kara Trott ’83, founder and chief executive officer of Quantum Health Inc.

After sharing their backgrounds, the women answered prewritten questions provided by students and then fielded questions from the audience. The panel was moderated by students Kelly Rand ’15 and Emily Keiser ’15.

“I was born with grit,” Colleen K. Nissl ’72 told the audience. “It’s allowed me to fail and get up again.”

Nissl described attending law school after her time at OWU and spoke of the challenges she experienced starting out as a lawyer in a male-dominated field. In dealing with adversity she said: “It was never about me, it was always about what I needed for my client. It made it a lot easier to be successful.”

Sonnetta Sturkey ’83, who has experience working in both the public and private sectors, told students to keep striving for what they want. “You are going to be told you won’t succeed in a lot of things, and what I do is I succeed in spite of.”

She first found banking after graduating from OWU. “I found my personality just fit in banking and I loved my team,” Sturkey said. “I found I was passionate about my team, passionate about people.”

Kara Trott ’83, advised students to always be open to possibilities. “I always call myself an accidental entrepreneur,” she said. “You shouldn’t worry about the first thing you do, because your career is really about a journey of discovery. It’s discovering what is important to you, what your strengths are, where you can make the highest and best contribution, and where you are your best and can get the best out of others. You have to allow yourself to have great experiences.”

Trott said her OWU education has served her well. “The value of the liberal arts education is that it does teach you the value of thinking about how to solve problems and being open to a lot of different points of view, very different than your own,” she says. “That is the key to success. The first time you think you have all of the answers, that is when you will fail.”

Many of the questions from the audience dealt with issues specific to women.

In answering a question concerning a perceived glass ceiling, Nissl said, “I’ve always had the philosophy if the front door isn’t open, there’s always the back door or a crack in the window.”

The panel discussion was sponsored by the Bigelow-Reed House, President’s Club, and Woltemade Center for Economics, Business, and Entrepreneurship.