In her keynote address, Fortin told the audience of many female students – and a sprinkling of male students – that she had whittled her message down to three words. “I’ve boiled it down to three words that sum up my 29 years in business: resourcefulness, resilience and reinvention,” she said.
She defined resourcefulness as being “very good at many things.” Resilience, she said, was the ability to recover from getting knocked down somehow – whether it’s by getting laid off, passed over for a promotion or stabbed in the back by a colleague.
Fortin said her third word, reinvention, is particularly important in today’s economy, which is forcing people to adapt to quick changes. “The economy has changed the way people do business,” she said.
In the next 30 minutes, Fortin described the arc of her career, from a small radio station announcer to anchor of CNN Headline News to a TV medical correspondent. After 19 years with CNN, doing a job she loved, Fortin told the audience she was laid off. “I call it my amazing ride,” she said. “I traveled; I had the front row of history.”
Losing her job in 2009 was like experiencing a “death in my life,” she said. But she was resilient, and resourceful, and reinvented herself. She started working for The American Cancer Society 15 months ago. “I call it my common good,” she said. “The mission of the American Cancer Society is to save lives. I don’t save lives, but I might help someone who is saving lives communicate better.”
She urged the students to consider nonprofit work, which she described as incredibly rewarding. “And the nonprofit world needs critical thinkers like you,” she said.
Following Fortin’s remarks, students attended one of the conferences many smaller sessions focusing on finance, health care, consulting, health care administration, marketing, nonprofits or social advocacy. This year’s conference included 20 alumnae, including – for the first time – professionals from the health care industry.
Photos by Matthew Rassmussen ’14