Beyond the looking glass: The 139 Women’s Empowerment Conference

Michelle Norsworthy

How It Began

Like many young women, Amanda Ross grew up battling low self-esteem. After coming to Georgia Southern and founding Impact Campus Ministry, Ross found that she wasn’t alone in what she was experiencing. Three years ago, Ross invited several women from her organization for a dinner to talk about the issues that women face. The next year, it became a huge event, including guest speakers, a mixer, workshops and a dinner.

“It was really powerful. When you sit down and talk to other people, you see that whatever you’re going through, they’re going through it also,” Ross said. “It’s really beyond me, and I’m really humbled by it. There are things you go through that you don’t really understand until you’re on the other side of it.”

Ross says her inspiration for the conference came from Psalms 139:14 which reads:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Ross wanted the conference to continue even after she’d left GSU so that women had a place to be open and talk about those issues.

Enter Joi Russell.

Ross and Russell bonded over something they both had in common: founding an organization. At the time, Joi Russell was in the process of founding the first and only dance ministry on GSU’s campus: The Word in MOTION (WIM)

Upon her graduation, Ross turned it over to Russell and her organization.

This Year’s Conference

“She’s done a good job carrying on the passion and the business of it,” Ross said. “I’m honored. I’m humbled and I’m excited to see it continue for as long as it will go.”

Plans for this year’s conference started as early as July, and Russell along with the other members of WIM, are excited for the conference to get started.

This year’s theme is flaws and how to view them differently, according to Russell. Even though this is a spiritual conference, with its roots in Impact Campus ministry, everyone is welcomed to attend.

Last year was Russell’s first year as part of the planning committee. “That was [Amanda’s] baby and it changed my life in a way that I would want others to experience that,” Russell said.

 “Beyond the Looking Glass”      
Friday, Nov. 7

7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Williams Center Multipurpose Room

“You’ll meet new people – get out of the circle of friends you came with. You dress up, kind of like you’re going on a date. We’ll have a huge dessert bar. Everything dipped in chocolate. Everything covered in sprinkles. It’s a sugar rush to the tenth degree,” Russell said.

Saturday, Nov. 8

9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Check-in, Light Continental Breakfast, Sessions

Russell Union Theater

“This time we’re doing something different.” Russell said, “We didn’t want to have everyone sit in a chair for two hours and listen to someone go on and on about their personal views. Instead, we’re going to do five mini-interactive sessions.”

Workshops will also be available, ranging from topics like healthy eating, personalities, balancing spirituality and relationships and a special workshop for the men who want to attend the conference.

Dress for Saturday is business casual.

Saturday, Nov.8

7 p.m. – William’s Center Multipurpose Room

The Dinner

“For entertainment, The Word in MOTION will be performing. It’s a piece that’s different from what we normally do. This is something new,” Russell said. “We’ll have some nice poetry and music.”

For those who attend the dinner, the meal will be five courses. Dinner will be prepared by Chef Will Guy, author of “The Audacity to Cook.”

“You don’t want to miss that. You get a five course meal for eight dollars.”

Sunday, Nov. 9


Sunday is an optional part of the conference and pamphlets of the different churches in Statesboro will be given out. Contact information will also be given for those who may not have a ride.

Tickets are on sale at The Rotunda November 3-6 11 a.m. – 2 p.m

One Day: $5 Two Days: $8

Questions? Contact Joi Russll: (404) 539-5932 or

Destiny Watson: (678) 457-4762