MSU students from the Women in Business Students' Association and Multicultural Business Programs coordinator Ann Crain dressed professionally at the Big Ten Women's Conference in Detroit

The three-day event was spearheaded by four Broad Spartan students and adviser Ann Crain (second from right).

There’s a frequently used expression that goes, “It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know.” But expanding who you know and making connections outside your network can be a tall order, requiring time, effort and courage. The Big Ten Women’s Business Connect Leadership Conference is a dedicated platform, hosted by a different university each year, for women in business to grow their personal and professional networks.

This year, the MSU Women in Business Students’ Association hosted the conference in Detroit, showcasing professional opportunities, offering time and space for social gatherings and even taking strides to give back to the local community.

“Detroit is the place for students and young professionals to start their careers and build a life,” Ann Crain, program coordinator for the Multicultural Business Programs and the adviser for the conference, said. This year’s event welcomed 57 women from nine Big Ten universities and had a special focus on Detroit’s economic and cultural resurgence.

The event, held last month, was spearheaded by four Broad Spartans: accounting graduate students Hannah Ahluwalia and Rachel Light, marketing senior Michelle Major and accounting junior Brittany Laura.

“After attending this event for three years now, I know that I have connections across the Big Ten schools that I can reach out to,” Ahluwalia said. She touched on the potential of building a support system for the future and explained the concept of unlocking greatness, a theme that keynote speakers built on this year.

“People’s personal experience, tips and advice was so inspiring to make you want to do, grow and assist in the professional development of other women,” she said.

Crain added, “Many of the keynote speakers shared how they did not have women mentors or role models as they moved up their careers. For undergraduate women, events like this give them role models.”

The three-day conference was sponsored by the Broad College MBA programs, Multicultural Business Programs and local industry partners such as Dow Chemical Company, Quicken Loans and Plante Moran. In addition to attending professional development workshops and social gatherings, the attendees assisted a Detroit-based nonprofit led by fellow Broad Spartan Josie Miller.

Big Ten Women's Conference attendees pose with more than 100 boxes of hygiene and cosmetic items that were assembled for Detroit's women in need.

Conference attendees purchased and put together more than 100 boxes to support Detroit’s women in need.

Miller, a marketing junior, runs Behind the Scenes Beauty, a nonprofit that empowers Detroit’s women in need by providing boxes of basic hygiene items and cosmetics. Conference attendees purchased and built more than 100 boxes to support her cause.

“Until this year, I kept Behind the Scenes Beauty behind closed doors as something I did personally,” Miller admitted. “Michelle’s excitement about what I had been doing encouraged me to share this with the Women in Business Students’ Association.”

Crain summed up the success of the event by saying, “The conference really showcased all that Detroit and Michigan have to offer young professionals.”