A decade of inspiration: the Inspiring Leadership Forum turns 10

By Katherine Cormack Posted: March 7, 2019 4:00 p.m.

Dr. Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Regina, speaks with the media just before the doors open on the University's 10th annual Inspiring Leadership Forum on March 6, 2019.
Dr. Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Regina, speaks with the media just before the doors open on the University's 10th annual Inspiring Leadership Forum on March 6, 2019. Photos: U of R External Relations

An engaged crowd of more than 800 celebrated a decade of inspiration at the 10th anniversary of the University of Regina’s Inspiring Leadership Forum on March 6, 2019.

More than 11 years ago, Dr. Vianne Timmons, University of Regina President and Vice-Chancellor, put forward the idea for the Forum – it was an idea that came from a place of self-confessed need.

“I had a deep sense that if I needed to be inspired in my own personal and professional journey, so would many other women,” said Timmons. “Ten years in, we know without a doubt that women thrive when given the opportunity to come together to hear the voices of inspiring women, to listen to their stories, and be lifted up – inspired – to continue to live their own amazing lives.”

Timmons also said that she had a desire to reintroduce the topic of gender equality into general conversation. “I promised my daughters they would grow up in a very different, much safer, more accommodating world than the one I grew up in,” shared Timmons. “I lied. We need to do better – we need to continue to keep this conversation going so that we won’t break our promise of a better world to the next generation of little girls.”

Presented by TD, the University’s 2019 Inspiring Leadership Forum was a full day of inspiration. Keynote speakers Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Smart, and Jann Arden spoke to the conference theme of Defying the Odds as they told their stories of personal and professional challenges and triumphs and shared what has inspired them along the way.

Molly Thomas Cheryl Strayed Elizabeth Smart Jann Arden

Emcee Molly Thomas, award-winning television host, correspondent, and producer, welcomes more than 800 guests to the 2019 Inspiring Leadership Forum. ILF 2019 keynote speakers: Cheryl Strayed speaks the power of story during ILF media scrum; Elizabeth Smart shares her story of being kidnapped and sexually abused at 14 and her life today; and Jann Arden talks about her mother's steadfast love and shoulders-back ability to wait out the bad for the good that will surely come.


Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir and Oscar-nominated film spoke about her solo hike through more than 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon to Washington State. Wild was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her first selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 and made into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl.

Strayed said that she didn’t anticipate the book’s success but found that it inspired other women to take risks, heal from trauma, and embrace life. “The point of all art and memoir is that telling the human story connects us all; it’s the bridge that connects your trauma to mine and my joy to yours,” said Strayed.

Smart spoke about her experience at the centre of one of the most followed child abduction cases of our time. She was abducted in June of 2002, and held prisoner for nine months. When finally freed, Smart felt an overwhelming need to take back control. As a result, she has become an advocate for change related to child abduction, recovery programs and national legislation, and has helped promote The National AMBER Alert, The Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act and other safety legislation to help prevent abductions.

Eight-time Juno winner and author, Jann Arden shared stories about her personal struggles and how she overcame them following her mother’s example. “[She] taught me to be exactly where you are; my life has taught me that good things come from bad things,” said Arden. The Canadian singer-songwriter received a standing ovation for her acapella rendering of “Good Mother” which closed out the event.

While each of the 2019 Inspiring Leadership Forum speakers echoed Timmons’ sentiment we have not yet fulfilled our promise to the next generation, much has been accomplished. Strayed, Smart, and Arden are shining examples of what inspired women can achieve.

Speakers for the 2020 Inspiring Leadership Forum have been announced. Learn more about next year’s forum.


ILF tables

More than 800 people from

Regina and surrounding

communities, and as far away

as Ottawa, make use of

networking break to seek out

the inspiring stories of others

and widen the circle.