Former Women’s National Basketball Association player Imani McGee-Stafford and podcaster Cameron Rogers shared personal stories and mental health tips during last Thursday’s inaugural REALtalk speaker series hosted by the Women’s Resource Center .
REALtalk – “REAL” standing for Relatable, Empowering, Authentic Leaders – will invite guest speakers to campus once a year, made possible by an endowment gift from Delta Gamma sorority. Shura Gat, acting associate dean of students and director of the WRC, said the additional support from other campus organizations, such as the Presidential Council for Women at Cornell and CU Tonight, allows for a more professional production quality, including including professional photography, videography and sound engineering. .
Gat explained that the series aims to invite guest speakers, who they think Cornell students will relate to, to share their wisdom and advice.
“[REALtalk] is an opportunity for Cornell students – especially people who identify with women – to learn from people who are a little further along in life, who have faced difficult issues, especially when it comes to mental health and to hear the strategies they used to develop their own well-being,” said Gat.
The Delta Gamma event organizers recommended Rogers as one of the speakers, as she had recently spoken at the chapter. The organizers sought a second speaker who would bring a different perspective to the table.
“We wanted to have multiple perspectives because we are committed to working with the intersections of identity,” Gat said. “It really got us thinking, ‘what does it mean to have a mind, a body, a spirit?’ We knew from what Imani talked about that spirituality is really important to her, and we hoped she would share some of that perspective with the audience.
Laura Chang ’23, WRC staff member, and Brittany Coffman ’22, MBA ’23, former vice-president of the Delta Gamma Foundation, moderated the conference. Rogers started by introducing herself and how she defines mental wellness.
Previously working in finance, Rogers now hosts the Freckled Foodie and Friends podcast, in which she discusses making healthy living accessible.
Rogers first started sharing her mental health struggles on social media, through which she found a community of users with similar experiences. This community, she said, was key to overcoming mental health issues. Rogers continues to share wellness tips with more than 77,000 followers, including how she takes care of her mental health as a mother.
Rogers said her favorite ways to deal with mental health issues include meditation, journaling and exercise. She also urged members of the public to reflect on their interpersonal relationships and recognize how they feel after spending time with the people in their lives.
Like Rogers, McGee-Stafford also found a community when she began speaking out about her struggles with bipolar disorder. Rather than podcasting, McGee-Stafford writes and performs poetry, an outlet she has developed to express her emotions and mental health issues.
“I’m always passionate about anyone who shares their stories, because I think the more stories we have, the easier it is for people to see themselves in those colors,” McGee-Stafford said.
A former member of several WNBA teams, McGee-Stafford is currently in her third year at Southwestern Law School. In her future career, she hopes to do research and raise awareness about mental health in the black community.
“I worked with the Department of Behavioral Health Services at the University of Georgia, and I had to do a workshop on stigma reduction in the black community around mental health…and I don’t couldn’t find any stats,” McGee-Stafford said. “My goal is just to research and be a little nerdy and figure these things out.”
Gat said she and the other organizers felt mental health was a main theme for REALtalk’s inaugural event, but they may expand into other topics in the future. Ultimately, the goal is to bring speakers to campus that students will resonate with.
“We chose mental health because it’s such a huge issue, in general, and in particular because we started planning in the depths of the pandemic,” Gat said. “If we continue to have truly amazing speakers – the ones who can and do speak to people in ways that change their lives and impact the way they see the world – we probably will continue to do so.”
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