Discovering Your Purpose Conference

Finding meaning and direction for a purpose-filled life.

Having a defined sense of purpose is fundamental to connecting your life to the world around you — and yields positive physical and mental health outcomes. The Discovering Your Purpose Conference on Saturday, October 12 brings students grades 7-12, parents, educators, and alumnae together to explore the role that purpose plays in our personal, intellectual, and professional lives.

Guest Speakers Include:

Patrice Banks

Keynote Address

Patrice Banks has been shattering stereotypes with her work in making the male-dominated automotive industry more accessible to women through the Girls Auto Clinic. Her mission: to educate and empower women through their cars by offering automotive buying and repair resources, products, and services. Her repair garage features female mechanics and a while-you-wait nail salon! 

Prior to founding the Girls Auto Clinic, Banks worked for more than 12 years as an engineer, manager, and leader at DuPont. She holds a bachelor's degree in materials engineering from Lehigh University and an automotive technology diploma from Delaware Technical Community College. 

Dr. Matthew Joseph

Adult Track Presenter

Dr. Matthew Joseph specializes in helping others discover their purpose. An assistant professor in the Duquesne University Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education, he teaches graduate-level coursework in lifespan development, career development, and research design.

Dr. Joseph's research interests include emerging adult/college student life purpose development, the role of purpose in career decisions, and how counselors and educators in secondary and higher education can promote the development of identity, prosocial orientation, and meaning in life. 

Jean Mason ’07

Student Track Presenter

Jean Mason ’07 is an artist, textile designer, and proud member of the Agnes Irwin Class of 2007. Mason's travels and cultural encounters — including New Hampshire, New York, India, and most recently an artist residency in the south of France — inspire her work, which strives to create a strong sense of place. Her textile career has brought her to a wide range of artist studios and fashion labels, including Rebecca Atwood, Eileen Fisher, Urban Outfitters, and Lilly Pulitzer. 

Mason holds a Bachelor of Arts in printmaking and art history from Dartmouth College and a Master of Fine Arts in fibers from the Savannah College of Art and Design.


8:30 a.m. — Registration

9:00 a.m. — Welcome, Overview, and General Session

9:45 a.m. — Discovery Sessions: choose one from the options below

Parenting Toward Purpose (Adult Session)

Led by: Dr. Terese Lund and Dr. Angela Mousseau
This workshop will discuss the formation of purpose through the lens of developmental research. Specific focus will be on the central questions that parents and youth should be asking throughout adolescence to foster a purposeful life. Tips and tools will be provided to guide parents as they help their children navigate this important aspect of their development.

The Promise — and Potential Perils — of Promoting Youth Purpose (Adult Session)

Led by: Dr. Matthew Joseph
Purpose can be a powerful force for positive youth development, but if misunderstood it can be misguiding. This session will provide guidance for parents and teachers to engage productively with their daughters and students toward discovering and pursuing their life purposes.

Wanting Our Kids to Have Purpose Means Starting With Ourselves (Adult Session)

Led by: Dr. Taylor Damiani
What gets you up in the morning? We all want our children to have purpose in life, but do we know what gives our own life purpose? Do we walk the walk? Researchers suggest that one of the best ways we can inspire purpose in our kids is to model it ourselves. Using empirically based techniques, this interactive workshop will help parents and educators (and anyone who works with young people) to explore their own sense of purpose. Adults who have a sense of purpose can serve as role models for children, inspiring them with lived examples of what it looks like to self-reflect, grapple with questions about purpose, and live out meaningful action. Participants — come ready to engage in small groups!

Repeat After Me: Discovering Applied Design (Session for Grades 9-12)

Led by: Jean Mason ’07 Associate Designer: Textiles and Graphics at Stitch Fix
Sometimes you have to look outside your bubble to find the thing you love! In this workshop, facilitator Jean Mason will teach participants to make their own repeat pattern that can be used in print or textile design and will also explore how much more exists outside of the typically prescribed academic path. As a trained textile artist, Jean will share her journey and help participants understand that not everyone gains exposure to the perfect job, purpose, or life calling in high school or even college. Come prepared to think outside the box and embrace a new creative process. 

Stretch Your Story: Finding Room to Grow through Storytelling and Play (Session for Grades 7-8)

Led by: Monisha Mittal, Founder and Principal at Mittal Accelerated Communications 
This workshop is all about learning what it takes to create the Story of You. What if laughter were essential connecting to your purpose? What if our bodies held important clues? Learn tools to help you stay grounded and connected with yourself as you navigate your way in the world amidst all the uncertainties and judgements. We will work with storytelling and movement improv techniques to create a fun, safe space for all of who you are and want to become. Learn what it feels like to make choices for yourself with more power, purpose and ease.

Design to Support (Session for Grades 7-12)

Led by: Rachel Dacks, Director at Rcatalyst Design Lab, LLC
Trusting intuition, demonstrating resilience, accepting adaptation, and working hard to produce successful results is a tall order! It is also a necessity for any entrepreneur. Through this hands-on workshop led by designer and entrepreneur Rachel Dacks, students will design and build their own small scale product intended to support a 2” succulent, creatively interpreting a project brief with specific guidelines that must be incorporated. Come prepared to embrace an innovative design process and produce something you can be proud of!

[Your Name] for President (Session for Grades 7-8)

Led by: Angelina Keeley, Founder & Executive Director of Ready to Run
Did you know that girls who run for student government are much more likely to run for public office later in life? It is so important to have female representation at all levels of government and it’s never too soon to get involved or interested. In this workshop, participants will learn about the history of women in US politics, be empowered to explore leadership opportunities at school, and be prepared to run for an elected position in the future. If you feel that your purpose is connected to serving others, then come explore a path to public office! 

Car Care for New Drivers (Session for Grades 10-12)

Led by: Patrice Banks, Founder and CEO of Girls Auto Clinic
This workshop is an interactive and fun way to learn the basics about your car. Topics covered include what maintenance you can be doing to prolong the life of your car, how you can save money on car care, how to talk to a mechanic, and what to do in an emergency. Participants will be in a safe space to ask questions and become a more confident driver. Led by keynote speaker, Patrice Banks, this workshop was born out of her life’s purpose to educate and empower female drivers to become #sheCANics. 

Pathways to Entrepreneurship (Session for Grades 9-12)

Led by: Suzie Welsh ’07, Nurse turned entrepreneur and founder of the women’s health company, Binto
Suzie Welsh, founder of Binto, will share the story of building her business, highlighting product innovation and development. Participants will lean into their entrepreneurial spirit by learning how to bring a new product to market. Girls will break into teams to plan out the steps they would take to bring an idea to life, drawing on insights from Suzie’s real story of being a nurse turned entrepreneur who found purpose in adding value to the field of women’s health.

Choosing Activism (Session for Grades 7-12)

Led by: Phaidra Knight, attorney, entrepreneur, and World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee
No matter your life’s path, there is always room to be an activist within it. Using the example of tennis legend Billie Jean King’s lifelong commitment to equality — as illustrated in the 2017 film “Battle of the Sexes” — participants will actively consider how they can exercise their influence to create a better world for others, regardless of their chosen career path.

Please note participants of this workshop must also commit to attending a screening of “Battle of the Sexes” during a Wednesday seminar prior to the conference. 

11:15 a.m. — Break/Interactive Self-Directed Learning Debrief

11:30 a.m. — Lunch

12:45 p.m. — Panels for Adults and Students: choose one from the options below

Work/Life Balance Panel

Life is what happens when you’re busy discovering your purpose. Whether you’re a student, a parent, applying to college, or worried about your lacrosse practice, it can be difficult to bear your purpose in mind with other distractions. This panel will feature discussion on how to be resilient in the face of chaos.

Fueled by Failure Panel

Girls avoid risk because we are socializing them to be perfect. This panel will explore the benefits of failure, with attention to how failure can be positively reframed. Panelists will share their own experiences of failure and encourage participants to do the same with a new appreciation of its benefits. 

The End Game Panel

What is a goal and how do you set them? While some of us are familiar with a goal setting process, there is something distinct about approaching it through the lens of purpose. This panel will explore how to translate purpose into meaningful goals.

Leadership Panel

Leadership is a choice. Choosing to lead yourself is a necessary commitment in the path of discovering your purpose. This panel will explore the ways in which you can develop a strong sense of self and embrace your authentic identity as a leader. 

1:45 p.m. — Break/Interactive Self-Directed Learning Debrief

2:00 p.m. — Closing Keynote and Q&A

3:00 p.m. — Closing Remarks

Register for the Conference