CWU alumni return to inspire at Women in Business conference


Zileni Milupi

Students at the find your voice conference.

Zileni Milupi, Staff Reporter

Words of motivation and tips for success filled the Wellington Event Center during the third annual Find Your Voice conference on March 3, hosted by CWU’s Women in Business Club to kick off Women’s History Month. 

Keynote speakers included Senior Vice President and Advisor of Wealthspire Advisors Julie Back and Assistant Vice President and Financial Advisor of Wealthspire Advisors Julie Penwell, who talked about the importance of networking.

According to senior marketing and graphic design major Leila Haji, the main goal of the conference was to empower the next generation of female leaders. Haji is the Women in Business Club president and co-planner of the event. 

Keynote Speaker Julie Back. (Zileni Milupi)

Julie Back 

Before venturing into the world of financial planning, Julie Back graduated from CWU with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and Marketing. She worked at several investment firms before becoming the senior vice president of Wealthspire Advisors, an independent financial advising firm, according to their website. Founded in 1995, the firm has achieved multiple accolades over the years, including Forbes’ 2022 “America’s Top RIA Firms” list.  

Throughout her career, Back has participated in various mentorship and volunteering programs; she said she believes in uplifting young professionals and helping them grow in their careers. Back currently serves as an advisor for the College of Business Leadership Board. 

“Making an investment in your future is really inspiring to me,” Back said. “I think that when women come together, we can do really great things for each other.”

Julie Penwell

Keynote speaker Julie Penwell addressing the audience. (Zileni Milupi)

Julie Penwell became one of the first students to graduate from CWU’s personal financial planning program with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration in 2019. 

During her time at CWU, Penwell was the president of the Women in Business Club and founding president of the Personal Financial Planning Club. 

Penwell explained the importance of sustaining healthy relationships and building trust regarding brand building. 

“For me, one of my values and something that is really important to me is empowering women and finding people that want to empower women,” Penwell said. “Specifically, around financial well-being because that is something that’s really important to me.” 

Networking presentation 

Back and Penwell defined networking as connecting and building a community of trusted friends, colleagues and mentors and nourishing those relationships on an ongoing basis. 

Back said early in her career she didn’t fully understand the importance of having a positive attitude toward networking.  

“One of the things I learned is that people actually want to help you,” Back said. “People are genuinely good and want to share their experiences and help you fulfill the dreams that you have.”  

Back emphasized the importance of establishing meaningful and lasting relationships with different people to grow professionally. 

“When I was at [CWU], I was involved with lots of different organizations and clubs,” Penwell said. “When I was doing that, I was networking without even knowing it.” 

Penwell explained that Back became her mentor through the alumni association during her freshman year at college. The two grew and maintained their relationship during and after Penwell’s college experience, which eventually led to them working together at Wealthspire.  


Haji, who hosted the conference for the first time, explained why the event was important to her. 

“The first time I attended the conference two years ago was really helpful to me,” Haji said. “It gave me some good insights and I just wanted to pass that along.” 

Most of the attendees expressed their satisfaction with the conference, with a few expressing that they learned more than they expected.  

“I felt like I always knew how to start networking, but I liked how they talked about finding ways to follow up and being able to go back into that connection,” senior entrepreneurship and wine management major Brittney Cornwell said.

“For me personally, I didn’t realize that I started my networking journey,” junior marketing management major Kirsten Lowe said. “It was really insightful to hear that what I’m doing is right and having these connections with people is a good thing, and building a good relationship with people that I feel are too important or I’m not good enough for is still important, and they’re going to be willing to help me.”