TOPTalks: AARC hosts monthly student speaker series

Graduate student McKinze Willard (right) talks to students about her experiences throughout her years in college during WKU’s first TOPTalk of the semester, on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Willard is a graduate assistant for the $100 Solution on WKU’s campus and has worked with the ALIVE Center CCP for the past five years. 

Kylie Carlson


Prejudices against women in the workforce centered the topic of discussion during the first “TOPTalk” of the semester.

TOPTalks resemble TEDTalks, a popular podcast and video series devoted to spreading individual’s ideas and testimonials on various topics.

On Tuesday, the Academic Advising and Retention Center put on the first TOPTalk in the Downing Student Union study nook.

McKinze Willard, graduate assistant for $100 Solution, was the speaker for this month’s TOPTalk. Her story was geared toward women and centered around women in the work force.

“I wish I could tell you that I am a powerhouse of a woman. I wish I could tell you that I give a firm handshake,” Willard said to the crowd during the opening of her TOPTalk.

“But the truth is, I stick my pointer finger out to give the illusion that I have a strong handshake because I’m not that strong. The truth is that my voice gets squeaky when I’m upset and I’ve cried at work a few times,” she added.

Willard continued by expressing since her arrival at WKU, she has had a list of goals including becoming a spirit master and joining a sorority. She made a list, in pencil, of all the things she wanted to do. At that time, she was still afraid to use a pen in making this list.

“I wanted to be a woman who wore a bright red blazer, made herself known and just wanted to have done something,” she said.

To validate her speech, Willard gave many statistics about women. Statistics she wishes women could overcome, she said.

“Women will systematically underrate themselves,” she said. “We don’t always apply for jobs because we feel we have to meet 100 percent of the requirements on the application. Yet many of the men that applied only meet 60 percent.”

After the speech, Willard asked for an open discussion. She allowed any of the participants to express anything he or she connected with during the TOPTalk.

Ariana Kendrick, a sophomore from Hopkinsville, expressed she feels intimidated applying for jobs as a woman in the business field.

“Even as a business major, I don’t apply to jobs a lot of the time because the business field is filled with so many men that I have to compete with. I don’t ever feel like I will be hired as a woman in my field,” Kendrick said.

Cherrie Doram, a sophomore from Louisville, also connected with Willard’s testimony, but on a different level.

“I use the challenge of being a woman as motivation,” she said. “My mother does it everyday, all by herself and she is so inspiring. That is my motivation.”

TOPTalks is a version of a previous program, the Academic Advantage Series, also led by the AARC. Erika Wood, academic adviser and graduate student at WKU, said it was time for a change for the program.

“It was mandatory for students, especially University Experience students. It was faculty led and filled with powerpoints. It felt more like a lecture students had to attend,”

“TOPTalks is a pilot to our revamping of the old series. We wanted to make it more personable and informal. We wanted to show the good, the bad and the ugly sides of academia,” Wood said.

Wood has worked with many departments and students in order to make this program match the vision that AARC wanted.

Marcus Dukes, senior graphic designer at WKU, also helped in the revamping of the program by designing the logo and graphics for TOPTalks.

Additional contributors to the TOPTalks include The Center for Citizenship and Social Justice. The CCSJ feels it is a great opportunity for them, and it will also be hosting the TOPTalks this month.

“The great thing about it is that we get to partner with other departments on campus, bring in all the elements of the department and be able to introduce a great program to the campus,” Leah Ashwill, director for CCSJ, said.

The next TOPTalk will be Tuesday, Oct. 11 and a WellU representative will center the talk around health and fitness. Then, Tuesday, Nov. 15 the TOPTalk will be centered on financial advising and assistance.

Any WKU student is welcome to attend a TOPTalk. The event is now a swipeable event in order to earn points with WellU.

Reporter Kylie Carlson can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @kentuckylie.