Listening to Women 2023 

“Listening to Women” is a six-session series that features women whose innovations and accomplishments, locally and globally, are having an impact and influencing lives. Each week we will meet women who are driven by a cause and who have the passion and determination to have achieved outstanding success in a variety of fields.

Save the date: Jan. 26-Mar. 2
Course #CV138

Ringling College Museum Campus
Thursdays: 1-2:30 pm
6 Sessions: Jan. 26-Mar. 2

Speakers and Moderators: Mercedes Soler, Renée James Gilmore, Neirda Thompson-Pemberton, Deshjuana Bagley, Jane, Sandra Frank, Jennifer Rominiecki, Virginia Shearer, Felice Schulaner, Patricia Anderson Turner, Nanette Crist, Erika Quartermaine, Helen Neal, Sarah Miller, Carrie Seidman, and Michele J. Hooper

Gold Members: $81
Silver Members and General Admission: $90

“Optics of Storytelling When Told by Women Journalists of Color”

January 26
Speakers: Mercedes Soler and Renée James Gilmore

Two seasoned broadcast journalists, in the third act of their careers, come together to share their perspectives on the current state of journalism, what it’s like to practice that craft as women of color, the role they play as communicators in community advocacy, and some alarming facts surrounding neighborhoods that are heavily populated by their families and friends. But this is only part of the story, you’ll also hear about their fourth act…and you’ll have to catch your breath!

Mercedes Soler

Mercedes Soler is co-owner of Solmart Media, a Spanish radio and digital media company in Sarasota. Previously, she spent 25 years as a Spanish language correspondent with Univision, an anchor for CNN Español, and a columnist for El Nuevo Herald. She is the recipient of five Emmy Awards and one Peabody.

Renee Gilmore

Renée James Gilmore is the executive producer of ABC7’s Empowering Voices. Her television program explores issues in communities where people are underrepresented, marginalized, and whose concerns are nearly invisible to privileged Americans. Social equity and economic empowerment are frequent themes. Program guests increasingly risk reprisals for speaking truth to power.  

“Cracking the Code: Robotics, Programming, & Loving I.T.”

February 2
Speakers: Neirda Thompson-Pemberton and Deshjuana Bagley
Moderator: Jane

Two engineers and a robot walk into a school filled with hesitant and doubtful children. By the end of the morning, drones are flying, virtual reality sports stars are born, and excited kids are confident about pursuing majors and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Meet Desh, Jane, and Neirda. Together, they have over 40 years of leading hands-on high-tech programs and loving I.T. Their passion extends to others, and they are making an impact on elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students in our community. Learn how these three are creating programmers, problem-solvers, and the next generation of innovators.

Neirda Thompson Pemberton

Neirda Thompson-Pemberton, an engineer, a passionate “STEMINIST” and founder of FUNducation Inc., is on a mission to Expose, Engage, and Empower our youth to be the “Innovators of Tomorrow” through education in Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics (STEAM). Full STEAM Ahead! 

Deshjuana Bagley

Deshjuana “Desh” Bagley founded TechPlayzone® in 2005 and had no idea that she was introducing a robotics phenomenon that would captivate and educate thousands of Florida students — propelling her onto the world’s stage. As an international STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) advocate, TEDx presenter, and director of State College of Florida’s IT/Coding Academy, Desh lives her passion daily by engaging others in emerging technologies. 


Jane, a humanoid robot, is a reminder that coding is for everyone. In a 2015 TEDx talk, “The Future of Robots,” Jane encouraged educators and administrators to move away from a “Dick and Jane” approach to computer science in today’s classroom. From kindergarten to college, students can use robotics to explore computational thinking. 

“When Vision Meets Reality: Strength, Leadership, Tenacity”

February 9
Speakers: Sandra Frank, Jennifer Rominiecki, and Virginia Shearer
Moderator: Felice Schulaner

Three successful nonprofit leaders talk about innovation and creativity as well as the challenges and joys of building their organizations. All Faiths Food Bank, Selby Gardens, and Sarasota Art Museum nourish the body and soul of our community by providing healthy solutions to end hunger, creating bayfront sanctuaries, and serving as a catalyst for understanding the art of our time. Bringing their own expertise and experience to the conversation, Sandra, Jennifer, and Virginia will share personal stories and inspirations, offer insights on moving their organizations forward in an ever-shifting cultural and economic environment, and give their visions for the future. This conversation is sure to engage and inspire.

Sandra Frank

Sandra Frank has been entrusted with the leadership of All Faiths Food Bank since 2012. By building a strong, diverse leadership team, she guided the development of a new mission, brand and strategic direction, constructed new facilities, undertook a fundamental reorganization of all core processes and structure, and spearheaded service innovations. With an extensive background in healthcare and law, her commitment to nonprofit leadership spans almost 25 years.

Jennifer Rominiecki

Jennifer O. Rominiecki has been President and CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens since February 2015. She repositioned the institution as The Living Museum®, and has overseen the creation and execution of two strategic plans and an innovative master site plan for which phase one will be complete in fall 2023. In May 2020, she oversaw the adoption of Historic Spanish Point as a companion campus. Previously, Rominiecki served The New York Botanical Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

V. Shearer

Virginia Shearer, Executive Director, Sarasota Art Museum (SAM) has devoted her career in museum leadership to catalyzing meaningful connections with art and artists for people of all ages, backgrounds, and experience. Under Virginia’s leadership, SAM is taking our community’s bold dream—to create a museum dedicated to the art of our time—into the future.  

Felice Schulaner

Felice Schulaner, is a retired Human Resources executive, who served as the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Coach Inc., Optimark Technologies, and Salant Corporation. Today, she sits on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, the Community Foundation of Sarasota, and Ruth’s List. She is the former Chair of the Boards of the New College Board of Trustees and the New College Foundation and served on the inaugural Board of Visible Men Academy.

“Confronting the Issues of the Day: The Art of Patricia Anderson Turner”

February 16
Speaker: Patricia Anderson Turner
Interviewer: Nanette Crist

Patricia Anderson Turner does not shy away from controversy in her life or her art. Her award-winning mixed-media work reveals her passion for social justice as she addresses issues as varied as gun violence, white supremacy, and climate change. Patricia will share how she approaches her work and the techniques she uses to tell a story. She will also discuss her contributions to the OppArt section of The Nation news magazine and her collaborations with other artists to create exhibits like the recent “Women Take Issue.”

Patricia Turner

Patricia Anderson Turner explores complex socio-political issues in her mixed-media art. Her extensive travels have given her a global perspective and her social work career a local perspective. Turner’s art has appeared in museums and special exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Her work can be seen at

Nanette Crist

Nanette Crist is a retired lawyer turned art enthusiast. While living in Punta Gorda, Nanette penned an arts column for Florida Weekly. Now a happy Sarasota resident, she co-leads public art walking tours and volunteers as a docent at Sarasota Art Museum. Nanette continues to write about art at

“From Adversity to Advocacy: Changing the Mental Health Landscape”

February 23
Speakers: Erika Quartermaine, Helen Neal, and Sarah Miller
Moderator: Carrie Seidman

Four accomplished Sarasota women share the life experiences that catalyzed their professional goals to expand support for individuals dealing with mental health conditions and trauma. One is a judge who helped create and oversee jail diversion programs for offenders who committed crimes as a result of their mental health challenges. One is a domestic violence survivor whose own recovery became the foundation for helping others heal from emotional trauma and build new lives. Two presenters have personal and familial experiences that crystallized their commitment to mental health advocacy; one is a peer counselor and family navigator for a nonprofit organization, and one is a newspaper journalist and podcast producer.

Erika Quartermaine

Erika Quartermaine is a Sarasota County Judge in the 12th Judicial Circuit’s criminal and civil divisions. A proponent of problem-solving courts, she oversees programs for offenders whose mental health conditions have led to the commission of crimes. Her work with “Turn Your Life Around Court” is for those charged with prostitution and related crimes, often as a result of human trafficking. She is on the board of Second Heart Homes, providing housing, and support for individuals experiencing mental illness.

Helen Neal

Helen Neal is a Level II Certified Trauma Specialist, minister, motivational speaker, facilitator, and author. Through her company, Life Changing Consulting & Associates, she has helped hundreds of clients heal from trauma by sharing her life story and path to recovery. She currently works as a trauma healing specialist through Sarasota Strong, Women’s Resource Center, Center for Religious Tolerance, and Sarasota Housing Authority, among others.

Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller is a mental health consumer, family member, and advocate who serves as the Family Peer Navigator for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Sarasota and Manatee counties. A certified recovery peer specialist, Sarah previously worked with NAMI Pinellas and the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network to expand youth and family support and to educate mental health care providers on the value of youth and family voice.

Carrie Seidman

Carrie Seidman is an opinion columnist for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the creator, writer, and host of the FACEing Mental Illness newsletter and podcast featuring stories from people with lived mental health experiences. A graduate of the Columbia University (NY) school of journalism, she has worked for the New York Times, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, and two newspapers in Albuquerque. She is a fellow of the Carter Center for Mental Health Journalism and the recipient of multiple awards.

“From Coal Miner’s Daughter to the Boardroom”

March 2
Speaker: Michele J. Hooper

Join Michele Hooper as she discusses her path from small coal mining town “smart kid” to business leader and governance expert. Growing up as the middle child of 11 gave Michele a foundation that has served her well as she continues to be a leader in the boardrooms of global corporate and nonprofit companies. Sharing personal stories of her journey, Michele will discuss the role of mentors and champions, hot topics in the boardroom, and why it is so important to have both gender and racial diversity in our boardrooms, organizations, and communities. Michele will also offer her perspectives on where we are today and what’s in store for the future.

Michele Hooper

Michele J. Hooper, is President/CEO of The Directors’ Council, which consults with companies on board effectiveness. With 30-plus years of global corporate board experience, she is also vice chair of the Smithsonian National Board, and a board member of Black Directors Health Equity Agenda, Van Wezel Foundation, and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. She earned a master’s degree in business administration in finance and accounting at the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s in economics at the University of Pennsylvania.  

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