LeaderLuncheon profile: Connie Mitchell

40th Annual LeaderLuncheon  |  June 14, 2017  |  12:00-1:30pm  |  Sheraton Waikiki

Connie Mitchell has led The Institute for Human Services (IHS) and stood at the forefront of addressing homelessness in Hawai‘i for over 10 years. During her tenure, IHS grew from serving 1,400 to more than 5,000 individuals through the development of case management, housing, employment, health promotion, and healing programs, and an array of specialty shelters for homeless people in our community. Prior to IHS, Connie established a nurse-run rural clinic on Hawai‘i Island and was Director of Nursing at the Hawai‘i State Hospital, where she helped settle a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. She serves on the boards of EPIC Ohana, Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, and the State’s Workforce Development Council. She is firmly committed to cross sector collaboration in the interest of social innovation.

Q & A with Connie Mitchell 

What types of qualities make a good leader?

Good leaders are people who are open to continuous learning; willing to take calculated risks; and willing to take responsibility for failures and recognizes her team when there are achievements to celebrate.  Good leaders also genuinely care about the people who they are serving.  They don’t put them in harm’s way needlessly.  Good leaders share by trying to cultivate leadership among those they lead.

What has helped you become a more effective leader?

Criticism helps keep me humble and self –reflective.  But it’s not about me, so I’d also say being aware and observant of people and the environment in which you are delivering services or a product is essential.   I need to be aware of any changing trends that could impact my ability to execute our mission.  I’ve always been someone who invests time in becoming more knowledgeable and skilled so that I’m able to improve on something our team is doing and also so that we are ready to execute ona new opportunity that may present itself.  I like to pick the brains of all kinds of people, especially successful entrepreneurs, scientists and ministers.

Name a woman leader who inspires you and explain why.

Connie Lau is someone I deeply admire.  She exemplifies for me a wonderful combination of strength, brains, beauty anda hardworking spirit.  She knew that being competent and consistent in executing projects that were assigned to her would inspire respect among colleagues and competitors alike.  She also presents as a very pragmatic person when it came to blending her work life with her personal life and she always looks great.  On a personal note,  my mother Jane Fong has been a role model for me in extending generous hospitality to others, working hard to achieve her goals and having the courage and audacity to make investments that others might discourage.  She got my father to buy a home instead of renting one and she obviously has no regrets.  She is 85 today and she is still helping others in a myriad of ways.

What was your dream job growing up?

I actually entertained the notion of becoming a journalist before I settled on a career in nursing.  I knew nursing was my calling because I enjoyed extending health and healing to people through care and healing touch.   In any case, my dream job would have to have variety, let me put my skills to good use and require me to problem solve challenging situations.  Perhaps I found my dream job at IHS!

What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

Develop tough skin.  The more you accomplish, the more you should expect detractors to see a target on your back and lob criticism your way.  Another one:  You don’t have to  everything all figured out to move forward with a decision.  If you’re open to feedback, you can always do course corrections along the way.

As a woman leader, what can you advise others to do to help each other or help the next generation of women leaders?

Be the best “you” that you can be.  Everyone has a different style of leadership.  But being genuine is critical.  Being a leader was never something I aspired to be.  It was out of necessity in certain situations when someone was needed to step forward to lead and say “Let’s go this way…” that I was enlisted and subsequently entrusted with the responsibility of leadership. Once it was entrusted, I carried that mantle of responsibility with serious thought, never wanting to let people down.  I’ve had my share of failures and I’m not perfect by any means.  But when I’m “in” (committed).  I’m in all the way.  I guess I expect the same of those who lead beside me.  Young women need to see women leaders who are making change, in their own way.  It won’t be the same as how a many might do it.  But it has no less power and impact…maybe more.

LeaderLuncheon honors women for the contributions they have made to their professions and in their community.  Join us in supporting Hawaii’s commitment to the advancement of women leaders by attending the 2017 LeaderLuncheon. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 695-2620 or click on the button below. 

MCBL Seeks New Mink Leaders

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Want to learn how to leverage your talents and strengths? Do you want to enhance your influence and negotiation skills? If these statements describe you, you could be a good fit for the next Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance! The Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership (MCBL) is currently accepting applications for the next Alliance. Deadline to apply is June 30, 2017!

In September 2016, MCBL selected 14 women to join a new initiative called the Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance. The program was created in an effort to increase the representation of women in C-Suite positions by helping emerging female leaders improve their management and leadership skills.

The six-month course covered topics ranging from strategic planning to financial business acumen and culminated with a pinning ceremony on March 1 with the graduates, their families, and their sponsors.

Following the graduation, MCBL’s Advisory Board received feedback from each Mink Leader and used their ideas to improve the evolving program. One of the most significant changes is extending the program from six months to 10 months and the session times from two to five hours.

“Besides all the positive learning from the cohort, the participants wanted to increase the number of sessions and have a longer day to include time to plan a community service project to benefit MCBL & the YWCA,” said Terri Funakoshi, Director of the Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership.

Funakoshi noted that the new curriculum includes sessions on Emotional Intelligence, HR as a Strategic Business Partner, and Intrapreneurial Thinking. Another added benefit to the program is that one cohort member will be chosen to serve on the MCBL Advisory Board and Leadership Committee for a one-year term—this year’s honorary member will be Isla Young, a director on the Maui Economic Development Board.

 “Being part of the program really helped me to feel confident that I could make a difference and when you see that there’s opportunities to do that we need to stand up,” Young said. “We need to join together, help together and really uplift other women in the community to improve our island state.”

The Mink Leaders have already made good on their promise to give back to the community, by volunteering their time at the Hawaii STEM Conference on May 1-2 at the Hawaii Convention Center.

“Isla shared with us that her team puts on a STEM conference each year, and this year she was bringing the conference to O‘ahu,” said Emi Au, Mink Leader and YWCA O‘ahu Board of Director. “We thought it would be good to lead some workshops on professional and career development to augment the standard STEM sessions, so we decided to put on a negotiation session, speed mentoring session, and a communication session.”

Hear from graduates of the inaugural Leadership Alliance below:

Runjini Murthy, Howard Hughes Corporation:

"I feel so fortunate to be a part of the Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance. It’s come along at a perfect time in my career and for the contributions I want to make in my community. I have a new role at my organization and I feel like I’ve learned the strategies and tools I need to speak my mind and speak to a diverse group of stakeholders at my organization."

Jennifer Hee, The Salvation Army:

"Being a Mink Leader means carrying on the legacy of Patsy Mink, our namesake. She is just someone that we can look to as a strong woman leader and she overcame so many obstacles both as an Asian-American and as a woman going through her political career."

Ashlee Kishimoto, Hawaiian Airlines:

"It really took me out of my job and really got me to focus on things that I don’t do on a normal basis. I particularly enjoyed the session that Kat and Shelley held on strategic planning. It really gave me an opportunity to take a step back and think about who I am, where I want to be and where I want to lead this company."

Farrah-Marie Gomes, University of Hawaii at Hilo:                                                     

"As a result of participating in the program I’m now better able to recognize the leadership skills and talents in others. One of the great things about being a leader is giving others the opportunity to lead. And I firmly believe that having more leaders among us makes us all stronger together."

If you’re interested in applying for the Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance, please click here.

LeaderLuncheon profile: Susan Murray

40th Annual LeaderLuncheon  |  June 14, 2017  |  12:00-1:30pm  |  Sheraton Waikiki

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Susan Murray is the Senior Vice President of The Queen's Health Systems, West O'ahu Region, and Chief Operating Officer of The Queen's Medical Center (QMC) - West O'ahu. After working at hospitals in Hawai'i, Louisiana and Tennessee, Susan joined The Queen's Health Systems to renovate, open and lead The Queen's Medical Center - West O'ahu. Since the medical center opened in 2014, Susan has provided additional services and completed a campus master plan to accommodate the rapid growth that QMC - West O'ahu has experienced. Susan is active in the West O'ahu community partnering with businesses, schools, and other organizations to build a strong and healthy community.  She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the March of Dimes, the First Presbyterian Church, and has previously served on the boards of Manoa Valley Theatre, Healthcare Association of Hawai'i, and Nashville's YWCA.

Q & A with Susan Murray

What types of qualities make a good leader?

A good leader has a clear vision of what she wants to accomplish and goals for success; good communication to motivate and inspire others and the ability to build a team as well as be a good team player.

What has helped you become a more effective leader?

Wonderful people surrounding me has helped me become a more effective leader.  Also, being given opportunities outside my comfort zone.  Ongoing professional education and learning is also key.

Name a woman leader who inspires you and explain why.

Jan Head, who was my mentor and boss for 5 years when I was at Kaiser.  She was selfless, giving, and intentional about growing others professionally and by giving me projects outside my comfort zone.  She also led a balanced life, which I have difficulty doing.

What was your dream job growing up?

Elementary School Teacher

What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

One of my mentors gave me a plaque with a quote by Goethe, “What you can do, or dream, you can begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”  That is the best advice.

As a woman leader, what can you advise others to do to help each other or help the next generation of women leaders?

Everyone should craft their own development plan and share it with their boss.  If you are the boss, help provide opportunities to prepare others for their next step.  One of my favorite parts of leadership is to watch people grow and succeed.  It is an important activity and worth your time and intention.

LeaderLuncheon honors women for the contributions they have made to their professions and in their community.  Join us in supporting Hawaii’s commitment to the advancement of women leaders by attending the 2017 LeaderLuncheon. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 695-2620 or click on the button below. 

Creating Family Through Food

Deborah & Happy removed lau lau from the steamer at the Hawaiian-themed "Cooking With Friends" session at Fernhurst. 

Deborah & Happy removed lau lau from the steamer at the Hawaiian-themed "Cooking With Friends" session at Fernhurst. 

With Hawaiian music blaring in the background and chicken long rice boiling on the stove, Deborah felt like she was home. As the youngest out of 10 siblings, she grew up in a busy kitchen watching and helping her mother cook traditional Filipino and Hawaiian food. On Saturday, Deborah was able to share that knowledge with her fellow residents at Fernhurst through the pilot program “Cooking with Friends”.

This monthly cooking session has brought women from work furlough and transitional housing together by sharing and connecting through food. The program has even attracted a few work furlough graduates, who helped decorate tables on Saturday with flowers and leaves picked from Fernhurst’s community garden.

“The thing I like most about ‘Cooking with Friends’ is getting everyone together, working together as a team and socializing,” said Deborah, who is a resident of our Homebase transitional housing program at Fernhurst. Deborah and Happy, a fellow Homebase resident, have been the backbone of this program since the first session in January.

“Food brings everybody together,” Happy said. “We all share and sharing is a big thing. It’s good for everybody.”

“Cooking with Friends” emerged through the SEEDS Initiative, a research-based nutrition and wellness education program that promotes social connectivity, education, exercise, diet, and sleep. The first session kicked off in January with a focus on Japanese food, led by Tokyo native and YWCA O‘ahu CEO, Noriko Namiki. She spoke about growing up in Japan and discussed the historic background and cultural significance of musubis and other Japanese dishes.

Since then, residents and staff have hosted sessions on Filipino, Korean, and Hawaiian cuisine. In addition to the cultural learning and cooking skills residents gain, Fernhurst Program Coordinator, Aunty Mahealani, said that “the real gems that come out of this program are the sharing of stories”.

“These kinds of gatherings are kind of like eating at home,” she said. “Everybody eats on the same kitchen table and we get to learn about each other a little bit deeper on a cultural basis. This program is really nice because it really brought Homebase and work furlough together.”

Currently, Aunty Mahealani picks up all the ingredients and coordinates the monthly cuisine for “Cooking with Friends”, but YWCA O‘ahu hopes to find a sponsor for this pilot program. Each session costs approximately $250 plus staff coordination. Although it may seem like just a cooking lesson, it means so much more to these women transitioning out of incarceration into the community.

“There’s something comforting about everyone being in the kitchen and cooking good food. Just think about a time where you cooked with your aunt, mom, or a friend. This is the essence and community that’s been created by Aunty Mahealani,” said Fernhurst Manager, Talia Cardines.

“Dine With Us” is another new pilot program which launched in February 2017. This project teaches women living at Fernhurst about dining etiquette and provides a safe space to practice dining and networking in a professional setting. Nearly two dozen YWCA supporters attended the inaugural dinner, including First Lady, Dawn Amano-Ige, and 2016 LeaderLuncheon honoree, Donna Tanoue. Guests were also graced with performances from pianist Julia Akatsu Stoyanov, who was visiting from Japan.

Sarah* is a work furlough resident at Fernhurst and wasn’t sure what to expect heading into the event, but she was surprised to find out she was sitting next to the governor’s wife.  

“I was so nervous, I was scared. I was like, ‘How do you talk to a governor’s wife? What’s a proper subject to talk about besides politics?’ But we found common ground on education,” Sarah said. “She was like another mentor helping me stay focused, reminding me of what’s important. It was pretty cool.”

YWCA O‘ahu hopes to host “Dine With Us” twice a year to help women in our economic advancement programs learn and practice dining etiquette and networking, but costs are high. We’re currently seeking corporate sponsors or even restaurant owners who can sponsor and host a session in their eatery.

For more information on how to support “Cooking with Friends” or “Dine With Us” please contact Cecilia Fong, Director of Fund Development, at 695-2620 or cfong@ywcaoahu.org

* Name changed for privacy reasons.

The Story of Miss Morgan

Photo courtesy Arch Daily

Photo courtesy Arch Daily

Julia Morgan was more than an architect. She was a trailblazer who broke the glass ceiling of her profession. As the first certified female architect in California, she designed more than 700 buildings throughout her 47-year career, including YWCA Oahu’s own Laniākea headquarters.

In honor of Women’s History Month and Laniākea’s 90th anniversary, this month’s e-newsletter will provide an intimate look at Julia Morgan’s life and her ties to the YWCA.


Julia Morgan grew up with four siblings in a rather progressive family. At a time when young women were grooming themselves for suitable husbands, Julia was deciding her major at UC Berkeley. Her mother had always encouraged her to pursue an education, which clashed with societal expectations in the 1890s. She also received encouragement from her cousin’s architect husband to explore the male-dominated industry. At the time, the university didn’t offer classes in architecture, so Julia received a degree in the next closest subject—engineering.


Ecole des Beaux-Arts had never accepted a woman into its architecture program, but Julia didn’t let that stop her. After graduating from Berkeley she traveled to France to immerse herself in the language. She placed 42nd in her first exam as she struggled to convert measurements to the metric system, which she never used before moving to Paris. Her second attempt was discouraged by examiners, who arbitrarily lowered her scores so she missed the cut (Ecole only accepted the top 30 applicants). It was impossible for the judges to ignore Julia’s score on her third attempt, which earned her 13th place. 

At the age of 26, Julia Morgan was the first woman to be accepted into the premier architectural design school in the world. Three years later, she was the first woman to graduate and receive a certificate in architecture from Ecole des Beaux-Arts.


Shortly after graduating, Julia returned to Oakland and set up her own office in her parents’ former carriage house. She found a job working for the head of the new School of Architecture at UC Berkeley, John Galen Howard. She thrived as a draftsman and supervised construction of the Hearst Greek Theater and the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, both of which remain on campus today.

Despite positive reviews of her work, Julia experienced sexism at her workplace. She caught wind of Howard raving about her at a faculty event, at which he stated, “The best thing about this person is, I pay her almost nothing, as it is a woman!” Determined to make her own mark on her own terms, Julia opened an office in San Francisco in 1904. She was the first woman to be certified as a professional architect in California and the first woman in the United States to be certified with a full-time independent practice.


These words are inscribed on a cornerstone of the Oakland YWCA Building, designed by Julia in 1913. As young women moved from small towns to major cities, and as more women immigrated to America looking for a better life in the 1920s, boarding houses and safe apartments were desperately needed.

As a result, YWCAs popped up across the nation to offer these women a safe place to live, as well as recreational and educational activities. Julia designed 16 YWCAs in California, and also commissioned chapters in Utah, Arizona, Japan, and two in Hawai‘i (she designed the original Fernhurst building on the corner of King and Alapai streets). 

One of her favorite projects was Laniākea, designed in 1925 with “elements from both Moorish Spain and Renaissance Italy within a refined, three-story neoclassic facade. The front door is made of rich teakwood, beautifully decorated with carved flowers native to Hawaii.” The building opened in 1927 and remains the only YWCA designed by Julia that is still used for its original purpose. The facility has been recognized on both the state and national historic registers, but the cost to maintain this aging building remains steep, and the organization relies upon community support for its upkeep. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to support the preservation of Julia Morgan’s vision.


●     Julia Morgan’s office was completely destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. She opened her second office the following year in the Merchants Exchange Building, which she helped remodel.

●     She designed an average of 18 buildings per year and worked 18 hours a day during most of her career. Julia wasn’t known to eat many meals, sustaining herself on coffee and candy bars.

●     With her background in engineering, Julia Morgan was one of the best structural engineers on the West Coast in her time. She helped rebuild the Fairmont in San Francisco with reinforced concrete after the earthquake.

●     She worked very closely with news mogul William Randolph Hearst in creating the world-famous Hearst Castle, which features 165 rooms and 127 acres of garden.

●     In 2014, Julia Morgan became the first woman to receive a posthumous Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects.

*Excerpts taken from “Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty” by Mark Anthony Wilson.