11th annual Inspiring Leadership Forum hits record attendance

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: March 5, 2020 11:00 a.m.

Over 830 guests from across Canada attended the 2020 ILF Living Your Truth
Over 830 guests from across Canada attended the 2020 ILF Living Your Truth Photos: U of R Photography

More than 830 attendees from across Canada packed the International Trade Centre in Regina on March 4 for the University of Regina’s 11th Inspiring Leadership Forum, presented by TD. 

“Women’s leadership is not a women’s issue. It’s an issue for all of us,” said Timmons, speaking to the forum’s theme, Living Your Truth. “When we share stories about resiliency, when we call out abuse and mistreatment, when we talk about issues affecting women, we are embracing what it means to live our truth. We need to keep having these difficult conversations.” 

Vianne Timmons Dawn Smith Samra Zafar Caitlyn Jenner
Emcee President Vianne
Timmons welcomes more
than 830 guests to the
2020 Inspiring Leadership

ILF 2020 keynote speakers: Dawn Smith shared her story of growing up in and
leaving Evangelical cult; Samra Zafar spoke about her experience living as a child
bride in Canada and her escape; and Caitlyn Jenner talked candidly about her
transition from Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn.

Dawn Smith, an American writer and producer, shared her story of growing up in and eventually leaving the Evangelical, fundamentalist cult her grandfather founded. Her TEDx talk, “Why I Left an Evangelical Cult” has been viewed by over 2.25 million people since 2018.  

“Living your truth means losing some things,” said Smith, who lost her family, friends, security, and sense of belonging when she left the Assembly. “I felt like an outsider for a long time. I didn’t fit in the real world and I didn’t fit in my past.” 

However, as hard as it is, living your truth is better than denying it. “It’s important to call things as they are; you gain the freedom to be you,” said Smith. “Never deny the person that you are and the experiences you have had. Leaving the Assembly was hard, but even the hardest day of freedom was better than the best day in the cult.” 

Best-selling author and global advocate for equity, inclusion, and human rights, Samra Zafar spoke about her escape, as a single mother, from a decade of physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the hands of her then husband. Living in Canada as a child bride, Zafar clung to her dreams of pursuing an education. Overcoming barrier after barrier, Zafar graduated at the top of her class at the University of Toronto to discover that her true purpose in life was not the achievement of academic awards and success. 

“I knew that my story wasn’t just mine; it is the story of millions and millions of women and girls around the world who continue to suffer in silence because they have lost their voices and because they have no support. I wanted to break that silence,” said Zafar. 

Recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, Zafar’s memoir A Good Wife is being published internationally and has been optioned by Pier 21 Films to be adapted into a television series. 

After 65 years of living behind closed doors unable to reveal her true self, Caitlyn Jenner spoke candidly about her experience of transitioning from living as Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn. Jenner was well-known as an Olympian, a reality TV star, and now as a best-selling author, transgender woman, and a champion for issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. 

“There is nothing better in life than to live your life authentically,” emphasized Jenner, adding her perspective on the Living Your Truth theme. 

She encouraged attendees to realize and remember that living your truth is about knowing who you are in your soul and nurturing the ability to live with a certain amount of ambiguity. 

“The ability to grow is directly related to the amount of insecurity you can take in your life,” she said. “You want to live your life in those insecure areas, because that’s where you’re growing as a person. We have to constantly move forward in life. Don’t be afraid.” 

The forum, the last one for Dr. Timmons who leaves at the end of this month to take on the President and Vice-Chancellor role at Memorial University of Newfoundland, featured a one-on-one interview between President Timmons and Pam Klein, U of R Chancellor. Klein, who will take over the reins for ILF 2021, led the relaxed dialogue as the two leaders shared what “living your truth” means to them in their careers, as well as their personal lives. 

Capping off the interview was a moving tribute celebrating Timmons’ 12 years as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Regina, her achievements, and the profound positive impact she’s made on the University and communities throughout Saskatchewan. 

The audience joined
musician Jeffery Straker
in offering up a
“Saskatchewan Love Song”. 

“This is what it means to lift someone up,” said Timmons after receiving a standing ovation, “and today, you’ve lifted me up.” 

Attendees were encouraged to plan now to attend the March 3, 2021 Inspiring Leadership Forum, presented by TD, as the conference sells out quickly. These inspiring keynote speakers will speak to the theme The Courage Within:

  • Holly Austin Gibbs – survivor, advocate, author

A survivor of child sex trafficking, advocate for survivors of all forms of human trafficking, and the author of Walking Prey: How America’s Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery

  • Suki Kim – undercover journalist, award-winning writer

One of the only writers undercover at an elite boys’ school in North Korea to shed new light on a place that has been shrouded from the eyes of the world for the past 70 years

  • Jen Welter – trailblazer, barrier breaker

Made history as the first woman to play running back in men’s professional football and has gone on to become the first female coach in the NFL 

Tickets are now on sale for the 2021 Inspiring Leadership Forum at uofrinspiringleadership.com.



A decade of inspiration: the Inspiring Leadership Forum turns 10 (March, 7, 2019)