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Sister Connections

Hannah Hoffmeister (right) with Jean McKenzie (left).

Photos: Left: Jean McKenzie and Hannah Hoffmeister.

Right: Bree Minger, Jean McKenzie, and Hannah Hoffmeister.

I sent an email in February that forever changed the way I view professional communication.

I reached out to Jean McKenzie, a former Alpha Mu Theta. I remembered briefly learning about her career with American Girl and feeling honored to share the same sisterhood, but we had never interacted before this.

Her email was available on LinkedIn, and the worst thing that could happen was that my email never got answered. As a journalism major, an unreturned email is not something that scares me, so I emailed Jean and asked her for career advice.

She replied! She invited me out to coffee because she would be visiting Columbia to give a speech. I was thrilled.

I asked if I could attend her talk (no, not open to the public), and we kept our coffee plans. Then it got better — Jean found out she could bring a guest to the event, so I became her plus-one for the night.

The event was the first of several hosted for the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women’s spring conference. Jean gave a speech encouraging women to embrace creativity, curiosity and resilience in our careers. She told many stories about being an executive for Mattel, The Walt Disney Company and American Girl.

One thing that really stuck out to me was that she started the job process at Mattel by sending a letter to someone there. While I was not looking for a job through Jean, her similar parallel when it comes to reaching out to someone will stick with me.

Also at the Griffiths night were several former Thetas from Jean’s time at Mizzou, and Jean recounted fun memories with them. I hope to have the same when I graduate! Overall, it was invigorating to be surrounded by women — Greek or not — who share both ambition and compassion. A special thanks to Jean for replying to my email and for being such a genuine example of a leading woman!

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