News at Smith

Smith’s Future Women in Business Conference Inspires Fearless Leaders

Dec 07, 2017


Kevin Li, class of 2019 marketing and information systems double major, writes about the annual Future Women in Business event for local high school women on Dec. 1, 2017, at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Women have limitless opportunities in business. This is but one philosophy that the Robert H. Smith School of Business aims to convey through the annual Future Women in Business Conference. This year, the fifth iteration of this conference occurred on Dec. 1 with the goal of presenting the endless opportunities that female high school students can take advantage of when pursuing a business education.

The conference kicked off with riveting opening remarks from Melanie Ashton, assistant director in the undergraduate program at Smith and lead organizer of the conference. Students were challenged to lead during the conference and to feel empowered throughout the day.

An inspiring keynote address was then delivered by Smith Alumna Foluké Tuakli who recently graduated in 2016 and currently works at NBC Universal. Tuakli spoke much about her experiences at UMD especially those within the Smith community. Being a member of QUEST, the Social and Innovation Fellows program, and the Black Business Association really allowed her to grow not only as a student but as an aspiring professional. Words of wisdom constantly broke through in Tuakli’s speech as she advised students to “live in [their] purpose” and that “the first business [they] have is [themselves].” Tuakli concluded her speech with an inspiring phrase, “make yourself uncomfortable, and be authentic to yourself.”

After a rousing round of applause and a standing ovation, the Smith School Women’s Society then presented the case that the high school students would be working on this year. This year focused on Route One Apparel, an e-commerce retailer specializing in Maryland state pride apparel and accessories. Students were tasked to increase sales and expand the current range of consumer markets for the company. They had to give a comprehensive plan considering many aspects of the business including marketing, finance, and supply chain needs.

Ideas started flying across the room as students split into their teams to discuss the best ways to solve the problem. Two sets of presentations were given to a panel of judges and eventually, one team emerged victoriously. A member of the winning team, Caroline Tang from River Hill High School, spoke about how she really appreciated the opportunity to “meet other women passionate about business” through the conference. Many other members of the team echoed her response and even added on how the conference allowed them to “step out of [their] comfort zone and give [them] experience presenting.”

The Future Women in Business Conference is a staple of Smith, both unlocking the potential of female high school students and providing them with just a bit of what a business education can do for them. The Smith School is committed to inspiring women to aspire to be fearless leaders and this conference is but one piece of the puzzle.

For more information about the Future Women in Business Conference, contact Melanie Ashton at For more information about the undergraduate program at Smith, visit:

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.